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March 16, 2002

Pete Sampras


MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Which was more trouble for you, Hewitt or the conditions?

PETE SAMPRAS: Uhm, both. Very difficult conditions for me. You know, playing someone like Lleyton, who really plays well in the wind, probably the best wind player on the tour. You know, I think it's safe to say I've never really liked playing when it's this gusty. It was swirling around. I really kind of struggled in every area, especially my serve. I could not get anything on it. I couldn't just get any timing out there. It was just a struggle. I really felt I couldn't find my bearings today. Give him credit, he returned well, served pretty well in the conditions. You know, my game in the wind is just a little bit vulnerable because I just -- it affects my ball toss and my serve, but also add Lleyton, who is a great player and loves the conditions and really adjusts his feet well - a lot better than I do. Just combine all that, it was a struggle.

Q. Did you wake up this morning and look outside and hope for one of those Palm Springs days, no wind, sunny?

PETE SAMPRAS: I did. I woke up this morning, saw it was as windy as it was. It was a little unsettling, just to see how windy it was, just knowing that I struggle a little bit. You know, in the final last year against Lleyton at The Open, it was pretty breezy. The conditions are the same for both of us. He handled it a lot better than I did the last two times we played. It doesn't really help my game. I give him credit. He used the wind to his advantage. He really did.

Q. Were you ever able to get loose out there? Having had to play last night, hard conditions, you looked a little stiff today.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I felt pretty good this morning. It was a pretty cool, windy night last night. I woke up fine. You know, I had a good warm-up. You know, it's an early start after playing at night. But that's the schedule that they put together. Definitely didn't help me out today. Not an excuse. You have to give full credit to Lleyton, the way he played. He seemed a lot fresher than I did and just played a little bit better.

Q. How do you feel about your tennis overall these last few weeks?

PETE SAMPRAS: I feel pretty good. I feel like I'm hitting the ball fine. I hit the ball, you know, pretty well this week, got through some tough matches. But I still feel like I can play a little bit better and improve. You know, I'm going to do a little work with Jose the next couple days, just to work on a few things. We haven't had a lot of time to really work one on one. But I've got a lot of matches under the belt, my body feels pretty strong. Tennis-wise, I feel like I can play a little bit better. I like the conditions better in Miami than here. Hopefully it won't be as windy and as cool. But I feel pretty good.

Q. Putting the conditions aside, think about your last four matches with him, why you're not able to put any pressure on him from anywhere on the court.

PETE SAMPRAS: I think pretty much on my return games, he's serving well enough now that it's pretty tough to control the point because, you know, he's popping in a few aces here and there. You know, I hit one short ball, he'll come in . It's a lot like playing Michael Chang , but I think he plays with a little more power. He's a great counter-puncher. He's tough to come in on. When you do come in, he has good enough wheels that he hits some great passing shots. It's the toughest match-up for me at this point in my tennis. You know, his return game, you know, he's one of the best returners and has one of the best passing shots. Granted, today I didn't feel like I had my best stuff. I think the conditions didn't help, gave him more time to play. But combine all that, that's why he's beaten me the last few times.

Q. Specifically you say he's the best wind player in the game. What are the specific elements that lead you to that conclusion?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, because of his footwork, his ability to adjust, the fact that he plays low to the ground. His shots and strokes are a lot more compact, whereas mine are a little bit long. You're able to miss-hit, where he's a lot more -- just more compact. That's better in the wind. Even like a Michael Chang, just having those strokes, really helps out in these conditions. With my strokes, tendency to miss a few, miss-hit a couple. That's what happened today.

Q. You made some adjustments in your game. What do you think the results of all these adjustments you are doing now in your game?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, just putting more time on the court, after my matches, going out and hitting a few more balls. That result might not happen overnight, but over the course of the year, hopefully I can get it going and win some titles and win a major. That's my goal. It's not going to happen overnight. You know, just trying to work on some things, just trying to get better. You know, players are getting better. I realize that I need to get myself in better shape, work on a few things here and there. You know, this week was a pretty good week - not what I wanted. But, you know, get ready for Miami, work on a few things. Hopefully have a good tournament.

Q. Have you ever played a match where a 25-foot, several-hundred-pound sign board blew over in the middle of a point?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. We kept on playing the point. He missed. Then he complained about it afterwards, so that wasn't too cool. I mean, that's wind. No question it was windy. I don't mind the wind, but when it's blowing around in circles, that's when I struggle. When it's blowing one way, you can adjust a bit. It seemed like it changed within a couple minutes. I kind of struggled with that a little bit today. On one side of the court, I felt like I could swing at it. All of a sudden the wind would change and I couldn't. Just tough conditions for my game.

