January 17, 2001
THE MODERATOR: First question for Pete, please.
Q. Pete, John Parsons, Daily Telegraph, London.
PETE SAMPRAS: I've never seen you before, John.
Q. I know. A tough one, and at times it looked as if you were probably just getting yourself up for it. Is that fair?
PETE SAMPRAS: You mean up for it mentally? What do you mean "up"?
Q. You seemed a little bit sluggish at times. There were some long, tough points.
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I felt physically pretty good. I was definitely up for the match. I mean Bohdan, he started off the year getting to the final so I knew he was playing well. It was a roller coaster up there, playing that match. I felt I had him when I won the first two sets, kind of lost it a little bit. I thought the tennis was at a pretty high level. He wasn't missing much, really making me work really hard on my service games. Both these two guys I've played have made me work very hard, just playing at a very high level. I've played six hours in the past couple days so my body needs a little day off tomorrow. But I felt like I was up for it. I mean, I definitely felt like I was playing fine.
Q. Can that be good then for the rounds to come?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, not necessarily. Physically, it's, you know, two pretty tough matches. This court's always historically has been pretty tough on my body. But the day off is nice. I've gotten my share of, you know, I've played plenty of tennis so that's good. But later on in the rounds you definitely want to have your legs and your back and everything to be feeling good and hopefully I can get through the soreness that I'm feeling and I'll be okay come Friday.
Q. Philippe Bouin, L'Equipe.
PETE SAMPRAS: This is a new thing. I like this. Put you guys on the spot.
Q. Last year you had problems with the balls. How do you think the court is playing this year?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think the court is playing a little bit slower, still goes through the court pretty good. But I think there was a lot of complaints last year to the tournament organizer, they definitely slowed it down a touch. Last year I thought was too fast. I was serving some 30, 35 aces a match. It was nice to have it a little bit slower to have some more time to play.
Q. What do you think of that new stadium?
PETE SAMPRAS: I really liked it. I mean, it seemed like a good court and to have two retractable roofs, one site, it's pretty impressive. It definitely is a step up from -- I played on that Court 1, a lot of big names. I'd hate to be out playing on Court 1. It was nice to be out on the Vodafone. It was a good start.
Q. Unusual for you to be broken six times.
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's just a combination of the guys I've been playing. You know, Bohdan, you know, I felt like I was serving pretty good and returning and passing. You play someone that's playing at a high level, you start pressing a little bit and you go for too much. I was throwing in a few doubles. I think you have to give him credit for the way he played. He put me under a lot of pressure. You know, I still felt like even though I was getting broken, I feel like I was hitting the ball well enough from the back court. I can get back at him and break him back. I did that a couple of times. But, you know, it's just an indication on how well he was returning.
Q. Barry Flatman, Daily Express, London. Do you see the same guys going for the big ones this year? Is there anyone you can see coming through to challenge the top guys?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think you pretty much are seeing the guys you're going to see for the rest of the year. I mean you got a couple seeds in Kuerten, Safin, Hewitt is going to be a threat. Just go down on the seedings, those are the guys that are going to be around in the second weekend. So a lot of dangerous players out there, but I think those guys are pretty much the future of the game.
Q. Pete, Sandy Harwitt. You play Chela next. How do you see that match different than the last two? A little easier?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, at this rate it's pretty difficult. I've never played him. I haven't really seen him play much. But I'm sure I'll get a few hints about it tomorrow and see what he plays like and what he does and -- but just take a day off tomorrow and let the body rest and get ready for Friday.
Q. Do you think it's fairly obvious from all the people you play when you look at them, see their rankings, what they've done in other tournaments, the one thing they always do is lift themselves because they're inspired by merely playing against you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, absolutely. I feel that every match I've played for the last eight, nine years. I mean, when you're the man to beat or one of the guys to beat, there's guys that come out with nothing to lose and they swing away. They're going to play at a high level. You have to go into that match expecting that. That's happened these two matches, I mean Karol and Bohdan were hitting great shots. It's hard to say if, you know, if they play like that, if they're playing someone that's ranked 100. The fact that they're playing me, it gives them a chance to kind of relax and have a little more fun.
Q. Now that one year is done of the Champions Race, what's your evaluation?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think it ended up pretty positive with the race and Kuerten finishing No. 1. He had to beat me and Agassi in the semi, which, you know, is difficult to do. And he had a great year, won the French. I think it was a pretty positive step in the right direction, to have it all come down to Lisbon. You know, the future of the game are the young guys coming up, but you can't overlook myself and Andre, the way we're playing. So it was a good start. I mean --.
Q. It seemed pretty accurate?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I think it seemed accurate. For me, I didn't play all the nine, which obviously is not going to help out my ranking. I can be happy with a win at Wimbledon, a final at the Open and a semi here. So that's not a bad Grand Slam year.
Q. How many of the nine do you plan to play this year?
PETE SAMPRAS: Probably the same as last year, probably five or six. I'm going to play a little bit more on clay, I'll probably play Hamburg, Rome, Cincinnati, probably five.
Q. Did you get much heat from the powers-that-be about not playing as many nines as you did?
PETE SAMPRAS: I got hurt in the pocketbook. Lost my bonus, which I've done five years of my career. But, no, I mean my -- I expressed I wasn't going to play in the fall. They asked why. I told them my reasons, and, you know, I'm at a different stage in my career than, you know, the Tour's taken the direction of -- that I'm not going in the same direction both playing all the nine, I'm not planning on doing that. I didn't get heat. I'm gonna do what I'm going to do to prepare for the Grand Slams, and that's really where I'm at in my tennis.
Q. Four years since you won another Slam apart from Wimbledon. How much of that is a factor in sort of the last part of your career, to do another one elsewhere?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I'd be happy with Wimbledon every year, I can't complain with that one. But, you know, I came pretty close to here last year, and the final of the Open. So I'm not -- I'm still in contention and I feel like I'm still a threat but it would be nice to start off the year and win here. It's not going to be an easy two weeks. But, you know, the game is getting tougher. I mean there's no doubt about it. I feel like, you know, five six years ago, you can get through a couple easy matches in a Slam and it just goes to show these first two matches I've played I've been having to work really hard and guys are getting better. It's tougher as you get a little bit older to keep winning these Slams.
Q. Davis Cup?
PETE SAMPRAS: Nope.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yep. (Laughter.)
Q. Going back to what you said earlier, how much money did you leave at the table in that bonus situation?
PETE SAMPRAS: Honestly, I think... Close to seven million or so. I mean, I don't know accurately -- how accurate that is. But, you know, you get a bonus at the end of the year. I think I've only received a couple of times because I didn't play all the tournaments. The years I was 1, I lost 1.2 a year for quite a while.
Q. Tax man complaining?
PETE SAMPRAS: I'm complaining.
Q. Small change, isn't it?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, for some people.
Q. Chela said earlier that you were his idol since he was a kid. He thinks you're the best player in history. What do you think when young players say that?
PETE SAMPRAS: I just hope he feels like that on Friday. It's flattering. It's definitely flattering to hear compliments from people in the game that I'm competing against and, you know, I think I have some respect in the game with the players with, you know, what I've done and how I do it. But it's obviously, I don't dwell on stuff like that, but it's nice to hear.
Q. Laver's been around. He's always been the man for you. If he was the man to present you with the trophy come a week next Sunday, would that make it even more special for you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, sure. I mean, if I get there and I happen to win here, I didn't know he was presenting the trophy.
Q. I don't know if he is.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I mean, I think we all know how much I look up to Rod and all the Aussies and -- but to receive a trophy from him or to receive any compliment from him like I've received over the last couple of years, it's always nice to have that.
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