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March 16, 2001

Pete Sampras


MODERATOR: Pete advances to his third semifinal here at Indian Wells, his first since '95, losing in the semifinals where he takes on Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Pete has a 10-2 lifetime record on Kafelnikov, winning the last six. First question.

Q. Looked like an 18-year-old kid on the last forehand volley. Have you hit many volleys better than that?

PETE SAMPRAS: The last game?

Q. Yes.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it was a huge point, 15-All. I was kind of struggling a little bit with my serve, and he hit a great return, had an easy forehand. I just guessed, reacted, anticipated he'd go cross-court. Kind of surprised myself. It was there. It was a huge point. I mean, the difference between going down 15-30 and up 30-15. It was a good pick-off.

Q. Can you talk about the emotional aspects of playing someone like Patrick.

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I mean, Pat, highly competitive match today. It was good tennis. Felt like it brought back my memories to Wimbledon last year. Down a set, came into a tiebreaker. Kind of hit a couple good returns. For the first set and a half, I was having a hard time returning his serve. It wasn't till the middle of the second set, till the end of the match, that I felt like I finally got a hold of his serve. You know, I think he got a little bit down on himself in the beginning of the third. I took advantage of that, hit some good returns. But it was very good tennis, highly competitive. There's not a lot that really separates Pat and I, just some chances. He took his chance in the first, and I got mine in the breaker in the third. It was good tennis.

Q. Was he letting up on his serve or were you just reading him better halfway through the second set?

PETE SAMPRAS: Just reading it better. He was still serving well. Pat is a very smart server, with the spin and placement, catching me into the body, my forehand, my backhand with the high one, with the ball bouncing pretty high on those courts. I finally got a rhythm out there. It felt good. Just continued to put a little bit more pressure on him as the match went on, into the third, where I really had chances to break him again. It was similar to Wimbledon last year, I felt, the way the match went. When I won that second set breaker, I just raised it a notch. He either stayed, maybe dropped off a touch. It was a good match to get through.

Q. I don't think either one of you guys had a double-fault in the match. Have you ever played a match before like that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think we had a couple. As hard as we're hitting our seconds, I didn't really serve well in the first set, I served like 20%. The second serve -- our second serves are very, very good. It's tough to return. You know, we had good serving, as far as our second serve. He really puts a lot of spin on it. Again, I didn't throw in too many doubles like I have all week. It was pretty good serving, especially in the second and third.

Q. Considering the caliber of the match you played, and he's even younger than you are, can you understand why he's contemplating possibly retiring?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think Pat, you know, being from Australia, you don't spend a lot of time at home. He spends much more time traveling out of a suitcase than I do. It takes its toll. He's had some injuries. You know, Pat has had a great career. I still think he's young enough and good enough. I mean, there's no question he's a Top 5 player. His ability is still there, I find. It's more just his life decision on his future and what he wants to do.

Q. He kind of is realizing he's regretting a little bit making that announcement because now that's all he keeps hearing. Do you think when it's your time, which is a few years away, you're going to kind of not announce it?

PETE SAMPRAS: I haven't given it a lot of thought, how and when. I guess I haven't. I haven't really considered stopping for my whole career. It's hard to answer. I would hate to answer the question every week about retirement. It would be something where I'd slowly possibly just slow down, just call it a day, I guess. I don't know how I would do it.

Q. You've had so many problems here in the desert in recent years. Why are you playing so well and when do you think the last time you played this well was? Was it Wimbledon?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think at Lisbon I played a couple matches very, very well. This is the first time I've gotten to the weekend here in five years. It feels good to finally -- I've always struggled a little bit in the desert. Today I just feel like I kind of got my game going. It was a tough match. I could have easily lost this match. It's just a matter of practicing hard. I did that after I lost in Scottsdale. I went back on the practice court. When you practice hard like that, you're going to have good results. Now that I'm here in the semis, it would be nice to win here.

Q. Also getting used to desert conditions?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. The ball goes a little bit more here, as we know. It's just a question of keeping it in the court, finding your range. I got here on Thursday night, so I had three, four days before the tournament started to, you know, kind of find my range, and I did. Now I feel like I'm pretty confident.

Q. Do you like playing Pat?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I mean, it's a tough, tough match for both of us. I mean, we both play similar types of games. Returning his serve, it's so difficult, because he doesn't beat you with power, he beats you with spin and placement. You kind of lose your balance a little bit because he tosses it over here, goes out wide. Smart server. But it's highly competitive. We fight hard. We both move really well at the net. It's good tennis.

Q. According to the stat sheet, you had like 47 winners and 8 errors. Patrick was like 40 and 14. Those to me are amazing numbers for a match that competitive.

PETE SAMPRAS: Like I said, it was a very, very high level of tennis, I felt. If I would have walked off there losing, I would have felt pretty good the way I played. When you see stats like that, you can always say it's a high level of tennis. People enjoyed it. It was fun to be a part of it. I'm more happy that I got through it and won it. It was good tennis all around.

