September 2, 2000
U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Flushing Meadows, New York
MODERATOR: Questions for Pete.
Q. Did you expect a match like that today?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I didn't know what to expect. I'd never seen him play. He's got a big, big serve, and he backs it up with huge groundies. Really caught me off guard. I mean, he came out swinging away. But the game, it's just a sign of the game and how strong it is from the No. 1 guy to wherever you're ranked. I don't know what he's ranked. He's got a good future, good game, really made me work really hard.
Q. Had the makings of five tiebreaks. On a day like this, that would have been an awful ordeal to have to have gone through.
PETE SAMPRAS: It was very, very humid, sticky today. The conditions were a little bit breezy down there. I couldn't get any sort of -- I couldn't get his serve back. When I did, he was cracking the ball. The only thing I can do is try to hold on the serve. It came down to a couple of tiebreakers. I stepped it up a little bit, got the one break in the third. You know, he came out playing great, he really did. When I never played him before, never seen him play, it took me a little while to kind of figure him out. Can't really say that I really did figure him out. I just played a couple good breakers and played a pretty solid third set. Just a sign on how strong the game is today.
Q. Second set tiebreak, 4-2, you got a second serve. When do you decide you're going to crank it up and hit an ace?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I was with the wind. It's just confidence and going for it. There have been many times that I've thrown in doubles when I go for big seconds. On that particular point, I just went for it and hit the line. I was with the wind, so that helps.
Q. Sort of almost a spur-of-the-moment thing when you get to the line?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yes. Kind of a decision you make right before you do it. You hope it works out. You know, I feel like my second serve is one of the best in the game; you might as well use it on a big point like that. I went for it and it hit the line. It was nice.
Q. You have another guy coming up you've never seen or heard of. Have you heard anything in the locker room about him?
PETE SAMPRAS: I haven't heard of one thing. Never heard of him. Anyone that's qualified in one match, is playing well, he's going to come out swinging away, like the guy I played today did. I'll hear some things tomorrow, what kind of game he has, just try to figure it out like I did today. Just worry about my game, my serve. Like I said, it's just a sign on how strong the game is today.
Q. Have you ever played a tournament where you didn't know a couple of the guys you were playing? Usually you see people week-to-week.
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, Wimbledon semifinals against the Russian fellow was the last time in a Grand Slam that I played someone that I've never seen play. I can't remember his name.
PETE SAMPRAS: Voltchkov (laughter). It's a little unsettling to have a match like that.
Q. I think the last time you were in here you thought Calleri was left-handed.
PETE SAMPRAS: I was told that by someone in the locker room after I beat Justin, that it was a lefty that stays back (laughter). He was a righty that hits the ball big. Bad information.
Q. Did you find that out on the court?
PETE SAMPRAS: I found that out today.
Q. You didn't know going in? You knew he wasn't a lefty going in?
PETE SAMPRAS: No, I knew that. It was bad information.
Q. Was it Paul or someone else in the locker room?
PETE SAMPRAS: Someone else in the locker room.
Q. Who corrected the information today?
PETE SAMPRAS: Paul told me yesterday and today that he's a righty and what he does. I figure that's why I pay him: he's got the right information.
Q. Lee said when he started playing tennis in third grade, he hadn't heard of Pete Sampras. Is that going to be a lot of extra motivation when you play him, to let him know who you are?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think he's probably heard of me since the third grade. I'm not looking at any sort of personal motivation. I mean, he's playing well. I feel like I'm playing pretty well. I should be ready.
Q. Have you guys looked at each other in the locker room? Do you remember encountering him in the locker room? He said you kind of looked past each other.
PETE SAMPRAS: There are a number of guys that -- in the locker room that -- the guy I played today, I'd never seen him before. I have seen him. I saw a little bit against Schuttler today. I know what he looks like. I don't remember our meeting.
Q. Does your fitness, in terms of it being a hot day, can you gauge where you're at for on a day like this?
PETE SAMPRAS: I felt good. It was very, very humid. Over the years, I've had a problem with that. Today I made sure I ate the right foods, went out hydrated. From the first game on, you just start drinking, get the wet towel on yourself, keep cool. I decided not to wear a hat, which is maybe something I'll do on Monday, if it's hot. You know, he was feeling it a little bit. It's just hot, sticky conditions that you hope you can win in straight sets. It was nice to do that.
Q. Last year Andre was concerned about you when you were forced to go out in the first round. Have you tried to talk to Andre about what's going on in his life right now?
PETE SAMPRAS: I haven't talked to him. Just said hello to him the first day of the tournament. I haven't seen or spoke to him since.
Q. What has the road been like for you since Wimbledon? Are you feeling as confident now as did you in the middle of Wimbledon?
PETE SAMPRAS: I'm much more confident than I was at Wimbledon. At Wimbledon, I wasn't playing very well, I wasn't practicing, going out there a little bit rusty, kind of getting through these matches. Here I feel like I'm obviously a hundred percent healthy, hitting the ball fine, practicing on my off days. I feel much better than I did at Wimbledon. Wimbledon, I felt a little patchy at times. Here I feel like my game is going, I feel pretty good.
