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August 28, 2002

Pete Sampras


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Pete, please.

Q. Were you happy with your game today?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I was really pleased the way it went. You know, the conditions weren't too easy. Today was pretty windy and kind of swirling around like it always does out there on the center court. But under the circumstances, I felt like I played really well. I was coming in, being aggressive, putting a lot of pressure on him. I thought it was a pretty good start.

Q. Did you consider this a very high-pressured first round considering the way things have been going?

PETE SAMPRAS: There's always pressure when you play a major. I don't think there's any more this year than last year.

Q. You don't?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I didn't play like it, did I?

Q. You played fine. I'm just wondering if this was different.

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I mean, I don't have much to prove here. I mean, I want to do well and see what I can do, but I didn't feel any more pressure this year. You know, I've gone to the finals here seven times so I don't feel like I -- I mean, sure, there's pressure I put on myself to do well. This is what I play for. I don't feel any different this year than last year.

Q. How did you feel in the third set when the crowd started chanting and counting your aces?

PETE SAMPRAS: It was nice. They were all paying attention (laughter). It was good support today. I really appreciate the crowd and their help. It was nice to play out there today.

Q. Was the court playing slower? If so, does that help you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, the court is playing a touch slower than previous years, which I like. You have a little bit more time to play. The court's a little grainier. So I tend to like it a little bit slower.

Q. How much of an advantage is it playing all your matches on Arthur Ashe court?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's nice. It's nice to play out there. The atmosphere is always pretty good. Pretty comfortable out there. They open the court up all week for practice so you get used to the conditions and the wind. It's always nice to be out there.

Q. Having had so much success in your career, how difficult is it to handle the losing lately?

PETE SAMPRAS: That's been the most frustrating part at this point in my tennis. I'm still putting a lot of work into it, a lot of focus; it's been a pretty disappointing year. I have nothing to show for it. I can't dwell on that at the moment. I have to look at the future, not the past. I just have to believe in myself and hope I can do pretty well here.

Q. The fact that other guys have come here later in their career and have had success, they've gotten the crowd behind them, gotten a roll, does that give you optimism?

PETE SAMPRAS: I hope so. It's happened the last couple years here when not being quite as dominant and the support here in New York, last year, I had a great run. The crowd helps. You know, when you're feeling a little bit heavy in the legs, they kind of spur you on a little bit. It's always nice having that support.

Q. What do you think about your draw?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm not looking ahead. I'm not sure who I play, if they're playing now or what's happening. I don't look ahead.

Q. Shea Stadium is right across the street. It's difficult to compare sports. Under what circumstances can you see tennis players ever going on strike?

PETE SAMPRAS: Such an individual sport, you know. I believe it was the '70s when there was a bit of a boycott, was it? There's still guys playing. So I don't ever see it happening in tennis.

Q. Do you have any thoughts one way or another on the whole baseball controversy?

PETE SAMPRAS: Pretty disappointing. I mean, I'm not a huge baseball fan. But at this day and age, with all the money everyone's making, owners and players, it -- the people that are going to be left out in the cold are the fans. That's who's paying the price. They're going to lose a lot of fans, obviously, if it happens.

Q. Speaking of baseball, you made that ad with Roger Clemens with ESPN. I know you said you're a SportsCenter kind of guy.

PETE SAMPRAS: Religious.

Q. It just came in fifth place in the rankings.

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't watch it that much. I didn't see the place it came in.

Q. How big a disappointment is that going to be for you when you look back on your career?

PETE SAMPRAS: One of the most disappointing (laughter). Really, I'm shocked. I thought it would be in the Top 2.

Q. Did you loosen up in the late stages, with your serve? Did you open up?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I went through a spurt there in the second where I wasn't really hitting it that well. In the third I kind of clicked and started hitting it flatter and hitting my spots better. He was starting to return a little bit better and putting more pressure on me. The serve kind of clicked there in the third. It was a nice way to finish it.

