September 5, 2002
NEW YORK CITY
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. When you walk out there and they're playing a song by Springsteen...
PETE SAMPRAS: I didn't pay attention to it.
PETE SAMPRAS: No. I was hoping for Pearl Jam, but they didn't go for it.
Q. Did you just turn 31 or 26, 27 maybe?
PETE SAMPRAS: Trust me, I'm 31. I feel it at times. But played like -- played really well tonight. Really no complaints the way it went. Felt pretty strong out there.
Q. It used to have been said that center court was your house. Have you changed your address?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. Still LA resident and pay my taxes, so...
Q. Are you getting in a real comfort zone once again here with these whole surroundings, the US Open, where you got your first big win?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, this is what I play for. I mean, these are big moments, playing Andy in a night match. You know, he's the young up-and-comer that has a great future. I'm pumped up. There's no question, I kind of feed off the energy at playing at night here. Had good results here at night. So everything combined, I got off to a great start tonight, kind of set the tone early. Andy wasn't quite at the top of his game. He seemed a little bit low, just because he's a lot more upbeat the times I've seen him play. Tonight he seemed a little bit -- not quite as emotional as he usually is.
Q. Any message for Greg Rusedski tonight?
PETE SAMPRAS: I got more important things to talk about than Greg.
Q. Do you think that was a little bit of reverence from him?
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know. I heard he hurt his foot in the other match. I don't know if he was struggling out there with his foot. You know, I just think a big part was the early stages of the match when I broke him that first game, played a good game. The conditions weren't easy tonight. It was pretty breezy. And, you know, he just wasn't on top of his game. He just was struggling a little bit. I think I played pretty well. Put the pressure on him and made him pass me. He just seemed a little bit off tonight. I don't know if it was the occasion or what happened, but it was a good night for me.
Q. You not only broke him in his first service game, but the way you broke him, winning the long rally, winners, rushing the net, can you talk about the importance of that.
PETE SAMPRAS: I wanted to mix it up against Andy. Wanted to come in off his second, you know, win or lose the points, just to put a little pressure on him. Even when we got into some baseline exchanges, I felt pretty good out there. I was hitting the ball clean and deep. So I felt like I was doing everything pretty well.
Q. The two set points in the first two sets, spectacular volleys. Did it feel like 1995, 1996?
PETE SAMPRAS: You know, I don't think in those terms when I'm playing, like, "I did this five years ago." I really don't. It's fun to be out there. You know, even though I'm not quite at the level I once was, I feel like when it comes to a big occasion, I still have the goods. I'm into it, my energy's good at night. I feel pretty good out there.
Q. Two sets in a row like that with spectacular shots, what's the feeling like?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's a great feeling. This is why I'm playing, for these big matches. Night time at the US Open, playing against Andy. I was pumped up, pretty focused out there, and it showed. But, you know, you go out and it's all instinct out there. I play my best when I'm not thinking. I just go out there and do it.
Q. As breezy as it was, do you think this is as good a serving night as you've had for a while?
PETE SAMPRAS: To be honest with you, that's one of the first things I said when I got off the court. I don't think I served that well. My percentage was pretty low. But I hit my second serve pretty big, giving him problems.
Q. On purpose, did you go for...
PETE SAMPRAS: I always go for my second. Sometimes I get burned and miss them, but that's the way I play. I go for it and feel like I've got a lot of confidence on my second serve. It just kind of -- under the conditions, it -- I served pretty well. It was tough going one way. Second serve on the wind going down, it's -- you know, you miss it a little bit, it's going to go long. It's pretty touchy at times.
Q. You have a kid coming, you're married, you're still in the lead. How much motivation have you had from hearing comments from Greg Rusedski or hearing people say you're done?
PETE SAMPRAS: That doesn't get me going. I mean, it really doesn't. I mean, things that Greg says, it doesn't faze me. I know what I can do out there. It doesn't motivate me. I don't want to prove people wrong. That's not why I'm playing. I'm playing for myself, to challenge myself to see if I can do it again. That's the way I look at it. I'm not here to shut up Greg or whatever. I got more important things to worry about than what he's saying, what the press is saying. It's my ability against someone else's ability. I feel like I can still do it. If I didn't, I wouldn't be here.
Q. Monica Seles said she plays because it's fun. She loves to play tennis. Is tennis fun for you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's fun playing tonight against the atmosphere, the big match. I still -- it's a rush. It's a rush for me. It's not quite a rush, week in, week out on the tour. But when it comes to majors and a night like tonight, this is why I'm playing. 17,000 people here to watch you, it feels good.
Q. Is there any danger that the rush might not be there when you're playing Schalken in the semis?
PETE SAMPRAS: I've got my hands full against Sjeng. He's an experienced pro, does everything well. I'm focused. I'm not looking ahead at all. I have my work cut out for me on Saturday.
Q. Would you say your feeling the joy of tennis is the key to your performance?
PETE SAMPRAS: I just feel like I - you know, I'm going to say it again - I still feel like I can do it out there against anybody. I still have the goods. I believe in myself, and that's the key for me. You know, it's been a tough year, mentally it's been tough. But, you know, I'm not dwelling on what's happened this year. I'm looking forward to play here, I was looking forward to playing at the Open. It gets my juices going, and it's showing.
