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August 30, 2000

Pete Sampras

U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Flushing Meadows, New York

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Pete.

Q. Played pretty -- was a great sight to see tonight. How did you feel?

PETE SAMPRAS: I feel great. I mean just everything moving great, seeing the ball really well. So it was one of those matches where everything kind of clicked, you know, when I got that first break in the first and, you know, great atmosphere tonight. First night match. I was keyed up, you know, last time I played Justin, didn't play all that well. So tonight everything just -- happens every now and again when you play like that.

Q. Does that carry over at all or really is it something you sort of say it was just one night?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you hope it carries over for the rest of the tournament, but it's pretty tough to keep that level up. But it can be done. I have a couple days off here to, you know, get ready for Saturday. So I feel, you know, I'm confident and playing well and everything is where I want it to be. These first two matches have gone pretty smooth, Damm played the Top 10 players, he kind of woke me up to the tournament. Tonight everything clicked, served pretty well, return. Just held the ball great.

Q. You have a great record in night matches here.

PETE SAMPRAS: Night matches here in New York are always special. You're keyed up and there's a lot of focus on the one match here. You just -- this is our Slam, so you do whatever you can to -- you try to win and hopefully you play well. Historically, I've done well. So, you know, just the atmosphere is nice. It's definitely unique to be playing out there.

Q. Being off until Saturday, what are you going to work on in the next two, three days?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, there's nothing to work on. It's just staying fresh. I'll probably take tomorrow off, not going to hit any balls, just do a light workout. Hit some on Friday. Nothing to work on, it's just staying sharp, hitting the ball well.

Q. Pulling out last year, are you more determined?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. If anything, I'm more appreciative of playing this year versus being a, you know, held up in my house for a few weeks during the tournament. But I'm not treating this Open any different than the past Open. I put a lot of weight into the Slams and this one's no different than any others. So the fact that I didn't play last year doesn't mean I'm more eager, more motivated. I'm always keyed up and ready to do well here.

Q. Do you know anything about Calleri?


Q. So for a guy you don't know anything about, how do you prepare?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, just I'm sure Paul will ask around just to figure out. I hear he's a lefty. From Argentina. You would think he probably stays back. It's always a little bit unsettling playing someone you've never seen play, what he likes and what he doesn't like. Paul will give me a good idea of the type of player he is and as the match unfolds, just try to figure it out.

Q. When was the last time you closed out a match with four aces?

PETE SAMPRAS: I haven't hit four aces in many years. I really don't know.

Q. Many years?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I mean when is the last time I've done it?

Q. Hasn't been that long. You think it's been that long?

PETE SAMPRAS: Four aces in a row?

Q. Yeah.

PETE SAMPRAS: I can't remember.

Q. Did it against Agassi here in the final in '95?

PETE SAMPRAS: So it's many years. (Laughter.) 95, 2000, that's five.

Q. You said you thought the courts were fast, too fast. Now you had a chance to be on there twice this tournament. How do you feel about it now? How does it contrast with '98?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's a little bit slower, the balls fluff up a little bit more. Playing Rafter here one year, I felt it was a little bit too quick. I've told to the USTA, I think we all agreed, that the court is a little quick. They slowed it down. It's still playing medium fast. You can stay back and do well.

Q. More to your liking?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I don't like playing on too quick of a court.

Q. Why is that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I just don't. I like to have time to play, you know, everyone thinks I like the fast surface, but I'm going to hold serve just about anywhere. It's a matter of having more time to return it to pass; I love that. If anything fast courts, it helps out the guys that really don't serve that well. So I like a medium-paced court that you have some time to have some rallies.

Q. When he tied it at 3-3 in the third set, you kind of got pumped and it just seemed from that point you weren't going to let him get even close. Did you sense any difference or no?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, I knew Justin was going to get a bit more involved in the match in the third and the crowd got behind him and, you know, I just wanted to keep the pressure on him and hopefully get the break and, you know, I just was seeing the ball well. Just kind of put constant pressure on him. And, you know, played a great game to break him and serve it out, four aces in a row, I just kept up the pressure on him and just went from there. But matches like that, you go through peaks and valleys. He raised his level a little bit and got his game going a little bit, but I kind of matched it. And then moved ahead.

