June 26, 2002
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You seemed to have gotten it together in the fifth set. You had him in a lot of trouble throughout the set.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I was putting a lot more pressure on his service games than he was putting on me in the fifth. 4-all, 30-love, he hit a good return, double-faulted and happened pretty quickly. I had my chances. Had one breakpoint there in the fifth. He hit a pretty good second serve. And, you know, I give him credit. He played a good match. I wasn't at my best. But I felt like I was going to win the match, even though I was down two sets to love. Just kind of get my game going a little bit there in the third and really felt like I was going to win the match.
Q. Explain the first two sets, your inability to get going in the first two sets.
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, my serve. My serve just let me down. In part, it was the one side, the sun , wasn't easy to serve on that one side. There's always one shot that I can rely on when I'm not hitting the ball that well, is my serve. It was a shot that I -- I don't know what my percentage was there in the first couple, but wasn't getting any in. He was playing great. But just told myself to hang in there in the third and hopefully get some momentum, and I did. Things were looking pretty good there.
Q. Were you surprised to be assigned to Court 2?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. Wasn't happy about it. You know, much rather have been on one of the Show Courts. But anything can happen out there on any court. But I'd much rather have played him somewhere where I'm a little bit more comfortable. But it's still a tennis court, still the same dimensions. And, you know, I give him credit. But I felt like I was going to come through today.
Q. What was the thing about playing on Court 2 that made it tougher?
PETE SAMPRAS: Just a different atmosphere. Playing on the Stadium or Court 1, so used to playing out there. Court 2 is a very small court and, you know, just not quite as comfortable. But with that being said, it's still a match I should come through and win, no matter what court I play on.
Q. Were you aware of its reputation as the graveyard of champions?
PETE SAMPRAS: Say again?
Q. Are you aware of its reputation as the graveyard of champions?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I've been told that. I've seen some upsets out there. It happened to me today, unfortunately.
Q. Do you think it showed disrespect, some disrespect, to put you out there?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, let's just put it this way: When I heard it, I wasn't happy about it. I really would much rather have gone on a different court, a Show Court. But listen, that's a scheduling. You just have to play on any court. Having won this thing a few times, I figure they might put me out there. But it's really a moot point right now.
Q. Given the event is so special to you, all the things that have happened today, clearly this is as shocking as you've ever had here, even last year?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, this is more of a shock to me. You know, really it happened. You know, anything can happen on any given day against -- no matter who you're playing, especially on the grass. As predictable as I've been over the years here, you're going to have a match like this once every ten years. And it happened today. Disappointing. Fought hard to get back into the match. But it's going to be a tough flight home, a tough next couple weeks, just knowing that this is going on and I'm not here. So... That's pretty disappointing.
Q. You've always said that no matter what happens in the season, when the grass courts come around, when Wimbledon happens, there's a spirit that comes to you, a fire. Are we going to see you back here, and are we going to see you in the winner's circle again? What's the future for Pete Sampras?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the future is flying home. That's the immediate future. But long-distance future, I plan on being back. You know, I'm not going to end my time here with that loss. And so...
Q. Is that because, you know, you don't want to go out on that particular court? You'd rather go out, if you do go out, on the Centre or No. 1 where you should go out, if, in fact, that is the case?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I mean, I wish I was playing out there on one of the Show Courts. But, you know, I plan on being back. I mean, I love playing here. It's a tough loss. I really felt like I could do it here. I just came up short today. Pretty bummed out.
Q. What were you reading between the points?
PETE SAMPRAS: Just some notes. Just some thoughts and a letter that I was reading just to keep me positive and, you know, just to -- you get your mind set on what's happening out there. It's nice to have something else to look at, think about. So it was something that I pulled out and read it and made me feel a little better.
Q. Your own notes? Notes you wrote yourself?
PETE SAMPRAS: My wife did.
Q. You used to do that?
PETE SAMPRAS: I've never done that.
Q. As Becker said, "If I go to a Slam, I cannot win it, I will stop." Is that also a moment for you now, or do you think there's still a Slam in you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, as long as I feel like I can win majors and contend, I'll just -- I'll continue to play. But right now I am discouraged. I put a lot of work into the year, put a lot of high expectations. And to come up pretty empty here for the first six months is pretty, pretty discouraging. You know, still feel like I can go out there and do it. Not maybe as dominant as I once was, but when it comes to majors, I believe I can win here, the US Open, or the others. But, you know, this one is my best chance. I mean, they're all ones I feel like I can win. But this one is one that's always kind of saved my year a little bit. You know, just didn't happen here.
Q. What do you think happened to the confidence you used to have closing out matches? Where has it gone?
PETE SAMPRAS: You know, when you struggle winning matches all year and you don't really get into a groove or rhythm and you just can't expect to just come in here and have it click, like it used to. You know, players aren't quite as intimidated by my name. You know, still have that here. But he had nothing to lose today. You know, he came out swinging away and played great. But, you know, I had my chances. I just couldn't replay some of the points. Had a few chances maybe there to serve for the match. Just a little -- got a little unfortunate today.
