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September 1, 2001

Pete Sampras


THE MODERATOR: First question for Pete, please.

Q. On your return today you just kept coming forward, chipping and charging. Is there something consciously you wanted to push yourself to the net as much as possible?

PETE SAMPRAS: In these conditions, I wanted to. It was very windy down there, and it's very tough to pass and lob. And that's what I told myself, on his first serve just to put as much pressure as I could because it's tough to pass, as you saw. I mean, he was struggling a little bit. I was coming in on both serves. Every second serve I saw I was going to do something with it and be aggressive. As far as the conditions, it made me do that. Once I kind of realized the conditions were going to be as windy as it was, I decided I'm just going to come in until the cows come home.

Q. Is that something you can necessarily do if Pat Rafter wins his third-round match?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm not going to be able to do that at all. Pat Rafter is going to serve and volley on both serves, so it's gonna be, you know, the match is going to be completely different. He's gonna be coming in on everything. I'm gonna be coming in on my serves. I'm not gonna have any opportunities to chip and charge. He's gonna be aggressive. I just hope I can kind of get his serve back and put some pressure on him if I play him. But, you know, he gave me an opportunity today to chip and charge, and Pat won't.

Q. How strange does it seem to be looking at Rafter as the likely opponent this early in the tournament for you?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's just the luck of the draw. I mean, I was gonna play someone that was in the top eight, and Pat is the man. He's probably the hottest player coming into this year's Open. To play him early on is pretty unusual. But, you know, the match, I think we're both looking forward to. It will be a good atmosphere out there. He beat me the last time we were out there on that court. So he's a great athlete, great competitor, and should be a good match.

Q. Conceivably you could have Rafter and Agassi back-to-back. What does that mean to have that this early in the tournament? Obviously, you don't look past it because you have to get through those guys. These two matches ahead, what are you thinking about?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, at this point I'm just worried about my next opponent, if it's Pat or Lapentti, I'm gonna have my hands full. Pat is obviously the favorite. Good chance he'll come through. I'm not looking ahead beyond my next match. You can't. Especially with who I'm playing and how strong this game is, you can't look ahead. So it's a tough section of the draw for all of us. You know, a lot of US Open titles in that little section, but that's the way the draw went, and let's play it.

Q. Is the physical wear and tear a concern? To have those guys back-to-back?

PETE SAMPRAS: Like I said, I'm not looking past my next match. If I get through it, then I'll worry who I play. Physically, I feel fine. It was a good day to kind of get through a pretty comfortable match. Everything is in place. I feel like this is where you need to raise it a level, second week of a Slam. I'm pretty happy with the way I'm playing the first week. Got through some tough matches. Hopefully, I can just raise it a touch because each opponent will get tougher.

Q. Given this place with you and Andre in your careers, people talk about the rivalry, if people came to you with an offer to go on a 15-city tour with you and Andre, is that something you'd like to do? Would it be interesting for you?

PETE SAMPRAS: As far as exhibitions?

Q. One-night-stands, winner take all. That kind of thing.

PETE SAMPRAS: That's interesting. I don't play any exhibitions at this point in my career. I will say playing Andre is very unique. To have a chance to play him, I mean, you like to play him in Slams or big tournaments. Exhibition doesn't quite have the same meaning to both of us. We obviously don't need the money. But, you know, it's hard to say how many times I'm gonna face him over the next number of years. But as far as actually doing exhibition tour, I don't think we have that in us anymore.

Q. Would it be a challenge to you, playing him that many times in a concentrated period?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure. It's a huge challenge. Playing the very best. He historically has done that. He's been my biggest rival over the years. In today's game, the exhibition tour is pretty much over. But when we match up, it's as good as it gets.

Q. When you go -- if I have it right, you're scheduled to play him in the Elton John Fund Raiser in Sacramento. When you go out there, does the fire still burn? Are you going through the motions?

PETE SAMPRAS: We're there to have a good time and put on a show. But once we step on the court, I don't -- doesn't matter where we are; we're pretty competitive. And in that environment, you're going to have a good time for charity. You're not there to, you know, we're not playing in a major tournament, so it's more to have fun.

Q. Tim Henman's just been upset by Xavier Malisse. Somebody like you, who has capitalized on opportunities so many times, can you feel sympathy for somebody like Henman who has come so close so many times to fall back?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, Tim has the game. I've played Tim and I've practiced with Tim a lot. He's under a lot of pressure being a British guy at Wimbledon I think is the one tournament he wants to win more than any. He's come close. I mean, you know, lost a tough match to Krajicek here. He's on the verge there to possibly breaking through. He's got the game, it's just a matter of putting it all together. Seven matches in two weeks is not easy. I see Tim winning a major or two, especially Wimbledon where he has that support and that surface. But he's close. He just has to raise it a touch. It's just experience and good playing at the right time.