Q. American players have shown themselves in the first round, after the disappointing showing at Wimbledon. Do you sense a feeling among the US players this is a place to redeem themselves, at this tournament?

PETE SAMPRAS: You know, I don't think so. Wimbledon's over. And, sure, we didn't do all that well. But I don't think we're thinking about it here. So I don't see it kind of spur us on any more than usual. You know, we all want to do well. But I don't see a huge difference, you know. Wimbledon was disappointing for me and all the guys, but I think we'll do a little bit better here.

Q. Have you made adjustments in your game the last couple years, the style that you play? Have you changed your style at all on the court, adjusting mentally or physically?

PETE SAMPRAS: Not really. Just being aggressive and playing the same I've always played. I take my chances. The difference is everyone's a little bit better. I'm not winning on my off days. I'm losing the matches that five years ago I used to find a way to win. Now when I don't play well I'm struggling to win those matches. Guys are using much more powerful racquets and it's made it a little bit more difficult. I'm always looking to come in, always looking to serve big and make something happen.

Q. This is the last tournament where things kind of really clicked for you in the last year. Do you think it's possible that you could wake up tomorrow or the next day and just feel like, "It's starting again, my game's coming into form?"

PETE SAMPRAS: I think today was a good start. I'm sure there's always -- you're a little bit nervous in your first round match, trying to kind of settle into the tournament. Hopefully, it clicks, like it did last year. Kind of gained some confidence as each match went by. Went through a pretty tough draw. I can reflect on that a little bit this year. But hope it clicks. You know, I've been doing all the right things, practicing. Practicing with purpose. That's all you can try to do. Hopefully, it will be my time.

Q. What do you think about the fact that Tommy Haas came on the court today and was wearing a sleeveless shirt. They made him change it. Do you think the guys are trying too hard to add sex appeal to the men's tour? Does it go too far at one point or not?

PETE SAMPRAS: I didn't see what happened. But that could be more of Nike trying to make a statement more than the players. Obviously the player is responsible. But, yeah, there's no question we've been hearing a lot of not so flattering things about the men's game compared to the ladies'. Maybe it's an effort to do some different things. That's not the way to do it, in my opinion. You know, it is about the tennis. It's about a little personality. But I don't think -- something I wouldn't feel comfortable doing. But I'm sure Nike, you know, wants to make a statement. Maybe so does Tommy. But that doesn't really work for me.

Q. Do you find it discriminatory, though, given what some of the women are wearing?

PETE SAMPRAS: There's some interesting outfits out there, I will say that (laughter). Pretty revealing (smiling). You see all the curves. I don't know. It's a good question. You know, we have our rules on ATP. You have to wear a proper shirt, I guess. So ladies are always kind of pushing the envelope with some of their outfits.

Q. What do you make of the brouhaha erupting with Lleyton Hewitt saying next year, after he maintains his No. 1 ranking, he's not going to play the required events that the ATP wants him to, he's going to gear up for the majors and Grand Slams?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, that's what we're all playing for. You know, when I was his age it was about being No. 1 and trying to stay on top for as long as I could. He might have different goals, you know, and it's tough to do both. He's playing Davis Cup, too, which adds weeks to the year. So I understand where he's coming from. It is about peaking at the right time. But at his age, I think he's okay to play all of them - like I did. But, you know, he knows his game, he knows his physical and mental capability, and it's his choice. I'm not going to speak negative about it. He's won two majors, he's been No. 1. It's not much of a priority for him to stay there. It was for me. But he's a great player and he's going to do a lot of great things.

Q. Can you comment on the switch?

PETE SAMPRAS: It was kind of a tricky situation with Jose. I needed some full-time coaching. Jose, we never really clicked. We spent time together. Just really didn't work. Our intentions were both good, but we both knew that after Wimbledon, you know, I needed to be with him every week. It was a big change working with a new coach. He couldn't do it. He has a commitment with the USTA. I called Paul as a friend to help me out. He was nice enough to help out. It's nice to be back with Paul. He knows me better than anybody. As a tennis player he knows how I tick, he knows what to say. He knows my game. It's nice to be comfortable out there and have some peace of mind.