Q. Any thoughts on having your rivals here, playing in front of John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Boris Becker?
PETE SAMPRAS: Not when I'm on playing out there, not really.
Q. In retrospect, that they were watching.
PETE SAMPRAS: I mean, no. I mean... I know John's there. I saw Boris in the locker room. So, you know, these are some rivals that I've had over the years. Jim is someone I have a lot of respect for. But it's not my focus out there when I'm playing.
Q. Are you feeling the ball as well as you have in a long time, especially on the volleys? You seem to be striking the forehand now more cleanly.
PETE SAMPRAS: I just feel like I'm in a good rhythm, serve and volley. It's just confidence out there. I'm just going for my shots and making them. It's clicking. You know, I've been waiting all year for it to click. Now I feel like it's finally there.
Q. Was there a moment in one of the opening matches when you sort of knew it clicked from there?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I played my first two matches pretty solid. I felt like my game was pretty solid. Struggled against Greg. Haas was a tough match. Felt like I played pretty well. But it's gotten a little bit better. I think tonight was -- I think under the circumstances with the wind, it was a pretty good night.
Q. Two questions about Paul. Number one, is he going to get some credit for what's going on here this week?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, absolutely.
Q. Two, does it seem ironic that back at the start of the year when you were contemplating how you were going to work this year, that Paul was out of your plans? Now he's suddenly back in, and your game is the way it is.
PETE SAMPRAS: A big reason why I'm able to -- the way I'm playing is because of Paul and just the stability and the confidence that we have in each other. Tried a few things this year that didn't pan out. I think Paul and I professionally probably hit a point last year where we needed to take a break from each other. To have him back was huge - really huge. I mean, he knows how I tick as a tennis player. That's , you know, you can't put a price on that. It's nice to have him, you know, there and helping me out through obviously a big event. You know, he knows my game, he knows what I should do out there, and I'm doing it. That's a big reason why I'm able to get it going here.
Q. Was he the one who suggested to you you were thinking too much?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. He has been watching this year. He's seen me play. He knows what I'm going through. It's a little bit of confidence. A lot of it is mental. Not so much physical , forehands or backhands; it's my state of mind. Not getting down on myself. He knows me. He knows it's not about forehands and backhands at this point in my tennis. It is very mental. He's been a big reason I have been able to get through this.
Q. With all that said, how special is it to be back in the semis?
PETE SAMPRAS: Feels great. This is where it boils down to, the weekend. Feel like I worked hard to get here. Hopefully I can get through Saturday. I feel good. Everything is -- you know, the body is feeling pretty strong so...
Q. You talked last year about it doing you in having to play those two days in a row. You felt you didn't come out strong on Sunday after playing on Saturday. Now that you're about to go into another weekend like this, are you going to do anything differently?
PETE SAMPRAS: I'm not worried about the weekend, I'm worried about Saturday. I'm not looking ahead to Sunday. You get through that match and worry about Sunday and how you're going to prepare. It's a tough turnaround, but it's not really my concern at the moment.
Q. Do you feel fresher than at this point last year?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, maybe a little bit. I think playing Rafter then Agassi back-to-back, the Agassi match took a lot out of me emotionally and physically. It took its toll over the weekend. But playing a match tonight, an hour and a half, having a day off tomorrow, I should be pretty fresh on Saturday.
Q. How do you look at Andre and Lleyton?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's gonna be a classic. I really believe they're going to have a lot of great rallies. It's going to be some good tennis out there.
Q. Will you practice tomorrow?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I'll practice tomorrow.
Q. Did you have any inkling during the course of your day that you had something special in you for tonight?
PETE SAMPRAS: You know, you don't. You really don't. I mean, you practice, you hit the ball fine. You just -- only time you know is when you play, when you go out there, and first couple games you kind of are, "Okay, it's kind of there now, it's clicking." But it's not something I felt today any different than yesterday or the day before.
Q. Early in the year when you were struggling, did you find yourself second-guessing a lot of your shots, strategies, whereas now it's just fluid?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. There was points this year where I was second-guessing and not -- just not that confident. You know, it showed at times. And, you know, guys are getting a little bit better, they don't have that fear factor. It just accumulated. Now I feel like I'm in a pretty good rhythm, everything's clicking. You kind of wait for it. I've been pretty patient all year, finally for it to kind of click. It's nice that it's happening here.
Q. This is one of the sweet moments of the year, obviously. Could you tell us what one or two of the low points were.
PETE SAMPRAS: Wimbledon. You know, Wimbledon, getting back home, that was one of the ultimate low points of my career I think. Such a shocker, the way it went. Accumulation of the whole year. And that kind of -- that was a tough moment.
Q. During this run and after tonight, do you feel that your stamina, strength and agility is anywhere close to where you were at five years ago?
PETE SAMPRAS: Pretty close. You know, it was a good night to, like I said, win in straight sets. When you play some five-setters early on, it can take its toll. But I feel like I'm in good shape here and ready to go over the weekend.
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