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June 27, 2001

Pete Sampras


MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Test you weren't expecting?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the way it was going in the first couple sets, I felt things were definitely going pretty smoothly. I had some chances there in the third to possibly close it out. You have to give him a lot of credit. He competed really well, started playing really, really well from the middle of the third till the fifth, he basically outplayed me. He played a great breaker. Just really picked up his game when he had to. You know, he rose to the occasion. The crowd definitely helped him out. They were boisterous. That made things pretty interesting out there. But I didn't feel like I was doing anything wrong. You know, I was playing fine. I was playing well. I just had some chances to possibly close him out. But give him a lot of credit. He competed well, played well. Obviously, a little bit relieved that I got through it. But give him a lot of credit. He played really well.

Q. Given the crowd, the occasion, the way he was playing, would you say that's the hardest first week match you've had at Wimbledon?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's hard to say what's happened over the years. But, yeah, that's as close as it's going to get, or has gotten in the first couple rounds. Fifth set, on grass, the way he was playing, anything was possible at that point. I didn't really feel like I was in danger of losing, but I felt like the closing stages of the match, if it was 4-All, 5-All, anything can happen. But it was definitely a major test. But you have to give Barry a lot of credit. He played really well.

Q. Does it alarm you at all that you weren't able to close it out in the third, or do you take encouragement that you went five and survived the test?

PETE SAMPRAS: I played all those breakpoints well. I really felt like I made him play. I hit a couple good passing shots. I missed a forehand that clipped the net. You know, I was playing fine. I didn't feel like I did anything wrong. It was a good mental effort to get through that, you know, deal with the crowd that were obviously pretty loud. You never want to be tested to the point of possibly losing. But I am quite relieved that I got through it. You know, I kind of played a loose game there at 2-All. I felt like, "Woops, this could get interesting." But I raised it in the beginning of the fifth and went from there. Like I said, never really felt like I was in danger of losing the title. You know, some tense moments out there.

Q. You got a bad line call about mid part of the game. Did that bother you at all?

PETE SAMPRAS: At 4-2, deuce?

Q. Yes.

PETE SAMPRAS: I mean, yeah, I had the match in control at 4-Love, let it slip away. 4-2, I floated a volley that I thought caught the line. They called it out, or he called it out. There's nothing you can do about it. Just play the next point. But it wasn't the best of timing.

Q. Did you feel that that game was the turning point of the match?

PETE SAMPRAS: Had he won it, sure. Being up 4-Love to 4-3, two breaks. Won that game at 5-2, felt like it was a big game to get through.

Q. You just mentioned how you raised your game in the fifth. Over the years, people have always talked about that ability of yours. Is that an ability to hit the spots?

PETE SAMPRAS: There's times when you just raise it a touch. If there's a moment that I felt like he might have had a bit of a letdown, was after the fourth because the crowd just erupted. There was maybe a letdown on his part. I felt that. I was like, "Okay, raise it a touch." No reason to panic out there in the fifth. Just all the champions of Wimbledon, people that have won Grand Slams, know when you have to raise it a touch. Certainly with my experience, there are certain moments that it's like, "Okay, this is it. This is possibly the match." I felt that in the third set when I had the match in my hands. It wasn't to be today to win in straight. But give him a lot of credit. He made me work very hard.

Q. Intuition and experience?

PETE SAMPRAS: Just going out and playing well, a little experience, knowing when you have to raise it a touch. You know, I was telling myself that I was playing fine. You know, I was holding serve pretty easily most of the time. I was making him work. I was in every service game he was playing. Thought it was just a matter of time before I could break him, wear him down. It wasn't until the fifth set that I got that. Once you can smell the kill, you usually try to -- you know, you usually try to take advantage of it. Beginning of the fifth was a huge part of the match.

Q. As the match goes on, gets tight, do you think, "This guy is ranked 200 in the world, I should be taking him"? Does that ever go through your mind?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. You always respect who you're playing. Doesn't matter what he's ranked. Obviously, on grass, with his serve, the way he was playing, you can't think about this is going to be the upset of the century, which it could have been.

Q. Cross your mind?

PETE SAMPRAS: You always believe in yourself, that this is not a panic situation. "I'm not down a break in the fifth, on my way out of here." There are some tense moments. But those are moments where you have to draw on some experience, remember who you are and where you're playing. That can certainly help you out.

Q. Do you feel any satisfaction in playing a longer match like that? You haven't played that many matches recently. Five-setters, that is good for conditioning?

PETE SAMPRAS: It could help to my advantage. But it's always nice to go out and win in straight. It's a little bit easier on the body. You know, when you lose a few sets, you know, I didn't walk off the court like I lost confidence today. It was a good mental effort to get through. I felt like possibly this match could help in the long run. But yet again, definitely got the heart going.

Q. Are you starting to feel for us Brits at all now? You've beaten Tim twice now in the semifinals, now you've beaten Barry. We just need that one game to get through. Do you feel for the crowd over here? We're looking for that one big win.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you know, I don't -- going into today's match, the crowd was obviously going to be for Barry. You do whatever you can to shut that out and play well and dominate, like I was doing. Once he had a little life, they saw that. They got into it. But you just, over the years, play guys in their home country. It's still one-on-one out there, his ability against mine. But I've had some good fortune against a few of the guys here, no matter if they're from Germany or here in London.

