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March 13, 2002

Pete Sampras


MODERATOR: Questions for Pete.

Q. How do you think you played in practice?

PETE SAMPRAS: Better than I did in my match (smiling). No, that's a joke. You mean after I played?

Q. Yes.

PETE SAMPRAS: Just hit the ball. I felt a lot better out there today than I did the other day. Felt like I had a better rhythm out there. It was a pretty solid match. Got a little careless at times. But Albert has got very heavy groundies. It's tough to kind of control the point against him. But, I mean, to squeak out this match, the conditions weren't easy, it was pretty windy, gusty out there. So it wasn't easy to play.

Q. Whose idea was it to do the post-match practice?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, we just kind of said after the match, see how I'm feeling. You know, I always do something after I play. I either get on the bike or go for a little jog, kind of cool down a little bit. I felt okay to go out and hit a few balls. Don't spend a lot of time out there. It's not the most grueling practice. We just hit for 15, 20 minutes, work on a few things here and there. You know, we just weigh it up to see how I feel after the match.

Q. Do you try to work on specifically things that happened in the match not to your liking?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, just kind of cleaning up my groundstrokes a little bit, getting a pretty good pace on my backhand side, you know, working on that a little bit. A lot of it's footwork out there. Just working on that. It's a process. It's not going to happen overnight. It's going to take some time. I'm sure Jose is looking forward to working with me when I'm not playing. He'll grind me out there for a couple hours, which I guess I'm looking forward to, too (laughter).

Q. You guess?

PETE SAMPRAS: I've got no choice (smiling).

Q. Did you know you were signing up for this when you got into this?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yes. I've worked with Jose before. I was just turning pro at 18 -- 17, 18. I was with Michael Chang here in Palm Springs. We were out there four, five hours a day doing drills. I know what kind of a worker he is. So I knew it.

Q. How did it feel out there to yourself? What was your self-talk? Were you happy to be out there after finishing a match? Did it feel good to you?

PETE SAMPRAS: The match?

Q. To go out at this stage of your career and practice after doing a match.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, like I said the other day, I never really have done that. Usually play, then do something else. You know, Jose and I have talked about doing some more on-court work. You know, my match today, it was a tough match, but I wasn't out there for three sets, so it was worth going out there and hitting a few more balls, you know, getting back on the center court. It's well worth it. Hopefully when I put in that extra work, you know, I can hopefully get some better results.

Q. How is your confidence level right now?

PETE SAMPRAS: Pretty good. You know, I felt today was a good test. Albert is an experienced professional that makes you work pretty hard. I've had pretty good results against him over the years. You know, go out and beat him 4-4, I'm pretty happy with that.

Q. Jose is obviously a lot more expert in the baseline game than in serve and volley. Is that what you thought you needed at this point? Is that what you thought you needed?

PETE SAMPRAS: A little bit, yeah. With my serve and volley, there's not much, you know , not to work on, but to really say much. It's what I know very well. It is, you know, playing from the back court against the young guys that hit the ball very heavy. Trying to hold my own, trying to get my legs in shape, just work on getting a good depth on my ball, just footwork. You know, it's going to take time. It's a process. But, you know, I know what my goal is, is to be aggressive. I'm not going to stay back too much. But in order to come in on good opportunities, I need to kind of get the ball nice and deep and work on my groundies.

Q. Our Davis Cup match against Spain in Santander a couple summers ago was one of the real low points in recent Davis Cup history. Do you remember whether you watched it, your recollections of that, whether you were pissed off about it, or what?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think I just had won Wimbledon a couple weeks before, so I wasn't pissed off about anything. If anything, I was still riding on Cloud 9. I didn't watch much of it. I was dealing with my injury a little bit. I heard it didn't go very well. It's a tough tie. But hopefully we'll have a better result in a few weeks' time. I heard it wasn't pretty over there.

Q. What are your thoughts on Davis Cup, facing a tough Spanish team in Houston?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think we are the favorites. Not too heavy of a favorite. I think whoever they play plays well. They're going to come out there the underdogs. It will be interesting to see how the grass is playing. I've never played on grass in the US. But I hear, Pat was telling me the court is in good shape, a good bounce. But these guys are going to come out expecting to do well. But it is a good surface for us. We have not only Andy, but Todd Martin, who I think is one of the better grass court players we have in the game. It will be interesting to see who plays. I'm looking forward to the tie. It's kind of nice to play on grass in the US. I've never done that. It's a tie we hopefully should win. I think we're the favorites. You know, on grass, anything can happen.

Q. Have you played doubles on grass?

PETE SAMPRAS: I have a few times at Queen's. Other than that, not really.

Q. Would you like to do that?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm available. I would be available, sure.

Q. Given that you're arguably the greatest grass court player ever, playing on grass, do you see yourself taking more of a tutoring role with Andy this time, given his experience on grass has been very limited?

PETE SAMPRAS: Like I've said about being with the young guys, I'm not one to tell them really anything. I like to be asked. Andy's someone that wants to get better. I'm more than happy to share my thoughts about grass, how I dealt with playing on grass early in my career. But I'm not one to kind of, you know, give advice when it's not asked. But when we're there, I'm sure we'll talk about it a little bit. I'll give him my thoughts on the surface. Also Todd Martin has experience. He can shed some light on that.

Q. Corretja has down-played their chances a bit. It's possible they'll play Moya or Ferrero, take a look at those guys, the possibilities on grass.