Q. It's obviously early, but could you talk more about Jose, what you've been gaining from him.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, there's not much to work on when I'm playing. I think we both know that to really utilize Jose is my weeks off. That's the time to really work on some things. There's only so much you can say when I go out and play, a few things here and there. It's the time off, it's the practice days. I mean, that's when I'm going to learn some things and work on some things. That's what I think we're both looking forward to after Davis Cup, just spending some time together, working on some things, on the clay. But right now we're just kind of just starting out, you know, it's been a couple weeks.

Q. Is he a guy that says a lot before a match and after a match?

PETE SAMPRAS: Not a lot. Walking out there, a few things here and there, he thinks I should maybe try. After the match, we talked for five, ten minutes about the match. It's not very complicated. I mean, he knows the game well enough and he knows my game quite well. He's watched me play for many years. It's not a lot of information. But I don't need a lot of information. You know, a couple things here and there, that's pretty much it.

Q. Is he coming to Houston?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think so.

Q. Since the US Open, Lleyton has had a pretty good record. He seems to be getting better every week. Can you think of a way that the guys on the tour are going to have to adjust to him? Do you have to grind him down? Hit winners past him? What's it going to take?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think he's kind of building on a lot of confidence for the past six months. That's a good question. The type of player that will beat Lleyton is someone that might blow him off the court. There's not many guys that can do that, or someone that could grind him down, there's not many guys that can do that. I mean, guys know mentally he's tough to play. You know, he's very difficult to play. He's going to fight hard and he competes well. You know, he reminds me of a Michael Chang, but probably just a little better. Serves a little better, has a little bit more pace, can come in a little bit. But, you know, he is beatable. He's had a good last few months, but he's got to back it up each week, guys are going to be coming, swinging for it. He knows that. But he's a great player. He's got some of the best speed out there. Mentally, he's very strong. The key for Lleyton over the next six months, year, is just mentally being able to go out there every time and be a hundred percent. You know, he's got to work pretty hard to win his matches. This week he's pretty much breezed through the tournament, so he'll be pretty fresh tomorrow.

Q. Would it be fair to say he's clearly the No. 1 right now?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think for now, the way the year is so fresh, he's playing the best this week. You're only as good as your last week. Yeah, I think the way he's playing, he's playing some of the best tennis in the world.

Q. A couple weeks ago, Todd Martin made a comment that was surprising to many in saying that Lleyton's serve was as good as any on the tour. Could you comment on that?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's a good serve. I mean, it's not -- I mean, I won't say it's one of the best. It's good. It's good enough for him to control the point. It's gotten better. I wouldn't consider him, you know, a Krajicek or someone that can blow you off the court. But it's a good serve that will get you in the defense. You know, second serve is attackable. I just didn't do that very well today. It's an interesting comment, you know. But it's a good serve.

Q. How would you make a choice if your wife was nominated supposedly for an Oscar, you're playing a match with Agassi, at the Lipton, she said, "Would you come with me?"

PETE SAMPRAS: That's one I've never heard. If she was nominated for an Oscar?

Q. Yes. March 24th, you're playing Lipton.

PETE SAMPRAS: Lipton, that's many years ago. That's a good question. I would have to support my wife, you know. Having won Miami before, I could be fine with it. If it was the French or Wimbledon, she might have to understand (laughter).

Q. You won Wimbledon?

PETE SAMPRAS: Maybe I'll just take the French.

Q. You play Indian Wells.

PETE SAMPRAS: It's a two-hour drive from LA, I could make it, fit it all in. 1227. Unfortunately, she wasn't nominated this year.

Q. Can you assess Tim and Todd's chances against Lleyton tomorrow?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think that depends on the conditions. I think if it's windy, like it was today, I think it could be a tough day for either one of them because it's just tough to serve. I think he just is such a dominating wind player. But if it's fine conditions, I still think he's going to be tough to beat. Three out of five, both those guys know they have to work hard and dig deep.

Q. Three out of three.

PETE SAMPRAS: It is three out of three. I think that helps Todd or Tim. I think Lleyton is the favorite. These guys will come in, be aggressive, put some pressure on him. I think he's just had a great week. I think tomorrow, if he plays well, which he always seems to do, I think he'll be fine.

Q. If you were to win Wimbledon again this year, would you consider the year a success? Would it convince you to keep at it?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm going to keep at it if it happens there or it doesn't happen. And, sure, I always base the year on the majors. That's why last year was kind of more disappointing than any year because I didn't win a major. You know, that's where I'm at, just trying to improve and trying to get back to winning a few majors here and there. But, sure, anytime you win at Wimbledon, I mean, that's our Super Bowl, so I'd love to do it again.

End of FastScripts….

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