March 23, 2001
THE MODERATOR: First question for Pete, please.
Q. Kind of a tough first match for you, isn't it, Pete?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. Yeah, was very difficult. Nicolas is definitely an experienced player who's played me a bunch of times and has beaten some of the top players. I knew going into tonight's match that I would have my hands full. Play your first match out, he's already played a match. I've never been all that crazy about having a bye, but, you know, playing tonight compared to playing in Palm Springs last week, completely different. Very heavy, very humid, balls were fluffing up pretty good. So took a little while to adjust to that. But as I got going, I played a pretty good first set. Lost my way in the second. Made things a little interesting in the third. But I feel like I hit the ball pretty well and hope I can get a little bit better on Sunday.
Q. Sometimes it seemed like you had to kill him to win the point.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, he is a great mover, Nicolas. I was hitting some big forehands, he was scrapping them back. These conditions, which are a little bit heavy tonight, you just got to be a little bit patient. You know, but he's a fighter. He definitely was making me work really hard.
Q. Sets up an interesting third round against Andy Roddick, Pete. Can you size that up?
PETE SAMPRAS: I practiced with Andy quite a bit at the Davis Cup tie in LA against I think we were playing the Czechs. Haven't played him, haven't really seen him play. Obviously, he possesses a huge serve, kind of the up-and-coming young American that we're all looking at. To beat Rios pretty handily today, Rios is a great player that's experienced. Seemed like he kind of just blew him off the court. So he's playing great and he's got a big game with some big shots. But I just got to worry about what I'm trying to do, hopefully get my game going a little bit better Sunday.
Q. Not his turn yet?
PETE SAMPRAS: Hopefully not. Hopefully I can get through that, but it won't be easy. He's going to come out firing away with nothing to lose, and, you know, he'll have his time in the future. Hopefully he'll just wait a couple more days. (Laughter.)
Q. Pete, did you feel you got a little out of rhythm in the second set?
PETE SAMPRAS: A little bit when I lost my service game there in the second, new balls came out, they flew a little bit on my volleys. I just kind of got a little bit careless and, you know, but Nicolas started playing a lot better in the second, serving at love, put more measure on my service games. Had chances to break him back at 5-3 but lost a tough point. Third set, I just tightened up my game, you know, first break that I had kind of turned the whole match around. Just kind of went from there. But up two breaks I just let it slip away a little bit at 40-love. I made it a little bit interesting.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about maybe the first time you were growing up, the first match you had against one of the guys that you watched growing up?
PETE SAMPRAS: Sure. I remember playing Lendl in Milan. This is when I was probably 17, 18. First really top player that, you know, that I played. He took pretty good care of me at the time. (Laughter.) But I held on for about a set and that was pretty much it. That was my first real match I was a bit in awe of playing a top player like Lendl who I saw play as a kid, the Slam that he won. That was my first real taste of playing a great player.
Q. Andre's the first player since you in '94 I think to win the first Grand Slam and then the first Masters Series. What does that say about you and he and your continuing longevity in the game?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, well, I still think even today, even though we're considered the older players, I think we're still just as good as we were five years ago. Maybe not quite week in and week out, but Andre's proved that you get better with age. And I still feel like I've got some good years left in me. And if anything, you gain experience as you get older at certain moments of the match. You know, we're still reasonably young. I mean, I don't think we're quite, you know, anywhere near done. But there's definitely talk of it because it seems like a lot of guys have been talking about retirement. I still feel like we play at a high level consistently. If we're both playing well, there's a good chance we get to the final, like last week. So we'll see.
Q. Any preference as far as playing at night against playing in the day?
PETE SAMPRAS: I haven't played during the day, but it's obviously a little bit quicker during the day. Tonight was very, very humid, and tougher to serve in the conditions. You know, playing during the day, it goes a little bit quicker. You know, sometimes I like playing at night, just gives you a little bit more time to take a pretty good cut at it. During the day, the ball bounces a little bit quicker. I've been practicing during the day so I've been okay with that.
Q. Do you feel like since you practiced with Andy some of the awe might be diminished?
PETE SAMPRAS: Possibly. I practiced with him pretty much all week, and, you know, he didn't seem too intimidated by just practicing. He's played some top players before, so he's going to go out pretty calm and just go out swinging away. So he's -- I'm going to have my hands full.
Q. Did he get you coffee and sandwiches?
PETE SAMPRAS: I didn't treat him like that. I treat him with respect and I didn't -- wasn't going to throw my weight around bossing him around. He seemed like a nice kid.
Q. You prefer a day or night game? What do you prefer?
PETE SAMPRAS: You just adapt to the conditions. Depends who I'm playing. I mean, I don't mind playing either way, but, you know, shouldn't be a huge point in the match. I'll probably play during the day, so we'll see.
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