PETE SAMPRAS: Ferrero I think, you know, is a very talented player that can play well everywhere. Grass, sure, is a tough surface for him. He serves well, he returns well. Moya, you know, serves big enough where he can hold serve. You know, hit a couple good returns, anything can happen on grass. It is a surface you have to be careful. You can't play too many loose games. You know, as soon as Miami is over, we'll focus on the grass. It's going to change the whole mindset for me anyway. It's turning it from playing on hard court to grass. You only have about four, five days to get ready. It's a tricky tie. Anything can happen out there. It's Davis Cup, and that's what makes it pretty unique. With that being said, I think we're going to do okay.

Q. So you expect to see Todd on this team?

PETE SAMPRAS: I would think so. I mean, Todd is experienced on grass. I still see Todd as one of the best grass court players we have in the game. He has the big serve, returns very well. He knows all the little ins and outs on grass. I think we should utilize him, you know, playing singles or doubles. It's not up to me. You know, you can't -- you look at Andy and his game. He has the big serve. It's a tricky, tricky one to pick. It's a tricky one to pick.

Q. Coming back to Indian Wells, playing Santoro now. You've lost to him three times in the past. Can you talk a little about how his game on this surface could be.

PETE SAMPRAS: Fabrice is a very crafty player. He's someone that will serve and volley some. He'll stay back. He will try a lot of different tricks. He returns very well. You know, he's got, you know, kind of an interesting -- not interesting, but a tough forehand because he kind of slices it and stays low on the court. Good backhand. He's a smart player. He knows what he has. He kind of utilizes it to his advantage. You know, he's just one of those awkward type of players where he'll throw in some dropshots, serve and volley some, kind of mix it up. It's a tricky match.

Q. Does the fact that he doesn't give you a rhythm make it difficult?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yes, it's definitely given me problems. You know, he isn't a player that's going to, you know, blow you off the court with power, but he's going to beat you with his speed and his spin. He mixes it up very well. Like I said, he'll serve and volley some, he'll come in a lot. It is a match where I feel if can I hold on to serve pretty easily, I can take some chances on my return game and go from there.

Q. Someone you necessarily don't like to face?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't mind facing him. I played pretty well against him here last year. But he's a tricky player. He's crafty, just experienced. He's been out here for many years. He knows my game pretty well. It's a tricky match. You know, if I play well, hit the ball solid, I think I should be okay.

Q. We're starting to see more about the Tennis Channel, they have a booth. Can you talk a little about what you're doing for them specifically?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think we've finalized exactly what I'll be doing, more of a spokesman role. What exactly that means, I don't know. I think they're still trying to figure it out. I'm sure some interviews, doing some personality pieces, you know, trying to grow the sport, have a little kind of unity to the sport. But we haven't really discussed exactly what I'll be doing. I'll be doing some promotional stuff for them. We'll see what happens with it. It's kind of a risk. Have to take a little risk in life, you know, when dealing with tennis.

Q. The Golf Channel has kind of like a Tiger Tuesday. Are we going to see maybe a Sampras Saturday?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure. Or Sunday. I like Sundays, if I'm playing.

Q. Andy Roddick said a couple weeks ago from being around you, he felt the best quality you had was your confidence. Yesterday Andre Agassi said he felt your best quality was your ability to raise the level of your game, to play the big points really strong. If you had to look at yourself, your own game, what do you think your strongest quality is as a player?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, over the years, probably, you know, knowing the score, knowing when I need to raise my game, just having some options out there, I think, being able to serve and volley and come in, but also being able to stay back, with the best players in the world. Just knowing, like I said, when I need to raise my level, you know. Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don't. You know, knowing when I have a chance to utilize it and take advantage of it. But I've always been pretty secure about my tennis. Even though I don't hit the ball well or play well, I've never gone out there thinking that I'm going to lose or lose confidence. You know, just believing I should beat everybody. I don't care if I'm, you know, not playing as well in the last year or so. It's still how I feel when I walk out on the court.

Q. Did you always have that quality or was there a pro match where you felt you could do that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the '92 Open loss to Edberg kind of showed that to me. I didn't feel like I belonged at that point. I felt like the arena, I was a little intimidated by that, didn't believe in myself in those moments. It was good enough to get there. That loss changed my whole kind of outlook, that I do belong, I do belong to win majors, beat an Edberg or whoever it is. That match definitely changed my outlook on the whole sport.

Q. Getting back to Jose Higueras.

PETE SAMPRAS: Who (laughter)? Say it again.

Q. Jose.


Q. If he's not happy with something you've done on court in a match or in practice, does he tell you in no uncertain terms?

PETE SAMPRAS: We've talked about it, and he's tough on me. He's on me when I'm not moving. He's very honest with me, which is nice. You know, he's not a sugar-coating type of guy. He'll tell you how he feels. He's honest. I'll be honest right back with him. You know, that's how we started this whole thing. That's what we talked about a couple months ago. You know, like I said, having someone more separate, having that type of relationship, is something I felt like I needed at this point in my tennis.

Q. Can you talk about when you first worked with him at 18, maybe the difference now?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it was part of the USTA junior -- young pro. I worked with him here in Palm Springs, but it wasn't anything really one on one. You know, he was -- it was only about six months. I just remember working very hard, spending a lot of time on the court, four or five hours a day, with Chang. I felt like I needed some more one on one. That's when I moved to Florida and started working with Joe Brandi. It was just a lot of hard work. I know what Jose is all about, the effort he puts into whoever he's working with. But it's a different place in my tennis, a different place in my life. Definitely he wants to find that enthusiasm and get me to work hard even though I've done a few things in the game, still trying to maintain it and get better.

Q. A lot of us were worried that Phil Knight would have to change the name of the Sampras building in Beaverton. How does it feel to be back with Nike?

PETE SAMPRAS: It feels good. We've patched it up. I'm happy to be with Nike for the next number of years. Hopefully I can do a lifetime deal with them. I don't know if they're into that. I feel good about it. We've kissed and made up.

End of FastScripts….

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