Q. In the past when guys have gotten married and had kids, the speculation was it was hard to focus on just tennis. What's your experience?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, that's what life's all about, marrying the woman of your dreams and having kids, having a great career. I feel like I've done that. You know, tennis is still a big focus, but it's not as consuming as it once was. I was so focused for so long that I just kind of had enough of being No. 1, just too much pressure. Being married has given me a lot of happiness, given me a good balance out there. You know, tennis is still a big part of my life, but it's not what it used to be. I used to live and die with my wins and losses. I still get disappointed and frustrated, but when I hit 30, 31, there's more to life than tennis. That being said, I'm still here, I still want to do well. That bar's still pretty high.

Q. Are you hurt when people say, "The guy should quit? He's done everything."

PETE SAMPRAS: I try to block it out. I don't read a lot of papers or listen to a lot of commentary. I mean, you know, I've done too much to hear all the negative stuff. I don't need to cloud my thoughts with negative comments. It's inevitable, at a place where I'm at, when you get a little older, I'm not nearly as dominant. You hear rumbling here and there. You can't let it faze you. You just have to be positive and go out and practice hard and play well, just believe in yourself. That's what I've been trying to do. It's fine, you know. That's the way it works. That's the media. But I'm going to stop on my own terms, not when someone else thinks I should stop. If I want to play for, you know, five more years and struggle, then I'm going to do that. It's kind of my career and I can do whatever I want with it.

Q. Why do you think it's so hard for the general public and the media to let a champion like you play on until you're ready to call it a day yourself? Why do you think it's so hard to let him enjoy it?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's not hard. I mean, I'm not being told not to play. I mean, I'm going to play as long as I'm enjoying it, as long as I'm in contention or feel like I can still do it. But it's -- it happens in all sports with all athletes. They get older, they're not as dominant. Everyone thinks they're an expert in what I should be doing and how I should leave. Can't listen to all that stuff. Just believe in yourself and go out there and play and keep it simple.

Q. Earlier this year Agassi took a shot at you and said his son would have a full year or so over your kid.


Q. Yeah. And would be in great shape. Could you take a moment and speak up for your family pride?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure. I would love to. He's got no shot (laughter). 19, 20 years, my kid, if it's a boy, we don't know yet, will dominate (laughter). I mean... It's rhetorical, really.

Q. Is it genetic, or better coaching, or what?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, he's got pretty good genes on his side, doesn't he?

Q. Pretty good.

PETE SAMPRAS: We'll see. I don't know. We'll see.

Q. If it's a girl, same thing?

PETE SAMPRAS: Girl, could be a struggle to beat. We'll see. We'll see what the future holds for our kids.

Q. Will you find out before?

PETE SAMPRAS: We're thinking about it.

Q. Would you mind or like it if your child were a professional tennis player?

PETE SAMPRAS: If that's what he or she wanted to do, I'd support it. You know, it's -- he'd be judged pretty - or she - pretty tough. Always the comparisons. But if that's what his or her passion was to do, play tennis, which could happen, then I fully support it. I'm not going to be one of those psycho dads, though. Kind of let my kid do what he wants or she wants to do, I'll stay in the back like my dad has been.

Q. If she wore a black cat suit, would that be okay?

PETE SAMPRAS: I might draw the line there (laughter).

Q. When are you expecting?

PETE SAMPRAS: Later in the year.

Q. How is she feeling?

PETE SAMPRAS: She feels fine. She feels fine.

Q. Some say you're more relaxed, even though the expectations might be more? Fair to say?

PETE SAMPRAS: Thank you.

End of FastScripts….

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