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November 28, 2000

Pete Sampras


MODERATOR: Questions for Pete.

Q. Can you remember when you last lost a set 6-Love?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it was probably since the juniors. I mean, I don't know how long it's been. It's been a while since I've lost 6-Love.

Q. Was it simply a question of you haven't played for two and a half months? Is there more to it than that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it definitely wasn't pretty out there. I don't know if it was a case of not having played for a while. You know, I knew coming into here I might be a little rusty in the beginning. But I thought I played fine in the first set, but really kind of struggled from the back court, especially off my backhand, missing quite a number of shots. You just hope you gain confidence as the match goes on. To be honest with you, I just lost a bit of confidence. You know, I'm hitting the ball fine. I'm practicing fine. When you go out and compete, you know, the nerves are there. You're just a little bit unsure, and it showed today. It showed I didn't quite have it, as we saw. It's not the way I wanted to start this tournament. You know, I don't have much time to get disappointed. I have to rebound and get ready for tomorrow.

Q. What does it do to somebody like your's pride, achieving nearly everything in this game and then get beaten 6-Love?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's not an easy one to swallow, losing 6-Love. That's not what's really in my mind right now. The mindset is that I lost and I didn't play very well, didn't hit the ball well. You know, 6-Love, 6-1, 6-3, I still didn't feel -- I didn't feel like I really found my game at all during the match. But, you know, he got it going. I played a couple loose games in the second. It happens. Certainly, I can't, you know, have it be on the top of my list of priorities at the moment. You know, it is getting ready for tomorrow. That's really the only choice that I have.

Q. Seemed to be picking up your first serve, good success against your first serve. Did it have the usual pop tonight?

PETE SAMPRAS: I felt like I was serving pretty hard, where I wanted it to go. I think we all know Lleyton has one of the best returns in the game. The way he returned my serve at Queen's, I mean, he's got a great return. He started to pick it up as the match went on. I felt like I still had pretty good pop. It's just from the back court, it's an accumulation of when you're struggling from the back court, you put that much more pressure on yourself on your service games. All of a sudden I was down a couple breakpoints, and, boom, that was it. But I felt like, you know, I served pretty hard, I mean, the way I normally do.

Q. From the booth it looks as if it's pretty slow, the court, the balls through the air. Was that your impression?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. The court is the same. The balls are a little bit on the soft side. It gets pretty heavy, pretty big out there. So it's not the best serving court. But I like the court because it's slow enough where you can have some rhythm and play some baseline points. As I showed today, I didn't do a very good job of that.

Q. In other year-end Championships, you've lost matches. How does this compare to those in the past?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the years that I've lost, I lost a tough match to Moya, lost a tough match to Becker. Even having lost those matches, I still felt like I was playing fine. I wasn't panicking. Whereas today, I feel like I didn't really hit the ball well. Somehow I need to find a way to just kind of put this match down in the dumps (smiling), just try to rebound as best I can tomorrow. You know, I know what's ahead. I just need to win every match from here on out. Definitely wasn't a good start.

Q. With your involvement with Paul Annacone, how much of a role does he play in helping you with your successes, and following a match like this?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, we just talked for a couple of minutes after. You know, you try to be somewhat optimistic. He said, "You played a pretty good first set, served pretty well." You know, my groundies, especially my backhand, didn't really have the timing; didn't have the rhythm. It's something I'm going to have to find tomorrow. But it's still being optimistic. You know, I'm not out of it. Yet, again, it's not the way I wanted to start off the event.

Q. How well do you think Lleyton played tonight?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think he's got a good chance to get to the weekend. He always plays well. You know, he's tough to beat even when I'm playing well. But when I'm not playing well, it's an uphill struggle. I mean, he returns well, he passes well, he moves well, he can occasionally hit the big serve, hit the big ace. You know, I've played him enough to know what his strengths are. He definitely is a tough guy to play when my game wasn't there.

Q. How much tougher do you think it is to stay away two and a half months from the game now with the level where it is, come back and be strong?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I look at what happened last year. I can kind of draw on that, not having played at all pretty much since The Open, went to Hannover, got through and won there. I know it can be done. During that week, I kind of gained with confidence and got through some tough matches, whereas today I didn't really hit the ball well. So it's different, but it can be done. I mean, I know I can do it. It's just a matter of, you know, going out there and finding that form that I can get -- when you get into that rhythm, when you get into that mindset of playing matches. You know, it showed today. I showed that I was a little rusty. I'm not taking anything away from the way Lleyton played. He made me play that way. It's pretty simple from here on out what I need to do.

Q. Did you fear this sort of thing could happen, leaving it alone for so long?

PETE SAMPRAS: I thought it was possible that I would, you know, be a little bit vulnerable. You know, when you win matches, you gain confidence. It's all second nature. Whereas today, I'm trying to find my form. Sometimes it just takes me three games or a set. Today it was kind of like I was okay, then I kind of slowly dipped after I lost the first set, kind of just struggled from there on out. 6-Love, just wasn't -- it just kind of -- that's the way it is. It's just not good.

End of FastScripts….

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