Q. Rod Laver and McEnroe were saying earlier in a broadcast that they -- that the level of your play, they said after with the record now and the Wimbledon victory, having 13, you're just able to relax in a way that you couldn't until you had it. Now it's all gravy; you can go out there and hit.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I never looked at the record as a pressure, you know. I never thought I'd ever do it as a youngster growing up. It's happening. I think when 11 came around and then 12, then the talk of breaking the record, but it was unfair to say the word was, "Pressure." It was an opportunity that I would have loved to have broken it one day. I'm obviously glad I've done it. I still kind of am flying high from what happened. I'm not saying I'm any more relaxed now than I would be here last year when I had 12, but, you know, I always want to do well at the Slams and try to add on to what I have already. But, you know what happened a month and a half ago is probably as good as it's ever going to get for me as a tennis player I think. Unless one day I win the French. But we'll see if that happens. But, you know, I'm ecstatic I did it; I really am. But I -- you know, feel at this point I can add on to it and maybe even add one or two more before it's all done.

Q. Is it at all important to you -- everybody talks about your dominance in Wimbledon -- is it important to you, you haven't won a Slam on hard court in a while, to win one on hard court?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't care where it comes. Any time you can look back at a year and win a Slam, that's a great year for me; it really is. But having lost two tough matches here, Korda and Rafter, not playing here last year, yeah, I want to do well here, possibly do it. Maybe I can do it. We'll see.

Q. Did you hear the crowd yelling for McEnroe? Did you find that a little bit strange?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I heard it a couple times. That's New York.

Q. Is it your normal routine to work out on a bike after a match? They said that's what you were doing before you came down here. Is that your normal routine?

PETE SAMPRAS: Where did you hear that from? (Laughter.) Yeah.

Q. It is?


Q. Nothing based on --

PETE SAMPRAS: No, just a cool-down. It's good for the body, good for the recovery.

Q. There's a lot of discussion about who's -- of the young guys who's going to real step up and have an opportunity to be a real threat at the Slams. What do you think of Marat Safin and some of the other guys?

PETE SAMPRAS: Safin stands out. He's going to be in contention, especially at the French, and even on hard court. You know, I like, you know, I like Hewitt's game. There's a lot of young guys. Safin's just one of probably six or seven guys that are going to dominate. Kuerten is someone that has dominated already on the clay. You know, the list is pretty deep.

Q. Is there something maybe more specific that you would say to them? What do these guys specifically need to do individually to get to that next level?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, as a young guy, you know, Safin's in a position where he's in the Top 10 now, his next goal is to win a major. You know, that is a whole new ball game when you win Majors and a whole new pressure and your life changes and, you know, I think he's someone capable of winning Majors and handling the pressure because he has a good game. You know, I'm sure that's his next goal that he's going to try to break. And so, you know, winning Slams, there's a lot that goes with it. It's a great accomplishment. But there's a lot of extra expectations that he didn't once have.

Q. You obviously made yourself available to play Davis Cup this year. Injuries happen. But what was your feeling toward the Olympics and why did you decide against it?

PETE SAMPRAS: It was never really a consideration this year to play the Olympics. When I made my schedule this year, playing Davis Cup and Olympics, I wasn't going to play. And to have Davis Cup and the Olympics in the same year is just a sign that the schedule's pretty messed up. You know, I've been -- I was in Barcelona, had a good time playing there. You know, when you think of the Olympics, you don't necessarily think of tennis, you know. I'm glad it's there, but, you know, you think of the Olympics, you think of track and field and swimming and tennis, 128 draw, I think they should change the format, make it into a team concept, like a World Team Cup concept where you have, you know, you could have Andre playing on Court 1, Tarango playing on Court 8. That's, you know, I felt that in Barcelona, that there wasn't any sort of team unity. It was, "Everyone's on their own," and we do that week in and week out. But -- so I just, you know, it's a long trip and I just never really considered going.

Q. Are you surprised that Andre came out recently and talked about his family? He's been able to remain as focused as he has with everything that's going on off the court for him?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure, everyone that's out there playing, I mean we all go through tragedies and tough moments, especially when it's your family, it hits home. It puts everything in perspective. Tennis isn't really that important when someone in your family is going through a tough situation. And, you know, but Andre is a professional, and, you know, I'm sure his family would like to see him play. I mean that's what I'm sure they're asking of him to do, and, you know, I went through something similar with Tim Gullikson, not quite as close as far as a family member, but still serious enough to be tough to play. But, you know, Andre, I'm sure -- if anything, is feeling for his family. I'm sure he'll do fine here. Maybe he'll use that as certain motivation to maybe win here.

Q. Do you have any thoughts on the fact that this is going to be the last Slam of the Century, 20th Century?

PETE SAMPRAS: Any thoughts? No, not really.

End of FastScripts….

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