March 15, 2001
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
MODERATOR: Pete moves into the quarterfinals here for the second straight year, and will play Patrick Rafter. He has a 10-4 lifetime advantage. This will be their first meeting since last year's Wimbledon. First question.
Q. A little too close for comfort in that second set?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. It was a strange second set, especially early on when I got broken, broke back, got broken again. He got a hold of my serve. He's got one of the best returns in the game. He passed me pretty well. Got down to the tiebreaker, and he kind of was outplaying me a little bit in the second set, 5-3, second serve. Really caught me off guard a couple times. I floated it back. He missed the volley. He wins that point, 6-3. I think he probably would have won the set. I was pretty fortunate I was still hanging around in the breaker. Hit a couple good shots, a couple good volleys on good points. Just a game of inches out there. A couple points here and there, that was it.
Q. You started the match very focused. Looked like you hadn't played that well in a while. Did you see it that way?
PETE SAMPRAS: I dictated. I did what I wanted to do. I wanted to rush him. I want to chip-and-charge. He likes when I stay back and he can groove it. It's hard to maintain that level a couple sets. Playing someone like Sebastien, he picked it up a little bit, got a hold of my serve, made me work a lot harder. But the first set I did whatever I wanted to do. It wasn't going to be that easy I knew in the second set. When you win a set that easily, it's going to be closer in the second. I was fortunate I got through it.
Q. You hadn't played him in a while. Have you been watching him recently, how much he's improved?
PETE SAMPRAS: If anything, I think he's just a much more confident player. He's got better results. He broke into the Top 20. He's always had a lot of talent, but now I think he really believes in himself, that he belongs where he belongs. Semifinals of Australia, pretty close to getting to the final. I think he's here to stay. You know, he's got a good game, good returns, serves pretty well for a shorter fellow. You know, he's more comfortable in his skin.
Q. Looking forward to playing a serve and volleyer?
PETE SAMPRAS: Not necessarily, you know (smiling). Pat's one of the best serve and volleyers we have in the game. You know, we're both going to be coming in a lot. It's going to come down to our return of serves and who puts a little bit more pressure on the other guy. On this court, he's going to be tough to break because the ball kicks up pretty good, and he's got that big kick serve. I'll kind of have to get it down on my backhand. Kind of the last really true serve and volleyer we have in the game. It will be a match of a couple points. Hopefully I can get through it like I did at Wimbledon.
Q. Is it fun to play Patrick?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. It's difficult. I mean, he's a smart server. Like I say, he's got that kick serve. He's a good athlete. He's hard to pass. He's hard to lob. One of the best volleys in the game. You know, just he's a fighter. When you combine that with talent, he's very tough to beat. No question, he's someone I'm going to be, you know, fighting and struggling to win the match tomorrow.
Q. After three matches here, is there some sense of relief that you're getting your game back together?
PETE SAMPRAS: I feel like I'm getting in more of a rhythm out there. I was happy the way I played in the first set. I wish I could have maintained that level. You know, you want to get into that rhythm, work your way into the tournament, get some matches under your belt, which I discovered this week. I needed that coming in here, because up until this point, it's been a slow year. I feel like my confidence is back. Hopefully I can make the weekend.
Q. You feel better now than you have since when? Last summer?
PETE SAMPRAS: You know, I thought I was playing pretty well in Australia, going into the Todd Martin match. I didn't play very well at Memphis or Scottsdale, as we know. It's a matter of getting some more matches. Haven't played many matches over the past six months. I'm still learning about my schedule, still learning that I need to play a little bit more. You can't just turn it on and off like that (witness snapping fingers). You need to go into tournaments like this building matches, you build a certain aura about your game, guys fear you a little bit more.
Q. Andre had some interesting comments on how his game today would match up against his game ten years ago. Basically said he's much better, would have beaten the old self 3-3. What are your thoughts on how your game now compares to your game of ten years ago?
PETE SAMPRAS: That's hard to say. I mean, I understand what Andre is saying. It's really hard to compare how I feel at 29 than I did at 19. At 19 I was still very green, not as smart as I am today. I probably play with a little bit -- a lot looser back at 19, 20, having fun. Now you're 29, you're the man to beat. It's a different place. It's hard to compare who would win, Pete at 20 or 29. It would be a pretty good match.
Q. Your strokes, serve, forehand much better now, would you say?
PETE SAMPRAS: Pretty much the same than it was five years ago. I don't really see a huge difference in my game. I've still got the serve. I play the way I've always played: pretty aggressive, kind after shot-maker. Not a huge difference.
Q. What's the difference playing Pat on hard court than it was on grass? He says he doesn't feel comfortable on grass.
PETE SAMPRAS: Pretty good to me (laughter). He was a couple points away from winning Wimbledon. Up until this year, I think he struggled a little bit on grass. He's had his best results obviously at the hard court, US Open. He loves playing on hard court. It will be a similar type match, it really will be. We're both going to be coming in on both serves. Whoever gets the opportunity and converts will be the difference.
Q. When did you hear about the Williams sisters?
PETE SAMPRAS: When I got here at 6:00.
Q. What was your take on that?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it was interesting. I mean, for me, I would have liked to have known earlier. I could have played at 6:00, which would have been better for TV and the people, the fans. I guess it flared up, tendonitis.
Q. Would you have pushed through it yourself? Charlie passel was saying before that he pretty much played through anything unless he really couldn't walk. Would you have pushed through an injury like that?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. There's always something that you're feeling. Every morning you wake up, it's a little bit stiff here, your arm is a little sore from serving. I don't think any player on tour really walks out with everything feeling great. When you play matches, you're going to feel aches and pains. Depending if you can tolerate the soreness. Sure, you have injuries you can't play through. You look at the rest of the year. I don't know the details of what happened to Venus, so.
Q. You played through incredible injury at Wimbledon. Are you saying part of being professional?
PETE SAMPRAS: I mean, I did what I had to do to play. It was pretty aggressive. It was Wimbledon. I wouldn't have done that here. But it was Wimbledon and my chance to break the record, so I was willing to do whatever it took.
End of FastScripts....