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March 14, 2001

Pete Sampras


MODERATOR: Pete improves his career record here to 24-10, moves into the third round where he'll take on another Frenchman, Sebastien Grosjean. First question.

Q. For obvious reasons, some of us from over the pond didn't see much of your match because we were on Court 2. How did you feel it went and how do you think you're playing?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it was a good first and third set. You know, I was happy. Never been much of an early morning person. It was good to get off to a good start. I won the first set, was really kind of dictating what I wanted to do. In the second, I got a little bit careless, loss my service game there. He's a very crafty player. He was mixing it up very well. Even though he doesn't have a huge serve, he was serve-volleying. Kind of caught me off guard a bit in the second. Third, I kind of tightened up my game. My errors, I wasn't hitting as many errors. Chipped and charged, was kind of dictating the play like I was in the first. Things just kind of rolled on. Once I got that second break, I felt like I had the match.

Q. I thought you were impatient in the second set, then got patient again in the third set. Is that a proper assessment?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I mean, I was pressing a little bit in the second. I wanted to get back even after I lost my service game. You know, I started to go for big shots a little bit too early in the point, started missing. In the beginning of the third, I just -- as far as my game, I just tightened it up a little bit. I had to focus on my errors, see if I could cut them down. That's what happened. Got that early break in the third, just kind of got more confident as the set went on. You just have to stay patient against Fabrice because he doesn't miss much. If I dictate, hit the ball well , he's crafty, he'll come in, do different things. He's not an easy guy to play.

Q. What is that forehand chop-slice approach? Looked like a knuckle ball or what?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm sorry, say again.

Q. He approaches with that two-handed slice. Looks like a knuckle ball. What is it?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's a lot of slice.

Q. Strangest thing you've ever seen?

PETE SAMPRAS: It seemed to work for him over the years. I mean, his forehand side is a little bit weaker. He just pretty much chips it. On the court, if he hits a good one, it stays pretty low. It's not an easy shot to play. As far as under-spin is concerned, that's the most under-spin I think we have on tour. The ball stays low. I had a hard time passing off my backhand. But that's what makes him kind of awkward, is that shot. He just kind of chips it and chips it. It gets lower and lower. You've just got to stay down low, on your shots.

Q. Yesterday Mardy Fish after his win came in. We asked him what his biggest dream in tennis would be. He said his dream would be to beat you at Wimbledon on Centre Court. Kidding aside, what is the one dream that you had in terms of tennis tournaments?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, at this point it would be the French. You know, I've done pretty much everything else. I felt like Wimbledon last year was a dream that I fulfilled. It ended the way I've always dreamt about it, once this record was kind of in play. At this point that's the one that I haven't -- that I don't have, so that's a dream, to possibly win there.

Q. At Roland Garros they have the guy in the fancy suit, then some tennis celebrity hands the winner a trophy. Who would hand you the trophy?

PETE SAMPRAS: A little presumptuous (laughter). You know, I haven't really thought of it. It doesn't really matter. If I get to the final and possibly win there, it can be anyone.

Q. Considering what you have achieved in tennis with the number of Wimbledons, US Opens, Australian Opens, et cetera, if you were to end without the French, would you feel that things were a little bit incomplete or would you just have to put it to one side?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you have to accept it. You love to win all the Slams. In today's game, it's not easy. If I ended my career without a French, I wouldn't look back and feel like I didn't do enough. I feel like I've been so good for so long, and that means a lot. But, sure, my biggest challenge, especially at this point, but over the year, is to win the French. I'm going to do whatever I can to do well there this year. You know, I can't, when I'm 35, 40, look back and lose sleep over the fact I didn't win the French. If I don't do it, I don't do it. I mean, life goes on. It's definitely my Achilles heel over the years. But there's definitely some time left. No reason to panic at this point.

Q. Would you trade any of those other Grand Slam titles for a French?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I mean, each Slam that I've won, I mean, you appreciate it more and more as you get older. You can't take any of them for granted. I mean, the Wimbledons, I've dominated over the years. To play at that level means a lot. I wouldn't trade that in for anything. Each Slam that I've won, I've taken a lot of good memories out of it and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Q. Is your biggest hindrance at the French not quite knowing the slide or are there other factors?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure, the sliding, the speed. It's a tricky surface. You know, being a little bit more patient. The way I play is such a reactive game. You know, on clay, you have to be patient, be willing to stay back. The clay court tennis is probably stronger now than it's ever been. It's a challenge. I look forward to the challenge over the next couple months after Miami. I'm going to play quite a bit more on clay and give it a go, and not worry about the fact that I haven't won the French. Just go out there and play like I can play. Over the years, I've put too much pressure on myself to do well there. That's the way I am. I focus and I want to get it. At times when you're that focused on one thing, you can kind of lose sight of what you're doing out there. Hopefully I can get a better draw than Philippoussis. I'm looking forward to that.

Q. Do you think there's also possibly been just a bit of a problem at the French that in previous years, you're already focusing on Wimbledon, the record in the background, that's out of the way now?

PETE SAMPRAS: I really did not think about Wimbledon until the French was over. You know, I never look beyond the French. I just would get ready for the clay court season and get ready for the French. You know, once it's over and you go back home whatever, you focus on Wimbledon, you fly into London, get on the grass courts. I never look ahead like that. I just focus at the match at hand. I never look, you know, beyond the French.

Q. Not even when the record was getting so close at Wimbledon?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, not really. I mean, once I was in the second week of Wimbledon, that's when I was thinking, "Okay, maybe I could do it." I had a pretty good draw. If I could possibly, you know, get through the final, you know, that's when you think about it. That seemed like all everybody was talking about in my press conferences. But at the French, I wasn't thinking about the record. You just can't put that much pressure on yourself for a record like that. Just go out there and play and get the job done.