Q. Is it mental, do you think, with him at this point?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think it's mental. I don't think it's that mental. He's proven he can play and beat the top guys. He just needs to be able to do that at major tournaments. Wimbledon he was a couple points away from getting to the final, to win it. He's been really close. That's his best chance to win a major, is probably that one. US Open's probably a bit more difficult.

Q. Your confidence level coming in couldn't be the highest. An effort like today, which was a solid one, what does that do for your confidence?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it helps winning 3-2-2 against a good player. I was happy the way I kind of adjusted my game today and realized how windy it was. I needed to come in a lot more. I feel like I'm playing fine. I mean, I had a couple tough matches early on. I'm hitting the ball well, moving well. You know, I feel like I'm -- got a pretty good shot to play a good match against Pat or Nicolas.

Q. Do you think people are prematurely not writing you off entirely, but not giving you the credit maybe that you should get as a contender here?

PETE SAMPRAS: It doesn't phase me. I mean, I've never really worried what happens in these walls or what's being written or said. I'm more concerned about what happens in between the lines. That's where I feel like I give my energy to that and not what's really going on in here. But the players know, my opponents know that I'm still right there and got to produce and do well.

Q. Can you talk about raising the level of your game. If I recall correctly, you said that your final against Andre at Wimbledon was one of the times that you were really most into it, most in the zone. Can you take a moment and say what it feels like when you're really at your highest level, how it is stroking your running forehand, your serve, what is that experience all about?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it doesn't happen very often. Especially in a Slam final. But you just -- you wake up in the morning and you have a good practice and then just go out there and that match, you know, 3-all, Love-40 to the rest of the match, I just kind of got into the zone. You can't predict it. You can't plan on it. It just happens. It doesn't happen that often in a match that big. You know, couple things happen my way, then I just let it all hang out. That's a surface that I can do it on against Andre. And just kind of got in the zone there.

Q. Is it a feel? Does the ball seem bigger?

PETE SAMPRAS: The ball doesn't seem bigger. You just feel like you're just seeing the ball great, you're moving well. You're guessing the right direction. Everything just clicks. And it can happen. It's rarely happened to me in Slam finals, but that one it did. I, to this day, can't explain why or how it happened. It just did. It just kind of got in the zone.

Q. At this point in this year's US Open, overall how are you feeling mentally as well as physically? How hungry are you to win this?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm very hungry. This is what I play for, is the majors. I'm physically fine. I'm mentally fine. Everything is in one piece. So I can't complain with the way this first week has gone. I'm just as hungry today as I was ten years ago. This is what I do all the training for. This is what I do all the practicing for - these moments.

Q. Your winning streak against Rafter is very good across your career. Over a good number of years you were -- when talking about his various opponents, Rafter's always seemed to put you above his other opponents. Do you want to hear that from an opponent? Secondly, do you think you have a mental advantage over Pat?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's always flattering to hear what Pat says. But there's no mental edge I feel like I have over Pat. Pat has beaten me a number of times. He's beaten me here a number of years ago. So he's a very, very tough opponent for me to play because of his serve, his volleys, the way he moves out there. I don't think I have a mental edge. It's going to be a very close match, like it always is. It's just a matter of a couple points here and there, and hopefully I can bring my A game and play well.

Q. Patrick McEnroe said a while ago there are holes in Pete's game now. Players don't fear him.

PETE SAMPRAS: He's the Davis Cup captain? Is that the Davis Cup captain? Fat chance I'm playing now. (Laughter).

Q. When you hear that criticism, does it motivate you, anger you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Doesn't really do either. Doesn't anger me or motivate me. You know, you're gonna have your critics and whatever. It's never phased me over the course of my career that much. It did when I was younger, but now it's, you know, I have nothing to prove anymore. But, sure, the year has been a little disappointing. Haven't played all that well. But I know what I can do out there. I've been showing it a little bit this week.

Q. You joked before the match that it takes you a little bit longer to recover now. This was physically not the most challenging match for you, but do you do anything differently after a match and also to prepare for this heat?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, wasn't that hot today. But when it does get hot, you just have to be more aware of your fluids, eating the right foods. You get to warm up a little more. I paid the price when I took my body for granted when I hurt my back a little bit there. As you get older, recovery isn't quite as good. But that's a case of knowing that you have to work a little bit harder. You know, put in the time in the weight room, put in the time on the track so you can recover as best you can.

