March 11, 2002
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
MODERATOR: Pete improves his career record here to 28-11. Take on the winner of Ulihrach, Albert Costa in the second round. Questions.
Q. Whose idea was extra time?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, Jose's. He just wanted to kind of hit a few more balls. I kind of wanted to hit a few more balls. Didn't really feel like I hit the ball that well tonight. I think we're just going to make that an effort after I play some matches. Obviously, if it's a tough three-set match, I'm a little tired, I might take it easy. But, you know, I'm trying to get better. You know, I'm trying to work on a few things here and there. An extra 15, 20 minutes out there, I kind of enjoy it. It kind of feels good when you don't really feel like you hit the ball that well tonight, to go out there and kind of clean it up. I just want to improve.
Q. Were you working on something specific?
PETE SAMPRAS: Just trying to hit my backhand a little bit better. Kind of struggled tonight with, you know, some rhythm out there. We just for 10, 15 minutes worked on it, worked on some groundies. That's our program.
Q. When was the last time you did that after a match?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's been years. I mean, probably -- I can't remember. Probably been a good ten years or so.
Q. What was your reaction when he suggested that?
PETE SAMPRAS: We've talked about it a month ago. You know, I tended to kind of go for a jog after I play a little bit, just to loosen up. Like I said the other day, he wants to spend more time on the court, just hitting more balls. That's a big commitment for me. I'm into it. You know, like I said, I want to get better. But, you know, I think -- you know, we're on the right path to just get myself better, get my legs in better shape, out there on the court. This is a small little step, doing that after my matches.
Q. Was the first set something that bothered you, that it was that tight?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I just really struggled a little bit. You know, didn't really hit the ball that well. Had a few Love-30 games. Just didn't really capitalize on some of those opportunities. Missed a few shots. You know, it takes a little while to settle down out there. It's your first match in a little while. The first set is a big part of the match. The second, I kind of relaxed and played a little bit better. Happy with the way I served and volleyed, happy with that part of my game. Would have been nice to have broken him a couple times in the first set. When you don't really play that well, you get through a tough match, it feels pretty good. Anyone can go out there and play well and win. When you're not playing well, trying to win, you're not feeling that great out there. It's a good match to get through. I'll work on a few things tomorrow, get ready for Wednesday.
Q. The 5-5 point in the tiebreaker, do you feel he made a tactical error by approaching cross-court to your forehand?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. He hit a great shot. He had an easy volley, right on top of the net. That was a good play. He missed a sitter. That was all. It wasn't a bad idea. He actually had the point won. He took his eye off the ball and got a little bit careless there. It was kind of a turning point in the tiebreaker.
Q. How do you think he's coming on?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think he's coming along very well. I practiced with him quite a bit at Davis Cup. He's got a good all-around court game. He possesses a good serve. Got a good double-hander. I haven't seen him play much, but enough to see that he's got a big game. You know, he's going to have to work on a few things here and there, but I think he's got a good attitude. He wants to get better. I'm sure he's seeing the attention of Blake and Roddick. He wants to be a part of that. I'm sure that's going to inspire him and get him going.
Q. You talked to him on the way out. What did you say to him?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's actually -- I don't know. At Davis Cup, after the dinner, we drove back all in the car, Blake, Roddick and Mardy. I was sitting there with my wife and Courier. Then an Enrique Iglesias song came on. What's the name of it? "If You Can Be My Hero," something like that. They sang it to me, serenaded me. So I kind of was poking fun at him about it. It was pretty embarrassing (laughter).
Q. Are you kind of like the statesman of the Davis Cup team? You talked about "On Golden Pond."
PETE SAMPRAS: It's a unique situation, being around these young guys. They're young, you know. They want to get better. You know, I'm not one to sit and tell them how to do it, how to play. I try to lead by example. I don't need to do anything more than that. But it was a fun week. I'm sure this next tie in Houston will be a good week, as long as we win.
Q. There were a lot of firefighters, police officers, military officers in the crowd tonight because of the anniversary of 911. I was wondering if you could reflect a little bit on that anniversary.
PETE SAMPRAS: Unfortunately, I didn't see it. I was preparing, warming up. I didn't see it.
Q. Just on the sense of the day, six months after the fact, and the fact that there were a lot of those guys there to watch your match.
PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, it's very cool. Definitely any American that is affected by 9/11, seeing the special yesterday, it was nice to be reminded. You know, we can kind of go about our lives, kind of take it for granted. Once you see the firefighters, see the people that were affected, you know, it kind of opens you up to life and reality. Definitely, you know, you can take it for granted. But once you see those pictures, like we all do, over and over, you take a step back. I'll never forget that morning, what happened.
Q. Are you playing with nylon strings now? Have you changed to nylon strings?
PETE SAMPRAS: Not exactly.
Q. Have you changed your strings?
PETE SAMPRAS: Where are you hearing these things (laughter)?
Q. I don't know, a rumor.
PETE SAMPRAS: You have friends on the tour?
Q. Is that right or no?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I've tried something a little different, you know, to kind of deaden my racquet a little bit. Using some gut still and a little nylon. Just being a bit more open. I've been using the same racquet, same tension, everything, for ten years. Trying something a little bit different is a big deal for me. Just to give myself a little bit more control, a little bit deader. The gut is very lively. I tried it in Scottsdale. Felt okay. I'm continuing to try it and see what happens here.
Q. Is it just a general mix?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah.
Q. What about tension, have you changed that?
PETE SAMPRAS: A little looser. Usually I go 33, 34. I'm down to 31, which is quite a bit for me.
Q. When you're No. 1 in the world, have you an aura about you. During that time, you would be aware the person across the net would be maybe half beaten before you went out there. Are you aware now that maybe players are less respectful of that when they come up against you, "I don't have to feel that any more?"
PETE SAMPRAS: Probably a little bit compared to five years ago when I was 1 in the world, consistently winning majors. I still feel like going out there I still have an aura about it. Maybe not quite as dominating, but still having won a few tournaments over the years, it helps at certain moments. You know, being ranked No. 1, there are no advantages. You're playing guys that have nothing to lose and swing away. I dealt with that for years. That will always be the case, whoever I play. I'm the guy -- I'm expeected to win most my matches. It's just inevitable that players do get more confident and they get better and stronger and quicker. It happens. It happens to all athletes. Week in, week out, it is tougher for me to be consistent and win titles. But at this point I'm just trying to peak four times a year, see if I can win a major.
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