September 9, 2001
NEW YORK CITY
MODERATOR: Questions for Pete.
Q. Were you concerned about something like this happening because of the one-day scheduling?
PETE SAMPRAS: One day, having an off day?
Q. Not having an off day.
PETE SAMPRAS: No, I felt fine. Physically, I was fresh and ready to go. I just ran into another hot player, just like last year. I mean, I tried everything to try to figure it out, and nothing seemed to work. He returned and passed as well as anyone I think I've ever played. But I felt fine.
Q. First set, you both seemed to be struggling to find rhythm and timing. How bad was the wind?
PETE SAMPRAS: It was bad. I mean, I was struggling quite a bit, especially with my serve. It was really blowing pretty good there. You know, it was a struggle. It was a struggle to kind of keep the ball in. But I was really struggling with my serve, because it was that windy. Really it was kind of hard to really get a rhythm out there. You know, he handled it a lot better than I did.
Q. Is this one any more disappointing than last year?
PETE SAMPRAS: This is probably more so because I worked so hard to get here, got through some tough matches and played some great tennis. You know, last year I just got overpowered in a way. Today I just got outplayed. It's disappointing because, like I said, I worked hard to get to the final. It's just tough to kind of put into words right now how I feel, just getting off the court. I'm sure as time goes by, I'll reflect and feel good about what I did here. But only one name gets on that trophy, and it's not mine. So that's the harsh reality of it.
Q. You've given him a lot of credit, but do you feel you were nearly as sharp?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the reason I wasn't quite that sharp is because of the way he was returning, the way he was passing. You know, every time I made a second serve, he made me play. I was hitting low volleys. It's hard to do that three sets, let alone I just -- the harder I served, the more I put into it, the better he returned. He's got the best return in the game, the best wheels in the game. He possesses now a much better serve. He's a great player. You'll see him contending here for the next ten years.
Q. You can't sort of shake this off as you had a bad day; he kind of did that to you. Is that more of a concern to you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, well, last year I really couldn't do anything. This year, pretty much the same story. The reason I wasn't as sharp was because of the way he was playing. He made me work very hard on my service games. He was serving very well. He didn't miss. I mean, I don't know how many errors he hit, but it didn't seem like he missed very often. I thought I hit some good volleys today. He just was there in plenty of time picking off winners left and right. I just wish I could have given a better show for the people. It's disappointing.
Q. Early in the tournament you said a win would salvage your year. Obviously today is a disappointment. The road to get here was very difficult. Do you think to some degree you fulfilled what you wanted? Can you come away with some sense of satisfaction?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, at this point I have mixed emotions. You're right, I mean, I got through some tough matches, beat some great players along the way. But to get to this point and not get the grand prize at the end is a little deflating. If that had any bearing on today's match, I don't really think so. He was just too good. I mean, I have to give him a lot of credit. He outplayed me. I can still walk out of here with my head up high that I got through some tough matches. But, again, it's also disappointing not to get ultimately, you know, what you want, and that's the title.
Q. How bad was it to lose the first game of the match?
PETE SAMPRAS: It wasn't a great start, especially 30-Love, second serve, hit a serve on the line. The umpire saw it on the line. He didn't overrule it because he couldn't. Too late. That wasn't a start I was looking for. You know, you wanted to set the tone, put some pressure on him. Just got a bad break there. You know, I was serving against the wind, which makes it tough to hold there. I broke him right back, but it wasn't the way I wanted to start off the match, getting down a break early.
Q. You were unable to impose your will on him today with your service game. You had to fall back in some long rallies with him. You weren't able to impose your will with your forehand groundstroke today either. If that had been on today, as it was against Marat and Andre, could we have had a different kind of match?
PETE SAMPRAS: We could have. Could have been a bit closer. But it's tough. You don't want to get in long, grueling rallies with Hewitt. That's his strength. You know, I don't want to get in many of those. I wanted to be aggressive. The times I was aggressive, he came up with some great shots. But I felt fine. I felt fresh. I felt like I could go all night, if I had to. But he loves playing a target. He loves playing guys that come in a lot. He certainly had that today. He uses that quickness to his advantage, passed well, returned well. You know, I was trying to chip and charge a little bit. Wasn't really that effective. Seemed like everything I tried didn't seem to work.
