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April 4, 2002

Pete Sampras


RANDY WALKER: Questions for the team, please.

Q. Pete, the Spaniards talked about how they're uncomfortable on grass. They're trying to make it their favorite surface, but they don't have all the experience and the success that you have. Can you talk about what that means to you guys, that they are talking about it a lot? Jim Courier said you wanted to make them feel as uncomfortable as possible. They are uncomfortable. Could you talk to us about that.

PETE SAMPRAS: Obviously, grass is a very unique surface. It takes time to get used to it. The speed is -- you're not going to feel speed like that anywhere, especially in Spain. It takes time. But I think both these guys are going to come out with nothing to lose. They're going to come out swinging away. They both serve pretty well, so that's a big shot on grass. They move well, which is, you know, which is a tough battle on grass. So it takes time. I'm sure they're going to be a little uncomfortable. And hopefully Andy and I can set the tone early tomorrow and kind of let these guys know that, you know, we're going to come out with a lot of heat, a lot of aggressive play, and hopefully we can get the job done tomorrow. It's a unique surface. It takes time to get used to it. Experience does help. So I think we're in good shape. We're both playing well, and hopefully we can do it.

Q. Is that on your mind when you're playing someone that you know does not like the surface or is not used to it? Does it make you more aggressive than you normally are? How do you look at it?

PETE SAMPRAS: It is important to be aggressive on grass, but you have to be in control. It is tough to pass. It's tough to lob. We're going to both be coming in on everything, on our serves. And, you know, we just have to , you know, really use the surface to our advantage and let these guys know that we're playing on grass. You know, we're going to be coming in as much as we can. And hopefully set the tone early, like I said before, and really put a lot of pressure on them, be aggressive, and just go from there.

Q. How do you feel about the court speed? Has it hardened up? Have you seen a difference from Monday?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, well, it's nice to hear that, you know, they brought the guy over from Queen's Club, this guy Dave, who does a great job. I think the court is in great shape. I really am pleasantly surprised - the bounces are true, you know, the movement has gotten better all week. I think it's a great court. Really they did a great job putting it together.

Q. Patrick, compare this tie, if you would, a little bit to the tie in 2000. The US goes to Spain, Spain's probably the big favorite there. Do you consider you guys the big favorite here? Do you think the results will be just the opposite?

CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: I hope it is. I do think we're the favorite. I think the number one priority for us this week has been getting these guys ready to play and playing well. I feel if these guys are playing well, that we'll win. But we're going to have to play well. We're not that concerned with the other guys, quite honestly, with who is going to play. We know they're tough. We know they're competitive. We know they have a lot of pride. They're obviously the underdog, but in some sense, as Pete says, they can try to take advantage of that. So we feel good. We feel like we have set everything up so that we can succeed, but now we need to go out and do it.

Q. Andy, how much of a benefit is it to come in here having pretty much handled both Alex and Tommy at the US Open last year?

ANDY RODDICK: Well, it happens in the fact that I know what I'm going up against. I have played them before. You know, it's a totally different match this time. It is in Davis Cup, it's on a different surface. But, you know, that kind of gave me a feel for what they might bring.

Q. Andy, how confident do you feel on grass? You don't have all that much experience on the surface.

ANDY RODDICK: No, I feel okay on it. I feel my serve is, you know, it helps out on grass a lot. I should be able to hold. You know, I normally return pretty well on fast surfaces. So, you know, I'm looking forward to playing well this weekend.

Q. Pete, can you talk about the classic match with Corretja at the US Open --?

PETE SAMPRAS: Are you part of the press (laughter)?

Q. Have you played Corretja since then? How have you done?

PETE SAMPRAS: I didn't get the whole thing.

Q. Have you played Alex since then, and how have you done?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know if I've played him. I played him in Hannover, and he beat me in a tough three-setter. I'm not sure if that was -- .


PETE SAMPRAS: That was after the Open. I think he's beaten me the last time.

Q. Patrick, how do you feel Pete and Andy are playing?

CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: I feel like they're playing very, very well. We've had a great week of practice. As Pete said, the court's gotten a little bit better every day. I think we've worked hard, especially the first couple days, did a lot of moving out on the court. And I think both guys feel real comfortable on the court, and I think James and Todd do as well. So I think we've had good practice all around. Physically, I think both guys that are playing singles are in great shape and feel good. So we've done what we've had to do in the week (cell phone ringing.) Oh, Randy, come on (smiling).

ANDY RODDICK: Please turn all cell phones off.

CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: We've done what we've had to do during the week, and now it's just a question of playing our game. As Pete said, playing aggressively, taking it to these guys, and going out there to win. We feel like we're set up to do that.

Q. Is it kind of difficult to tell how well Robredo is going to play on grass?

CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Well, I mean, he's a talented player. Andy's had quite a few matches with him, not just on the tour, but in the juniors. He's a talented player. He's young and he moves well. He can serve. He can do everything pretty well out there. So as we all know, it's one match. But we feel like if we play well that we'll win. But I think we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from them.

Q. Todd and James, this week of prep, your practices, have you been focusing more on just playing doubles, or have you been playing a fair amount of singles in case something happens and you get into the singles, or one of you might get into the singles?

TODD MARTIN: Beauty before age (smiling).

JAMES BLAKE: Well, I think first we just have to get used to the movement on grass. Because like Pete said, it's a unique surface. Just got to get in our footing and you got to stay a lot lower. So we worked on that and just doing a lot of movement things. Then we played some doubles. I think today we'll get out there and probably play some more doubles and try to get ready to contribute to the team as best we can. I think in this situation, it's on the doubles court.