Q. Regarding Corina Morariu's diagnosis, have you been able to offer any support?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, Paul and I got a card for her and signed it, sent it to her. I know her quite well. My sister recruited her to go to UCLA. I got to know her a little bit - not great. It's obviously an unbelievable situation. Definitely it's a sad situation. But we're all obviously thinking about her and praying for her, that she makes it.

Q. Do matches like this ever shake your belief?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, no. Like I said, I never really felt like I was in danger of losing. There's moments where you're in the fifth set against Barry that you have to believe in yourself, believe that you can get through this. The conditions were obviously tough out there for me. You just have to believe in your ability. I've been in this situation a few times over the years. You can draw on that. Majority of the time I usually get through - not every time. Today it happened for me.

Q. Does the fact that you're bidding for a record here weigh on you at all?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. It's completely out of my mind. When I toss up that first serve, even when I walk on the court, my day off. Obviously, it was hard not to think about it last year because of the overall record. The Borg five in a row, really, I'm just trying to win this year's Wimbledon. I'm not overly concerned about the record. I've won here plenty. I would love to do it again.

Q. Being able to rise to the moment, come up with the big shot when you need it most, are you finding it's just as easy now as it was three years ago, two years ago, to pull it out and do it at that time, or is it harder to call upon that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I still believe that's what you have to do out there, is being able to sense an opening. You know, the ability to have the game, to raise it to that level when you have to. You know, today, a few things happened where I felt like I did raise it enough to break him in the third. I let it slip away. Give him credit for competing hard. He could have just packed it in. Even though I lost that fourth, there's no reason to get too nervous. I felt like I was playing fine. Just believe in your ability under the pressure. Just raise it a touch. Usually good things are going to happen.

Q. Mike Russell almost got Kuerten at the French Open. Barry pushed you hard today. Is the gap getting small?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. Guys are coming out, if it's Kuerten in Paris, me here, with nothing to lose. They can go out and, you know, play at a very high level, probably more than they're used to. You have to expect that when you're one of the favourites at a Slam. Guys are going to raise their game. You just have to be careful. Guga was one point away. I was definitely in a dogfight today. Players today, if you're ranked 50 or 100, are threatening, more than ten years ago. The gap is getting tighter and tighter. The game is getting stronger.

Q. Bjorn Borg moved with a lot of beauty, grace, did most of his talking with his racquet. Could you take a moment and tell us what encounters you have had with Bjorn? Do you feel an affinity with him?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know Bjorn that well. I did practise with him a little bit in Florida when he was trying to come back. I think our personalities are very similar. That helps on grass. It helps to handle the big occasion. You know, he had ice in his veins. Never seemed to get nervous. He kept a lot of his emotion inside of him like I do. That can only help in big matches. Obviously, playing out here is the biggest tournament we have. There's a lot of similarities there. Our games were different, but I think the way we approached it, the way we were on the court is pretty similar.

Q. So it's an advantage to have sort of an inward personality playing grass court tennis?

PETE SAMPRAS: That's kind of who we are, you know, that's the way we express ourselves out there. Whereas someone like a John or a Jimmy, a lot more expressive, you know how they're feeling of the just different personalities. John won here a bunch, and Jimmy did. It comes down to actually playing out there. But, you know, I think either personality, you know, can be very effective. Bjorn and I happen to be pretty similar in that respect because we are pretty calm out there. But you can still show a lot of energy out there, like Roddick or McEnroe, and be effective.

Q. Seeing as you're such a devoted fan of our British sports, were you aware of what he was listening to on his Walkman for inspiration?

PETE SAMPRAS: Whatever it is, I've got to find it (smiling).

Q. He was listening to the Liverpool football song "You'll Never Walk Alone." Is that something you'd ever contemplate doing?

PETE SAMPRAS: I might do it now (laughter). I probably would never do it. You know, I would put on some Pearl Jam before I play. But actually listening to music during the match, only a few guys have done that. You know, whatever it takes out there. He uses it as motivation, inspiration. You know, music can get you going. You don't see it every day.

Q. Last year I think it was the second-round match when things started to fall apart, physically. Do you take some consolation that you're healthy this time?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, knock on wood. Things are feeling good. You know, it's nice to go out and practise on the days off, warm up, gain a little confidence when you do go out and practise. You know, I feel last year at this time was a little more stress, more than just playing. This year I feel like things are under control.

Q. Barry is going to be going through a huge roller-coaster of emotion. From your career, can you tell us what a career-defining game like that can be?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think he can expect to be disappointed, but I think he can draw a lot of confidence from this match - the way he competed in the third, the way he played in the third, fourth and the fifth. He's going to use this as more motivation, more inspiration to keep it going and to go out and take me to the fifth set. You know, I'm sure he's down, but he'll wake up tomorrow and feel pretty good about the way he played and the way he competed.

End of FastScripts….

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