Q. Given the guys that you beat to get to this point, did you feel coming in today that destiny was sitting on your shoulder a little bit?
PETE SAMPRAS: I was hoping a little bit of destiny might have come through for me here. But you have to go out there and compete and win the match. It was a tough road, but a good road, and a disappointing finish.
Q. Have you played anyone who covers the court as fast as Lleyton Hewitt?
PETE SAMPRAS: You know, I put he and Chang in the same league. Those are the two quickest guys I've played. But Lleyton I think possesses, you know, a bit better game.
Q. The first set was difficult. When did you feel that there was a moment in the match where you were getting into dangerous territory?
PETE SAMPRAS: When I lost my serve at 2-1. I had some game points. He broke me at 3-1. That just kind of -- the momentum just kind of went his way, then he broke me again. That was a big turning point. If I could have held on there, maybe make it a little bit closer in the second, maybe he would have played differently, maybe he would have missed a few. That was a bit of a turning point at that 2-1 game.
Q. Is he a better returner than Andre at this point?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah.
PETE SAMPRAS: Because he's quicker. Maybe doesn't have quite the power, but he doesn't miss. You know, he's very tough to ace. He's got the hands and the feet, it's phenomenal. Really pretty impressive stuff.
Q. How do you learn to beat Hewitt? You learned how to beat Marat after the US Open last year.
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, like Marat, I came in this year a little bit fresher, and he wasn't quite as on. Lleyton, I don't know what I would do differently. I would certainly try to figure that out. Maybe mix up my serves a little bit more, maybe not give him the same pace, same speeds. But when you're in a competition, you do what's comfortable. I always feel like my power's going to come through. The more power I had, the better he returned. It's something you could try, but maybe not as windy a day, I could serve a touch better. It's really hard to say what I would have done differently.
Q. Did he force you to play even more risky with your volleys because he was running down every ball?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, he forces you into a lot of errors. I mean, that's how he wins a lot of his matches. Because he is so quick, you feel like you have to, you know, hit a great volley or hit something on the line. It throws you into a lot of errors from the back court and at net.
Q. Can you talk about the tiebreaker.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, it was good I got back at 3-All. Overrule at 3-All, which was bad timing. Ball was out, but it's still a pretty gutsy call to overrule it at 3-All in the breaker. Hit a great pass at 4-3. Missed a forehand on the top of the tape, missed a pretty easy volley. Just struggling with the wind there at that point. The ball was kind of going on that one side. It was a big point of the match.
Q. Roger Federer, 19 years old at Wimbledon. Lleyton, 20 years old. Andy Roddick is 19 years old. So many other young players out there with so much talent. Does it leave you thinking how difficult it's going to be to win another Slam with all these young players?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's always difficult winning Slams. I've been fortunate to have won as many as I have. I think I've proven this week that I can still win Slams. There's no question in my mind. There's always going to be younger, you know, stronger, quicker players in all sports. As you get older, it gets more difficult. But, you know, my game is still there. Unfortunately, I just ran into two players, one in Safin last year, and Hewitt this year, that played about as well as, you know, they played throughout the whole tournament. They just saved it for me.
Q. Your backhand volley seemed to be your bread and butter throughout the tournament. Today particularly difficult. You mentioned the wind. Was that primarily the problem on the backhand volley?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, the wind didn't help. But I just -- he forces you into some errors. You feel like if you don't hit it quite firm enough or deep enough, he's going to have an easy pass. Bit of both: a bit of the wind and a bit of his speed.
Q. The one men's match from this tournament that people will be talking about for years is the match that you won. How much do you think beating Andre ultimately will help ease the sting of this?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, at this point, just getting off the court, as soon as the Andre match was over, I had to put it away. I had to get ready for Safin. But it is a match that people will talk about in tennis forever. It was great to be a part of it. It would have been a bit sweeter for me if I had won the title, having won that match. It was a great moment for tennis, a great moment for me. At this point, I'm not thinking about it. I'm thinking about just getting beaten today, having to deal with that.
Q. The year is over for all practical purposes. Do you look forward to a 2002 challenge of showing that a mature player like yourself can still beat some of these kids?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. That's a challenge for me. I feel like I answered that these last couple weeks. You know, these next couple weeks, couple months, is a time to reflect a little bit on the future. Looking forward to next year. You know, continue to do the work that you have to do. You realize guys are getting better, younger, faster. You just have to match that. But I look forward to coming back for many years.