Q. Is this the best you felt in several months, would you say?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I feel good. I mean, I feel like I'm playing well. It's hard to gauge. This summer, I didn't have the best of summers. I know when to step it up. Obviously the second week of a major is a time when you just step it up a touch. Hopefully I can do that.
Q. Your next opponent said he hopes he's not intimidated by the surroundings and playing you. What can you do to make sure he is intimidated?
PETE SAMPRAS: Get off to a good start, put the pressure on him early. We'll most likely be on the Center Court. I'm sure he'll be fine. He's beaten some good players so far. It's important to get off to a good start and set the tone. That's going to be my goal in the first set.
Q. Having achieved those twin goals over the last three years of getting the No. 1 situation under control and then winning your 13th Slam, do you feel like a much more relaxed player coming into this Slam, and thus perhaps a more dangerous player?
PETE SAMPRAS: Maybe a touch more relaxed, but always -- I've always felt dangerous every Slam I play. If anything, the pressure might be a little bit off after what happened at Wimbledon. I've done more in the game than I ever thought I would. From here on out, it is a bonus to possibly win here, to win more majors. I never thought I'd win 13. Moving on, I just try to add on to what I have, try to make it 14.
Q. Is your routine here exactly as it always has been at The Open?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yes.
Q. Staying out on the Island?
PETE SAMPRAS: I'm actually staying in the city, which is something -- I was doing that last year, but I was here for about two days (laughter). It's a little bit different, but still I'm in my routine. Coming out tomorrow, having a light hit, getting ready for Monday.
Q. You heard about the traffic jams coming up next week. Does that concern you, that you might have a particularly long drive into the tournament?
PETE SAMPRAS: There's always traffic.
Q. It's apparently going to be huge. 190 heads of state coming in. They're recommending the No. 7 train.
PETE SAMPRAS: I'll take it with John Rocker (laughter). I don't know what I'm going to do. I hear you have to plan maybe a couple hours. I'll just weigh it up. It won't be bad on Monday because of Labor Day. If I get through, maybe during the week I'll have to take a helicopter or something (smiling).
Q. Are you doing anything special to minimize injuries?
PETE SAMPRAS: I'm just cooling down after my matches, going out stretched out and warmed up, just being a little bit more aware of my body and making sure it's warmed up. I mean, that's the key for me. I paid the price for going out and taking my body a little bit for granted. Hurting my back I think woke me up to being a little bit more aware of my conditioning, being in better shape.
Q. You work with different fitness trainers. How does The Moose differ?
PETE SAMPRAS: Moose is someone who keeps it fun. We do the runs, but we do other things, play basketball, play football, keep it fun. Also, you know, when it's time to work, we work. It's been getting in a routine of my back exercises and being more disciplined with that. That's one thing he's harped on with me, on my days off here, do something, go for a light jog, stomach exercises, your back. A little bit more discipline on the road, which I haven't really done much.
Q. Is this the most intense training you've done with a fitness coach?
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think it's the most intense, it's just being more consistent. I mean, that's the word I'm going to use. I had two days off. On the one day off, go for a run, do a few things here and there to keep in good shape. But, you know, it's time to rest, you rest. But it was time to train. We communicate well. We try to figure out when the next two, three years, however long I play, that I'm in the best shape.
Q. You've been on the top of the game for many years. Can you imagine what it's like for someone like your next opponent to come in here, not be able to speak the language, not know anybody in New York, come into a situation like playing in Ashe Stadium against you?
PETE SAMPRAS: I can't relate to that because --.
Q. Because you speak English?
PETE SAMPRAS: 19, everyone knew me. If anything, that could work to his advantage. Playing against me, he has nothing to lose, have fun. He might be a little nervous at first. We'll see. I mean, I have yet to talk about what type of player he is. He'll come out and he'll play well, I'm sure.
Q. You obviously have been playing the sport of tennis since you were a young boy. Could you step back for a moment and reflect on what gives you the most joy about being a tennis player, playing the sport?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's setting goals, you know, going out in an arena like Wimbledon or the US Open, having every eye on you. It's a rush. That's something I'm going to miss when I'm done playing. You set the goal and you work hard and you achieve it. It's the best feeling when you wake up that next morning, after winning a Slam, and you feel great. You have ovations when you go out and play, people respect what you've done in your career. A number of different things make it fun. I love competing. I love playing in the biggest tournaments in the world, with the most pressure. I've always seemed to enjoy that.
Q. You've spoken about the rush entering the Frankfurt court with Becker. Can you think of two or three other rushes that come to mind?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, playing Andre here in the final, I think it was '96 (sic). (Actually '95). We were both 1 and 2. Nike was building up our rivalry. That was electricity in the air there. Playing Boris at Wimbledon. Playing Andre at Wimbledon. There have been enough great moments that I've had to write a book. Maybe one day I'll do that.
Q. Does it seem ironic at all that you're at a tournament where you kind of had some weird things happen to you in years past, but this year, when the men's field has taken an unprecedented beating, you're kind of routining your way through?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's been a good first week. I have no complaints on how I'm playing. I feel good, ready to go for the second week. It's just a sign of, like I said before, of how strong the game is, look at the upsets we've had. No matter what you're ranked, you're going to be a threat to beat a stop seed. I feel I'm in contention. That's all I can really ask at this point, is to give myself a chance to maybe do it. It's a lot of work ahead.
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