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December 1, 2000

Pete Sampras


MODERATOR: Questions for Pete.

Q. That was a swift transformation.

PETE SAMPRAS: It was. Kind of a different player than two days ago where I was obviously rusty and not very confident. Played well yesterday; played even better today. Sometimes it just takes a match for me to get through the rustiness. Unfortunately, I didn't gain a lot of confidence from the Hewitt match. Today was the best I played all week by far. Really felt like I had a good rhythm, good range out there. Didn't serve particularly well. I think I set the tone early. He got a little frustrated, as we saw in the second set. Just huge transformation over the past couple days.

Q. Is it fair to say that the memory of the US Open still burns a little bit inside?

PETE SAMPRAS: Absolutely. He's beaten me the last two times. Definitely at The Open, he played unbelievable. You always remember your losses much more than your wins. You know, if he was going to play like that today, like he did at The Open, it would have been another tough day. It's hard to do that. I'm sure he's feeling a little pressure at the moment. I thought he confirmed the ranking, but I guess not. It's a little bit there that I'm sure he's feeling. Sure, you know, I'm a competitor. I wanted to get back at him. It's a big match. Either I win or go home.

Q. Every time you won this Masters, you had lost a match in the tournament. This is your tenth consecutive semifinal at The Masters. What does that mean? Are you the No. 1 in the world?

PETE SAMPRAS: Am I No. 1 in the world?

Q. Yes.

PETE SAMPRAS: Not by the computer or the ranking system. You know, you look at it a couple ways. Marat, he's won a couple of the bigger events in the Masters Series. I feel like I've had a pretty good year in the majors, which is the heart of my year. You know, if he does it, he deserves it. He won The Open, he won Paris, Hamburg, I believe. He's won big titles. You know, he definitely deserves it if it happens, which I think it will. But you never know.

Q. In both first matches, you didn't play the backhand shot flat. It was something dictated by strategy, by confidence or by opponent?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, a little bit of strategy, but a little bit of confidence. Like I said, the first match, I didn't really have my range. You know, today against Marat, the problems I had at The Open, I was cautious, not doing much with the second serve. Today I made it a point to be aggressive, use the backhand up the line, make use of the whole court, make him move. Fortunately I was hitting the ball well, was able to do that.

Q. You mentioned revenge as a factor. Is there a feeling amongst the older players, yourself and Andre that, "These new kids on the block, they're coming through, but we're not yet ready to stand aside"?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think we're far from stepping aside. If you look at Andre and I, I think when we're both playing well, you know, we're two of the best players in the world. I really strongly believe that today, even though we're 29, 30 respectively. The future of the game, sure, it's Safin, Corretja, those guys, over the next number of years. But as long as we're playing and being competitive, I've always felt -- I mean, look at how Andre is playing, he's dominated his matches. There is a possibility he will make the final, which is a pretty good sign that we're not stepping aside.

Q. Of course, you are the best player of this century. Marat Safin is ready to replace you. What do you think about Marat Safin?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think, as we've seen this year, especially at The Open, he's got the game. He's got the big serve. He's got the big weapons. In order to dominate consistently, you know, be No. 1 in the world for years, it takes a pretty good mental attitude. I think he has it, but it's definitely difficult, the demand of each week, the pressure is on you. It's a feeling I think we all, when we got to No. 1, felt. I felt it when I was 21, 22. I'm sure he'll go through his moments, but I think he's the future. He's one of the guys. It's hard to say if he'll dominate each year, but, he's got the game.

Q. On Monday you said if you got through your group matches, you quite fancy your prospects. How do you feel about your chances of winning this whole thing again now?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I feel much better than I did on Wednesday or Tuesday when I played Hewitt. I really thought I was going to struggle to make the semi. Now that I'm here, I'm playing well, I'm confident. You know, I'm playing either Kafelnikov or Kuerten, two guys that have had pretty good results. There's a pretty good chance I can get to the final if I play like I did today. You know, there are no guarantees. I'm going to have to work hard and play well. But I know what I have in my arsenal. You know, I know I can play well like I did today. It just takes me a little bit of time (snapping fingers). You don't like to rely on playing the way I did in the first match. If Hewitt would have won yesterday in straight sets, I'm out of the event. I've had good fortune in this event. I remember one year Becker had to win for me. I ended up winning that year. It takes a little bit of luck to get to the semi. I definitely needed that this week.

Q. Did you ever watch Santoro play against Marat?


Q. You said on Monday you expected coming off of matches, you would hurt a little bit afterwards. Physically how are you feeling having played three matches now?

PETE SAMPRAS: I feel pretty good. I feel like when I don't play much, sometimes my arm can be a little tired serving with the heavy balls. Knock on wood, I feel a hundred percent healthy. There's always a few couple sore spots. Shouldn't be a problem for tomorrow.

Q. You went through your maturing process in your 20s. You never had a temper, at least on the court, like Marat seems to have. What do you think when you see that kind of game, that ability, smashing his racquets? Is that a handicap for him or something that's part of his personality?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's part of his personality. I mean, it's possible, I mean, when you have highs and lows. I think what's helped me deal with being No. 1, the pressures, I've been on a pretty even keel emotionally. He has been known to be a little bit temperamental. That's the nature of his personality. I think that's just part of growing up. He's gotten better at that, but he had his moments today. You know, there's still plenty of time. He's only 20 years old, I believe. Look at his game, that's what you look at first, then you look at his mental side, which I think is still pretty strong.

Q. One of the keys of Marat beating you at the US Open was how well he returned your serve. It looked today like you varied your serve very well. How conscious was that?

PETE SAMPRAS: That was one thing talking to Paul before I went out there, I didn't have to serve-and-volley on every second serve because he likes a target. Mix it up. In The Open he got in great rhythm. That was a big strategy point, mixing it up. Very impressive observation, George, that you picked that up (laughter).

Q. You mentioned today when you went out there, having played the two matches previously, that you're playing your way into this. Was there anything different about your warm-up? Did you feel, "I'm here today, I've got it"?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, no. You warm up like you always do, hit with Paul. I'm getting all these out balls that he's flying all over the place. That's always the same (laughter). No, felt the same. I just think the atmosphere was great today. It was a packed house. That always brings out a little bit extra in you. That always helps. I felt the same today as I did yesterday. Just got the game going.

Q. Alex Corretja had some uncomplimentary things to say about Lleyton yesterday, said he was arrogant and his behavior was strange on the court. I was wondering if you have any thinking about that?

PETE SAMPRAS: I've never had a problem with Lleyton on the court. I mean, he's expressive. You know, I don't know what happened yesterday. I heard something happened. Him being expressive and saying "Come on" every couple of games can get to players. I've never had a problem personally with Lleyton. I've always found him nice on and off the court. Should make for a pretty interesting Davis Cup tie.

Q. Would you say that this match was the victory of experience over youth?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, not at all. I just look at it that I played well, I did what I wanted to do, dictated from the first point. You know, experience doesn't play much in today's game at this event. He is a great player. He won the US Open. I don't think youth or experience really had anything to do with it. It was just me playing well; him maybe not playing as well.

Q. You always seem to come with your aces at the right moment. What do you think when you're going to serve, you prefer to lose the point risking? For example, when you're about to lose an important point, you come with an ace. What do you think at that moment?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, when it comes to a big point, breakpoint, you try to take your time. Today I felt like I was rushing a little bit on my serve. Historically the great servers of the game always served well on the big points. I did that today. I didn't have my rhythm. When I had the breakpoint during the last game, I got the first serve in. I think I'm going to have to serve better tomorrow if I want to get through. A shot I rely on heavily in big points.

End of FastScripts....

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