Q. Doug was saying there's no magic potion, but are there any supplements that you're taking or drinking that would help out in the recovery?

PETE SAMPRAS: I take some iron, my iron's a little bit low. So I make sure I supplement myself with that. And drink some -- not just water but, you know, drink Isostar, which helps a little bit. I eat the right foods and, you know, you spend a lot of time getting a massage and stretching. You know, it takes its toll when you have a lot of matches on these legs. You know, you just have been doing it enough to try to figure it out and being able to warm up in the morning, warm down when you're done, get something to eat straight when you're done, things you don't think about when you're 20 years old, but when you hit 30 you have to be a bit more aware of it.

Q. You seem to be able to raise it in a Grand Slam. Can you talk about what's different? Do you sleep more, have a certain routine? Is there nervousness the whole time? Is there just generally something that's different about you in a Grand Slam maybe even away from the courts?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, you get into a rhythm when you play every other day. Last couple years I've been staying in the city. It really is a pretty easy routine. You know, I get here, I'll hit tomorrow, go back and get a massage and stay in a lot. Go to some good restaurants around New York. You know, you're not really nervous. You're just kind of more anxious to get out there and play again. You just get into a routine. You go to the same restaurants, you stay in the same hotels. I'm here to do a job. There's not a whole lot of energy and time to do a lot of other things.

Q. You've heard by now a little bit of the controversy swirling around, comments made by Hewitt in his last match. Could you offer an opinion on that? How you felt about somebody saying something in the heat of battle.

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure, I would hope it would be because of the heat of the moment. You know, I don't know Lleyton that well, but every time I've seen Lleyton, you know, he's always been nice and courteous. When he goes out there and competes, he's like a different guy. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but what I've heard, I'm sure he's, you know, waking up this morning regretting it. Certainly was inappropriate. But, also remember, he's a young guy that probably got caught up in what was happening out there and it's unfortunate.

Q. Do you sense how special these times are now with you and Andre playing at the top of your games for so long and now having Roddick come up and some of these other young guys that are coming up? Is this a particularly special time in tennis? Can you relate it to any other time?

PETE SAMPRAS: It is, it's a different time for Andre and I. There's -- I think people realize, the fans, that you're sure not gonna be here for the next five years. But, you know, there's a certain appreciation and respect that I feel at least this week with the support I've had from the crowd. There will be a changing of the guard eventually. Not yet. But Andy is someone that I think we're all looking at as being the next guy to kind of lead all the other young guys to great things. He's got a lot of potential and a lot of -- packs a lot of heat with that serve. So he'll be around.

Q. There's been a few incidents here, the spitting incident and the racially insensitive remarks yesterday.

PETE SAMPRAS: It's good for the game, right? (Laughter). This is what you guys want, right? (Laughter).

Q. But in other sports like basketball or baseball, these are the kinds of things that have drawn really major fines. I just wondered if you could comment on what you think about the fining system and is it the right amount?

PETE SAMPRAS: Honestly, I don't know what the fines were. What were they?

Q. It was $1,000 for the spitting. They haven't announced it for yesterday yet.

PETE SAMPRAS: It's really hard for me to say. How much it should be, it's not really my decision. I mean, a fine is in need in that situation. To go over the line and spit at someone is out of line in any sport. But it's up to the ITF and tennis people to figure out what the best fine is, and that's really their business, not mine. It's certainly something I don't approve of.

Q. How's the court playing? How does that suit your game? What about everybody else?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the court, you know, is playing a little bit quicker as the more players on there. It's a good court. It's a tough court because when it does get windy it really can swirl around and it's not that easy to play. But the speed feels like it's reasonably quick. So it's -- it suits my game okay.

Q. If Patrick Rafter wins tonight and the tournament offers you a choice of a night match or day match against Rafter, would you have a preference?

PETE SAMPRAS: That's a good question. That's a very good question.

Q. Knowing that maybe Pat's kicker isn't going to go as high.

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I certainly would like the night because of the energy from the people, and that would be something I would look forward to. As far as the actual tennis conditions, sure, when it's a little bit warmer and dryer, the ball will kick up a little bit higher. So from a tennis standpoint, the night would suit me a little bit better. But there's a good chance we will play during the day I would think with CBS and it being the holiday. So... Either way, it's gonna be a good one.

Q. You don't have any markers to call in with the TV or the tournament?

PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, I have no say here. (Laughter). Never have, never will.

End of FastScripts....

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