Q. Were you surprised that he held his game so well in the fifth?
PETE SAMPRAS: I wasn't that surprised. I mean, he was playing well all day. And, you know, I think he showed some nerves there. I felt it going my way there when I was making it more -- had a lot of deuce games, had a breakpoint, and had some chances to maybe convert it and serve for the match. He held on. And, you know, 4-All, 30-Love, I had a service game that should have gone my way. You know, he hit a couple good shots. And it happens pretty quick out there, the momentum. It just kind of -- still just walking off the court, still just a little bit shocked of what happened out there.
Q. Is there any similarity with this and the match with Safin in Australia when you seemed to play pretty poorly the first couple sets, took you a while to get going? Any reason for those matches where you don't start too well?
PETE SAMPRAS: I really didn't think much of that match. I mean, you can't dig yourself holes against these guys in majors. You can't be down two sets to love against Safin or the guy I played today. You know, you work hard to get back in there and, you know, once the fifth set comes, it's a matter of nerves. He had the better nerve today.
Q. How far would you say you have to pay the price now for having widened the game while you were still at the top?
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't understand the question. I'm a little confused with your question.
Q. Coaches like Bob Brett say you might have to pay the price now for having improved the game -- not having improved the game while you were still leading from the others. Now that they've caught up, they are in front of you, they are better, because you haven't got that in your game.
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I still feel like my game is very dangerous, you know. Always will have my serve. You know, players are better today and, you know, like I said, I'm not as intimidating as I was five years ago. Players are better. You know, I need to work on some things and start getting my confidence going. You know, I was hoping I could get through this first week and raise it in the second. But, you know, a match like today, it just happened. And all I can try to do is, when the time's right, get back at it and get back to work. But as of right now, it's not really what I want to do.
Q. This loss is so recent, can you begin to assess how this fits into your career? You've spoken about the Edberg Open. Is this one?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's gonna be -- it's hard to say right now what it's going to feel like over the next week or so. I'm sure I'll reflect on kind of what's happened here and the first six months of the year. But right now I don't know. I'm going to be pretty down and disappointed. I was looking forward to getting it going and winning a major here. You have your highs and lows, and this is definitely a low point.
Q. As low as any? As low as Edberg?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, pretty low. You know, especially the bar that I've set for myself over the years, and especially here at this tournament. So that's why I'm pretty down on what happened here.
Q. Are you worried that this could be the last chance of getting the Wimbledon title?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. No, I'm not. I was looking forward to the chance and the opportunity this year, but you just have to face the facts that I'm out. And, you know, plan on coming back next year and the years after as long as I feel like I can do it. And this is not the way I'm going to end it here. You know, I want to end it on a high note and so I plan on being back.
Q. Is that what you were kind of saying to yourself as you were sitting there at the end? You took quite a long time, sort of looking at your racquet and twiddling with things. Is that what you were thinking, "I don't want it to end like this?"
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I was thinking that. I don't want it to -- I'm going to be back. There's not a question if I'm going to be back or not back. And I just -- it all happened so quickly from 4-All, a matter of five minutes, boom, I lost the match. You just kind of sit there, you're a little bit numb sitting there. Just kind of I lost. It's not a feeling that I like, not a feeling that I felt, especially here at Wimbledon.
Q. Mentally, how can a great champion like yourself put a great defeat like this behind you, turn it around and have the confidence mentally?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I've always said when you go through certain moments of your career and you're struggling, it just -- it takes time, you know. I mean, time heals, when you're a little bit down. But I'm going to have to go through it. And that's not what I'm looking forward to, just being home and just kind of not really sure kind of what to do with myself. Kind of just have to get through it. You know, the Open is still out there, but it's going to take some time for me to kind of regroup here and look forward to working hard and playing again.
Q. How much do you look at your legacy and think about it in terms of whether it's being diminished by these losses, and how much do you think, "I'm not going to give in to the critics"?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I'm not going to give in to the critics. I'm going to stop on my own terms, not on when someone else thinks I should stop. What I've done here and what I've done in the game is always going to stick, no matter what happens over the next couple years. But it's not fun losing. I still believe I have a major in me, you know. I'm going to continue to do it. But right now, you know, I'm out of this one.
Q. How much of your tennis right now is a fight against age as opposed to the guy on the other side of the net?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's a little bit of both. Like I said, guys are a little bit more confident against me. I'm maybe not, you know, quite as sharp as I used to be. And, you know, you lose a little bit of confidence, and it's been showing all year. You know, I'm just going to have to stop here and just kind of reflect a little bit but also not, you know, get too down. I mean, I still want to continue to play. And there is the US Open in another month or so. I just hope I can find it pretty soon.
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