Q. We talk about the young American guys coming up. Is it time to talk about the Old Balls like you and Andre.

PETE SAMPRAS: Why not. We're still in the tournament. Andre has a good chance to make the weekend also. It's good to see, I don't want to say older guys - we're not that old (laughter). I mean, 29, 30, you're still pretty young and fit. Sure, you look at the future of the game, and I'm sure you guys want to know who we all think is going to be around for many years. You know, I think we're still, he and I, both very, very good, the top couple in the world. This week has been a good week for both of us.

Q. I don't think Kafelnikov endears himself to too many of the other players. You guys have had things to say about Kafelnikov back and forth. You come up against him in the semis. When you go into a match like that, is there a little bit of needle in there? Do you get up a little bit more?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, I've never had any -- I think you're talking about Kafelnikov and Hewitt, aren't you?

Q. No. The prize money.

PETE SAMPRAS: I mean, I like Yevgeny. I tease him all the time because he loves making money. He has his private jet. He plays every week. He's a capitalist (laughter). I mean, I tease him about it because he's always talking about the stock market, talking about this and that. I tease him about it. But I've always had a good relationship with Yevgeny. It's never been anything personal. Sure, he's said things over the years that kind of open your eyes a little bit. I mean, I think he's a nice guy. Definitely his Australian Open remarks I think caught everyone a little off guard. The last thing you want to hear from guys that make a lot of money is someone talking about making more money. That's not an endearing quality for the media and fans.

Q. When you go into a match to play him, do you feel confident you can beat him, considering the record?

PETE SAMPRAS: I haven't played Yevgeny since '98. He's improved since then. I've had pretty good results against him. You know, just a matter of playing well. But he's got great returns, does everything very well. He serves big. He's not going to be an easy guy to beat.

Q. Do you get a kick out of fact that a Russian guy is such a capitalist?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, not really a kick out of it. You know, I just kind of find it amusing.

Q. How does he handle the teasing?

PETE SAMPRAS: He handles it well. He's usually on his cell phone, calling his broker. It's been a hard week for him, I guess (laughter).

Q. He sold his jet.

PETE SAMPRAS: I believe he did sell it. It's not smart to buy a jet. You want to lease one (smiling). That's the way I've done it.

Q. Is that part of what you tease him about?

PETE SAMPRAS: When you own a jet, you have a lot of costs, paying for pilots and everything. Over the last couple years, I've leased one, which is a little bit more practical. You know, it's the way he lives his life. He's a big investor, a big gambler. I find it kind of amusing.

Q. You gamble as well.

PETE SAMPRAS: I mean, I like to have a little blackjack, but nothing where I'm going to win or lose a ton of money.

Q. A couple of us writers are looking for a cheap way to get to Key Biscayne. Do you have any leads on leasing a jet?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure. I've got a number for you. 1-800-352-7277, I believe.

Q. Tell them "Pete."

PETE SAMPRAS: He'll give you a discount (laughter).

Q. It's not 1-800-SAMPRAS?


Q. Do you and he ever golf together?

PETE SAMPRAS: I've never golfed with him, no. I can't afford his price tag.

Q. The fans were really into this match. Did you feel that? Did that affect you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yes, it was a good atmosphere. It finally kicked in today. People were into it. He had his Australian fans. I had some of the Palm Springs locals rooting for me. It was fun to be a part of that. A couple great shots he hit, and I hit. They were definitely into it. It was fun.

Q. I know it's not your side of tennis, but there's a big furor going on over the Williams sisters. There's a front page story today from National Enquirer.

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't read National Enquirer.

Q. Normally we don't either. It claims the semifinals of Wimbledon was fixed.

PETE SAMPRAS: I have no comment over that. I'm kind of more focused on what I'm trying to do, preparing my matches, rather than reading the National Enquirer.

Q. Were you surprised at what happened yesterday?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, sure I was when I walked in at 6:00. She pulled out. All hell broke loose. I didn't really worry about it. I thought I might play 6:30. They put a doubles match so I had some time to get ready. It's unfortunate for the fans and media. It's a great match-up to see those two play. Someone says they're hurt, I mean, I believe them. I don't know the details of it.

Q. Andre said about their matches together, that he never expects it to be a really great match. So far none of them have really been.

PETE SAMPRAS: It's difficult.

Q. Do you feel the same?

PETE SAMPRAS: If I played my brother, I'd destroy him (laughter).

Q. Do you feel the same way about them playing?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm sure it would be very difficult to play a sibling.

Q. You mean, you wouldn't feel obligated to give him a few games?


Q. He says just because of the dynamics of the two sisters, he wouldn't expect it to have ever really been a great match.

PETE SAMPRAS: I've never felt the way they would feel playing a sibling. I guess it would be difficult to play great and dominate. It's got to be an awful feeling. As much as you want to play well, you always have some feelings for your sibling. It's difficult, I'm sure.

Q. When is the last time you played your sister?

PETE SAMPRAS: Hit with her sometimes.

Q. But you don't destroy her?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I couldn't do that to my sister.

End of FastScripts....

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