Q. You're known for your tremendous athleticism, kind of rhythm you get into. Could you take a minute and try and describe in words what it's like to get in the zone out there.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think today I finally felt my game come around a lot better than I did against Prinosil, especially in the third. When you don't play many matches, like I said the other day, there's a tendency to be a little bit up and down. I feel like at this point I'm in a pretty good rhythm. You know, I feel like I'm hitting the ball with pretty good consistency. But some days it clicks. Some days I'm serving huge, I'm hitting my groundies well, doing everything I want to do. The third set I felt like I was getting a little bit more confident, a little bit more comfortable out there. You know, being in the zone doesn't happen that often. It happens once every three, four months, depending on where you're playing and who you're playing. But it's a fun feeling.

Q. Can you recall a couple times that you felt particularly in the zone, just everything was happening automatically?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's happened. I can't think of a match off the top of my head.

Q. Agassi at Wimbledon?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I mean, that's probably as close to as good as I can ever play. That was kind of a zone from 3-All, Love-40 in the first, till the end of the match. A match of that magnitude, to play in the zone, was surprising even to me.

Q. When you do something like you hit that running forehand in the third set, just crushed it, is that part you're thinking, "I'm in the zone now"?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, not necessarily. I think at that point I was up a couple breaks. Just a time to relax and let your game take over. That's one of my best shots, is that running forehand. He had it just far enough for me to have to run real hard at it. I pulled him into it down the line pretty much. Just felt like I played real solid. Really hope I can improve tomorrow and hopefully stay around here till the weekend.

Q. What was the time you whiffed an air ball?

PETE SAMPRAS: It jumped up a little too high, too early (laughter). That was a big point, breakpoint. I thought I had it. I whiffed it. It's been a while. Like my golf swing (smiling).

Q. Did it sail more than you expected?

PETE SAMPRAS: It went just a little bit higher than my racquet. Just got a little carried away. Just jumped up a little bit too high. I should have just waited on it and hit a regular overhead. I can't help but want to hit that shot.

Q. When you are chasing the record for year-end world No. 1, you played all those tournaments in a row in Europe, said you got pretty much sick to death of being in Europe for so long. Now you're saying you're going to play so many more clay court tournaments going into the French, do you fear that you're going to have that same sort of feeling, a sensation of being in Europe for so many weeks in a row?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think so. At that time of year, in the fall, indoor tennis, six, seven weeks, I think that took its toll. The French through Wimbledon and the tournaments before the French, it's in the springtime, so you're outside, the weather is better. It's okay. You know, seven weeks indoors, you didn't see the sun. I was losing my tan, so that was tough (laughter). It shouldn't be a worry, shouldn't be a bother. You know, two months over in Europe is fine, especially when you're playing two of the biggest tournaments in the world.

Q. What do you think about the young American guys coming up like Fish, Dent?

PETE SAMPRAS: I practiced with Mardy a little bit in Scottsdale. I haven't really seen him play. Anytime you can beat someone like Philippoussis, you know he's got a good solid game. Taylor Dent is someone I'm a little bit more familiar with. We practiced quite a bit in LA. Big game, big serve. I think he'll just get better and better. All these young guys are just trying -- you know, they're just trying to find their games and their place. It's good that everyone's doing well because that's what I had when I started, was I had Andre, Jim kind of pushing me. I think those guys will, you know, have each other to push each other. But the game speaks for itself. A lot of good young players coming around all around the world. I think it looks pretty bright.

Q. Any Top 10 player, could you say?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's really hard to say. It would be good to see. It's tough getting into the Top 10. You look at the young guys coming up, there are a lot of South Americans, Europeans, Australians. I think we have some good young Americans that could possibly break into the Top 20, Top 10. You have to remember they're all very young, just getting out there. It's not going to happen overnight.

Q. Do you have any special opinion on Andy Roddick?

PETE SAMPRAS: I practiced with Andy a little bit at Davis Cup in LA. Big game. I mean, big serve. We just kind of played points. He was holding his own, no problem. I mean, he's got the tools. I was surprised he didn't get a wildcard here, which would have been nice to see. I haven't seen him play. I hear he's got a big game, he's got a bright future. I wish him well.

Q. With the foot-and-mouth disease, mad cow disease, will you adjust your diet when you go to Europe?

PETE SAMPRAS: I will (laughter). I mean, I try to eat a lot of red meat, I really do, for iron. But I won't be putting that on my diet when I'm over in England.

Q. Stick to basic vegetarian, fish?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, is chicken all right there?

Q. So far. But that doesn't affect humans.

PETE SAMPRAS: The food in London, come on, John, you have cucumber and egg, cheese sandwiches (laughter).

Q. Guga made an issue about playing early. Is it a big deal when you play in the day?

PETE SAMPRAS: When I saw the schedule, when I saw I play at 10:00, to be honest with you, I wasn't that crazy about it. Haven't played at 10:00 since '83 at Whittier, playing junior tennis. It's true (laughter). I can't remember playing at 10:00. I mean, that's pretty early. Maybe 11:00. You get the wake-up call at 7:00, 7:30. That's pretty early for anybody, me especially. But it's just the way the schedule works. If you get through your match, you have the whole day to do whatever you want. It is early. I mean, the crowd I felt were pretty good at the end of the match. It was getting quite full. But at the beginning, the atmosphere isn't quite what you want it to be. It's the same for both guys. Just go out and play.

Q. Guga also said he speculated if he was No. 1 for five years, he wouldn't have to play those 10:00 matches. Do you want to break the news to him it's not good enough?

PETE SAMPRAS: I played at 10:00. You can tell him that.

End of FastScripts....

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