August 30, 2001
NEW YORK CITY
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. What do you think, Pete? First set, sort of got through it. Seemed to really cruise.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, it was a -- yeah, I mean I definitely had some pretty tight moments in the first set. I mean, I came out and I was doing what I wanted to do, I was coming in. He was coming up with some good passing shots. He was playing great. He handled all my stuff fairly well. Got off to a shaky start getting into a tiebreaker. That's when I kind of picked it up a notch. Kind of relaxed, got a bit more comfortable out there. My game got better as the match went on. But, you know, these guys are playing well. There's no question these first two guys are playing some good tennis. And I had to fight hard to get through it.
Q. Right near the end of the match, I think it was the next to last point, something happened and you yelled.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, this camera man was -- I was -- this camera man assumed I was gonna win the match. He was talking to his director or something, he was making -- doing all these things. I was like, "Chill out, dude. I got my hands full here."
Q. What about the night crowd?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, it was nice. They were definitely into it. It's always good energy when you play here at night, doing the wave at the beginning of the match. I mean, I've never seen that. You know, very expressive crowd. They were throwing out, you know, a few comments here and there. So it's part of the New York beauty.
Q. Do you enjoy it when they're throwing out things? They were screaming crazy things during points.
PETE SAMPRAS: That's fine. You know, it's so much different than say playing at Wimbledon. It's the charm of playing the US Open. You're gonna have rowdy crowds, gonna have people talking, cell phones ringing during points. That's to be expected when you play here.
Q. What do you think about where your game's at?
PETE SAMPRAS: I feel good. I feel like I'm hitting the ball fine. Didn't really serve that well tonight, but hit the second well. Like the fact that I was being aggressive. Even though he was passing me left and right, I was still coming in. And it's a tough court to pass on. I was happy the way I hit the ball, moving well. Everything is in place.
Q. You feel the court is as fast as -- you felt it was a little fast in '98 and then again last year, too. Is it as fast as those years?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's the same. It really is. I ended up watching the -- USA put on a Corretja match about five years ago. You could really see the difference in the speed of the court.
Q. You were watching that last night?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. Just it was slower. Here, it's -- for some reason this new court or the court they're putting down is a touch quicker. Ball skids through the court pretty good. Where the other court, I felt, was a bit slower. But I've told the USTA for years to slow it down. I mean, I'd prefer that. But... (Shrugging shoulders). Seriously, I prefer not playing on too fast a hardcourt.
Q. They don't seem to be listening.
PETE SAMPRAS: Haven't listened to me in years. (Smiling).
Q. Your next opponent?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I've seen him play a little bit over the grass court season. A lot of talent. I mean really I don't know exactly what happened tonight to Gambill. But you know, it's still the tournament, won a couple matches, is feeling good. He's a young kid that's got a lot of potential. He will, I'm sure, play really well.
Q. It seems like you're getting a lot of young guys who are playing great when they play you, playing very well. Do you feel like everybody figures, "It's Pete Sampras. He's had a down year. I'm gonna go for it?" They've always gone for it against you?
PETE SAMPRAS: You always feel that guys are gonna play much better than what they're used to. They have nothing to lose and they can let it all hang out. And knowing these guys are young, but they're good. These two guys that I played here, you know, really hit some great passing shots. I kind of felt myself shaking my head after a few shots they've hit. You just have to expect when you play these guys that they're gonna hit great shots and they're gonna be pumped up. It's a big match for them. But you just have to match their game and even kind of raise it a touch when you have to. That's what I've done these first two matches.
Q. Do you remember what that was like for you, you know, 1997, you go against Lendl? When you're a kid that age, you go against a name like that, what's that like?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you have no expectations except, "It's great if I win. If I lose, it's fine, too." When you're 19 and you're breaking through and you play Lendl and McEnroe, you just, there's no fear. Really you have nothing to lose. Go out and swing away. It's probably the last time I think I felt that way. I mean, since I've had that bullseye on my chest for quite some time. It's just the nature of being a top player - guys are going to be shooting for you. 19 was kind of the time where you could let it all hang out and have a little fun. You're still having fun, but expectations are so much different today than it was, say, eleven years ago.
Q. It had been a long time since you played the week before the Open. Do you think that those matches, looking at it now as you're into the third round, do you feel like it did you good to get those five matches in and come in here with more matches?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I needed matches. I needed to, you know -- started off in LA, played okay. Cincinnati got the blister, had to pull out of Washington. I needed to do something.
Q. Got the blister before the Martin match?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I mean I was having some problems. It opened up during the match. It affected me a little bit. But I needed to play. I needed to play -- trying to play Washington, had to pull out. Had to take a wildcard at the Hamlet. Haven't done that since '90. But the courts are the same. The balls are the same. So my days off I was coming here. So it was good preparation. It really was. It was a lot of tennis. Hopefully that won't affect me as the weeks go on. But I needed to play. I needed to get a few matches in. Maybe it's helped me a touch. But I've done well here not having played the week before, so maybe it will work to my advantage this year.
Q. Days off you were coming here?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah.
Q. What, to practice?
PETE SAMPRAS: Practice.
Q. On center court?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah.
Q. What do you think about the 32-seed system?
PETE SAMPRAS: It definitely loses a little bit of its early-round matches at times. But I think you've seen we've had some good early-round matches. If you look at the numbers, it makes sense, having 128 draw, 32 seeds. I know the, you know, the media might want to see some interesting upsets early on. That's what you see. I have mixed emotions at times, which is like to be seeded 1 and play someone 18 in the world early on isn't all that fair. But, you know, it's definitely not as interesting. But it doesn't really affect me in the way I prepare for this tournament.
Q. Which would you like better in terms of -- I guess you don't watch as a fan.
PETE SAMPRAS: No, it really -- doesn't really matter. It's -- I look at seven matches. You know, you just have to deal with the situation you're handed and do the best you can. I mean, I think though on a surface like grass, it's nice to have those 32 seeds. But here, it's, I think it's fine. I mean, I think it's been pretty well received and, you know, if you look at the numbers, it makes sense. But it's something that they're trying and sounds like they're gonna stick to it.
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