TODD MARTIN: I feel like especially on grass courts, singles and doubles is not as different as on other surfaces. So in practicing our singles games, we're also practicing the primary aspects that we need to work on for our doubles, and vice versa. So I think we're both pretty well-prepared. And it will be fun the next couple days to have a little bit more doubles practice just to get used to seeing the shadow of his head.

Q. Of James' head?

TODD MARTIN: Yeah (laughter).

Q. Patrick, I know you can't do anything about the draw, but do you think in one sense it's worked out to your benefit, coming up against a player who has never played Davis Cup before?

CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: You know, I wasn't really that concerned about the draw, to be honest. With these two guys playing and playing well, it doesn't, to me, matter that much which one of them plays first. They're both in great shape, they're both looking confident and playing well. So, sure, I mean, the fact that Robredo hasn't played a live match could be a factor. But I think more of a factor will be who he's playing against, you know. And that's how I look at it. I don't worry too much about things I can't control. So the things that we've been able to control is practicing hard and preparing and getting as much court time. And we've done that, and now we're ready.

Q. James, do you have a rebuttal to Todd's comment?

JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, sure. I think he shouldn't really be making head jokes. Mine is just my hair (laughter). I'm not going to ask him why he's got the long face.

TODD MARTIN: James comes up with all his own material, too (smiling).

JAMES BLAKE: I'll be here all week.

Q. Todd, you played Alex and Juan two years ago. What do they bring to the table as a doubles team?

TODD MARTIN: Well, I think they bring very contrasting styles. One's very gifted from the back court, and the other is very uncharacteristically a good cover of the net. On the clay over in Santander, it was difficult for us because if they got the ball in play, it started to be a volleying escapade. And I think here we can make sure that the points are a bit shorter, and hopefully be able to get on to Juan's serve a little bit more than we were able to on clay. It's definitely a serve patterned for the clay court.

Q. Patrick, it was a big decision for you to decide on Houston here and coming here. Was it what you thought it would be when you got here? Is the situation here what you wanted?

CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: We're real happy. I mean, the conditions are great on the court. The facility is terrific. They've gone out of their way to make all of us welcome, so we appreciate that. And I think obviously you just look for a place that's going to put a lot in to promoting the event and putting on a good event, and also obviously, from my perspective, taking care of the team and having all the facilities. And we couldn't ask for anything better. So we've been really happy. When the stands are full tomorrow, I'll be a lot happier, too.

Q. Let's say two or three years ago, Andy was not playing. Still James Blake was not there. But you are doing a big renovation. Now you have two great veterans, and it always happens in the United States. Because there was a certain worry in the whole tennis world, I mean, if Pete should go in several years, and Andre Agassi's not playing.

CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Well, we're excited. You know, these guys are doing the renovation, these players, so that's the exciting part. And it is nice to have a mix of veterans like Todd and Pete, and to have the young guys - not just these young guys that are here, but our practice players and the other guys that have been on the team and other players that I hope are hoping to be on the team. So we're excited about it. We still know that we got a lot of work to do, but we think we're headed in the right direction.

Q. Pete, you rarely get nervous. But given this is your first grass court match in the US, any jitters at all?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think all of us are more anxious than nervous just to get it going. But, you know, when you play Davis Cup, it's different than playing any other event. You're representing your country. There's a certain sense of urgency when you play. It's kind of like playing a major; you don't want to let anyone down. And I think we're all ready. We're ready to get it going. We've had a great week of practice. I think more excited than nervous just to be able to -- for me, to play on grass in the US, which is something I've never done, or any of us have ever done. So it's something that when I heard we were going to do it, I was excited. Just playing on the court and how well it's playing, I think it's going to be some really good tennis.

Q. Pete, on Monday you and Todd pointed out that while the advantage is definitely an advantage for the US, it can be a dangerous and tricky surface; that you don't have that space for error sometimes that you do elsewhere. You kind of brought that out on Monday, that you have to be a little bit careful here.

PETE SAMPRAS: On grass it's a very tricky surface. You can't afford to be careless. You can, you know, lose serve and, you know, these guys can serve well enough where they're going to stay back and come in. And it's just a tricky surface. You got to be careful. You can't play any loose errors. You know, from the first point on, you can't afford to be loose out there. You need to be on your toes and get the job done and hold serve, and hopefully break a few times. But, you know, anything can happen out there in Davis Cup, especially on grass. I think we all know that. A lot of tricky things can happen. But I think we're both - all of us up here - are playing sharp and hitting the ball fine. As long as we do that and feel confident, I think we'll be okay.

Q. If the speed of Wimbledon is 100 percent, what percent is this court playing at?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think it's pretty similar to Wimbledon; I really do. I think it's, you know, the ball is a little bit different, which can change things. But I think the grass is pretty identical. I mean, I don't know how the other guys feel, but I think it's playing very true. Not too many bad bounces out there. I think it's one of the best grass courts I think we have in this country, is what they put here.

Q. How is the ball different?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's just the make of the ball. I think maybe it's a touch lighter than the Schlosinger ball. I think it's a good ball for us. It's a little bit soft. You can stay back and crack it pretty good. It's similar to Wimbledon; it really is. I mean, I'm really -- I was pleasantly surprised when I got here to hit on that Center. It was a nice speed.

Q. Right down to the weather. They're saying the forecast isn't very good. Can you reflect on rain delays, how that would change things.

CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Well, certainly these guys are used to that playing at Wimbledon as many times as Todd and Pete have played there. So we're not concerned about it. We just are going to go out there and play. I mean, as I said, we're not going to worry about things we can't control.

Q. Patrick, any words of encouragement from your predecessor?

CAPTAIN PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, I spoke to him a couple days ago and he was certainly pulling for us and anxious for us to do well. He didn't have the greatest time over there two years ago. He certainly was real supportive and hoping that we do to them what they did to us.

End of FastScripts….

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