Q. Will what's happened today make you reflect at all on where and when you play the rest of this year?
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know what I'm doing. It's a wait-and-see schedule.
Q. How impressed are you by Lleyton's focus? A lot of distractions, big match with Roddick.
PETE SAMPRAS: He's a very strong, mentally tough guy. He really had to deal with some off-court stuff, which doesn't help when you're trying to win a Slam. That seemed to settle down. He just got back to business. He's a fighter. That's how he wins his matches. He competes well. He is a great player. He just put everything aside and focused on what he had to do out there. But he should be, you know, feeling pretty good about the way he's competed and the way he played today.
Q. Yesterday there was a lot of hype about the women's prime time final. Do you think it's a pity that the men are not treated equally?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think we're treated pretty well. I wouldn't mind having a Friday semi and a Sunday final.
Q. When you look across, you know you're in trouble, late in the match, you see Lleyton there, the way he's playing out of his mind, same with Safin, do you ever think back to '90 and think, "I was there once"? Anything like that go through your head?
PETE SAMPRAS: No, not really. I mean, at that point I'm just trying to hang on, trying to do whatever I can to get back in the match. But it's a great feeling. I felt it a few times over the years. When you're a young guy in your first Slam final, you know, you can just kind of go and play. Sometimes you play great. And he played great today. But I never really reflected during the match.
Q. What is the feeling like when you hit a solid serve, he returns you a solid volley into the corner, and you look up and he's there camped out ready to hit a passing shot down the line?
PETE SAMPRAS: What do you do? If he hits a winner, it's too good. You know, you played a solid point, you couldn't do anything more. You've just kind of got to tip your hat and say, "That's too good." It seemed to happen a lot today. Not much you can do. For strategy, I don't know what I -- I mean, I didn't want to stay back, I had to come in. I just went right into what he loves to do. He loves a target.
Q. You're so good at masking your emotions. But was there a point in this match, maybe last year against Safin, that you said to yourself, "I've tried everything, this just isn't my day, he's so confident that it doesn't matter what happens"?
PETE SAMPRAS: It was a similar feeling to last year because, you know, last year I was a bit overpowered. Like I said, this year I was outplayed. When I lost my second serve -- when I got down two breaks in the second, I just felt it slipping away. I just felt, "Wow, he's playing great." I was just kind of struggling to hold on to serve. He was making me work. I didn't have the answers. When the third set came around, he just kind of maintained it. I was really hoping to kind of try to hang on there, maybe he might get tight, maybe he might miss a few, maybe I could get my game going, get the crowd involved. Didn't happen. He just maintained that focus and play, just like Safin did.
Q. Australia has such a tremendous tennis tradition. Can you see him in that tradition? Are there ways that he's an Aussie out there on court?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, as far as his game?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, most Aussies are serve and volleyers. Lleyton is more of a counter-puncher, baseliner. There's not a lot of similarities between, say, Hewitt and Rafter. But what he does is very effective. He plays with a lot of heart, a lot of tenacity. But I wouldn't consider him like kind of a typical Australian player. He's more of a counter-puncher.
Q. He won the coin toss, elected to let you serve. Were you surprised by that or was the wind that big of a factor?
PETE SAMPRAS: No, I wasn't surprised. All the great returners - Andre, Lleyton - they like to return first, which I love. I like serving, setting the tone early. Just got off to a bad start. Even though I broke him back, I didn't like the fact that I lost that game. He kind of set the tone like he was on my serve and passing well when he broke me there.
Q. Do you find this stadium harder to play in than the previous stadium?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah.
Q. Is it because of the wind?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah.
Q. Yesterday Marat said he was so impressed by your performance, he said the final is all up to you. Was that wrong?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it is up to me because Lleyton, he lets you play a little bit. But if you're not playing well or not quite on top of your game, he's probably the most difficult guy to play because he doesn't miss. He doesn't give you any free points. As much as it's up to me, he kind of had all the answers for everything that I tried, from picking off my serve to hitting great passing shots. It was kind of just too good. Really give him a lot of credit.
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