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August 28, 2000

Pete Sampras

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

MODERATOR: Questions for Pete.

Q. A bit tougher than you would have liked?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I played Martin before. I knew it was going to be tough. He serves big, returns quite well. He came out and played great. You know, I was really happy the way I played. I really couldn't do much to really touch his serve. He was popping in a couple aces a game. But I knew it was going to be tough. I mean, Martin is an experienced player who has been out on the arena many times. I thought first couple sets, we were both playing at a very high level. But he was serving huge. You know, he was tough to break.

Q. There was almost no atmosphere out there, hardly nobody in the stands. Does that seem weird to you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it was a tough time of day. It's been a long day with the rain, getting late. You have the night crowd coming in now. So the atmosphere wasn't great, but, you know, it's a big stadium. The people are all kind of spread around. It doesn't look like there's a lot of people. But they got into it a little bit at the end.

Q. How are you feeling?

PETE SAMPRAS: I feel good, feel good. Body feels good. Served well. I mean, I really feel pretty good out there. First match out, not an easy one to get through. You know, a tough match, a tough opening-round match. I think I can kind of build from this win and hopefully play a little bit better against Justin.

Q. Do you still get jitters at the start of a tournament?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the first match out, sure, it's a new court. You can practice all you want, but it's always a little bit different when you play. You do feel the jitters a little bit. But, you know, I've been doing this for quite a while. You just kind of work through the jitters, just go out and play another tennis match. If you're not feeling anxious or a little jitters before you go out and play, you're not into it enough. You feel it a little bit. But, you know, I felt pretty comfortable from the first point on.

Q. How is the court playing?

PETE SAMPRAS: As you see, a lot of the aces and service winners, it's playing medium fast.

Q. Having broken the record, does coming into this Slam, is there an ease? Do you feel pressure being off?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, breaking the record was definitely a big weight off my shoulders. I didn't look at breaking the record as pressure; I looked at it as an opportunity. Now that I've done it, sure, it feels great. But I'm not looking at this year's US Open any different. I mean, I still want to do well. It's our last major of the year. Do whatever I can to win here. It's not going to be easy, but Wimbledon took a lot out of me emotionally. Emotionally, definitely felt it a little bit over the summer. But I feel pressure coming into this year's Open versus last year where I was at home at this point. It's definitely a good step.

Q. Did it feel different out there today because it had been two years since you actually played a match here?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, it really didn't. Just coming back here, I've been here for a week practicing, I feel like, you know, if anything, I appreciate it more playing this year, because last year it was tough being home, watching the US Open unfold the way it did. You know, this year I've been kind of a little bit more aware of my body, trying to get myself in good shape, do the right things, good out there and hopefully not hurt my back again or any other muscle. But it feels good to go out and compete here.

Q. How much did you watch this tournament last year? Did you watch it every day, highlights every day?

PETE SAMPRAS: Very little, if any. It's tough when you want to be here. You just get away from it. You know, I was stuck at home for a couple weeks. I couldn't really do much. I was watching other things.

Q. What do you think of the ATP's new slogan? Someone trying to push you into a rocking chair here?

PETE SAMPRAS: Which one?

Q. "New Balls Please."

PETE SAMPRAS: It's an interesting slogan (laughter). I'm still trying to figure it out. What does that mean, the new balls?

Q. New players are coming.

PETE SAMPRAS: I know (laughter).

Q. I would explain it the other way, but it's not appropriate.

PETE SAMPRAS: It's a double meaning, huh (laughter)?

Q. What was wrong with the old one?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's still healthy.

Q. What do you think of it? Do you feel like you're ready to walk off the stage?

PETE SAMPRAS: Am I ready to walk off the stage?

Q. They're pushing toward the younger players.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think ISL and the new tour, their new marketing, they're looking at the future of the game, five, ten years. You look at Haas and Kiefer, Federer, Hewitt, those guys are the future. You don't want to overlook the Americans that we have, Gambill, Taylor Dent. But, it's a sign of what the ATP is trying to do, you know, trying to push the young guys, especially here in this country. A lot of the media and a lot of the public really don't know a lot of these young Europeans. It's just a push to see how far these guys can go, and definitely we'll see how the marketing strategy unfolds. I definitely admire the effort.

Q. Do you feel that reports of your death have been greatly exaggerated? Do you think it's a bit premature?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I mean, you look at myself and Andre, who is 30 now, I just turned 29, we're not going to play for the next five, ten years. But I think for the next two, three years, we'll be at the top of the game, contending for majors, two of the best players in the world. It's just a sign of a little bit more marketing for the young guys. It's not any insult to me on pushing me out or whatever. I'm above that. It's really just an effort to try to get some of these young Europeans a bit of a push.

Q. You talked in London about Gambill as one of the young Americans coming up. Can you talk about some of the other guys that American tennis fans should be watching?

PETE SAMPRAS: I played Taylor Dent in Cincinnati, 6-6 match. I was really impressed with his game. Big serve. I think he's a young guy that's going to get better and better, more experience. Gambill is another guy. You know, Justin is always kind of on the cusp of maybe breaking through. You know, other than that, it looks a little thin, but I think those players have a good future.

Q. How did you feel about being seeded 4 here? Did that bother you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's what I'm ranked on the computer. You know, they just went off the computer, which I have no problem with.

Q. Do you feel like you have something to prove?


Q. Do you feel like you have something to prove, you've been so dominant before?

PETE SAMPRAS: Not really. You know, the seeding is just the seeding. I mean, I think we all know I'm one of the strong contenders here. I have nothing to prove here. I've won here plenty of times. I'd certainly like to add on to that and try to make it five. I don't think it's a big deal, the seeding. It's off the computer, so.

Q. Does it take any pressure off or put pressure on certain players ranked No. 2 or 3?

PETE SAMPRAS: As far as seedings?

Q. Yes.

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think players really look at the seedings. I mean, Wimbledon is an exception. You know, the seedings, I don't think we really read much into it, who is 2 or 8. I think we all know in this room who the strong contenders are here. If I'm seeded 4, 8 or not seeded, I still like my chances. It doesn't really make a huge impact on what's going to happen here.

Q. As someone who really appreciates fine serves, when you see Venus Williams serve, what impresses you the most about her serve?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think she knows where it's going, to be honest with you. Well, looks like Tiger Woods answering something about Karrie Webb. Her serve, she's a tall girl with a big racquet, throws it up and hits it hard.

Q. Pretty simple. After an emotional climb to the record, have you set a new record?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm not setting any new numbers. I'm just going to try to add on to it, try to find new ways for motivation over the next number of years. Majors will always be my focus. Just see if I can make it 14 or 15. But I'm not setting a number.

Q. Has it been difficult to get remotivated?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I mean, not here. Through the summer, you know, there are times where I felt the effects of Wimbledon. It took a lot out of me emotionally. But this is our last major of the year. I feel like this is it. This is what I play for. I feel like what happened at Wimbledon, I won a Super Bowl. Those guys have four months to enjoy it; I have two weeks. It's just the way the sport is. You only have so much time to get ready for The Open.

Q. Did you do anything special to celebrate, anything unusual?

PETE SAMPRAS: I just went home and just rested, slept for a while, tried to catch up on that. I just was home, just relaxing. Really enjoyed it, you know. Enjoyed it with my family and people that I care about. It was a nice couple weeks. Certainly would love to have a little longer time. For the two weeks, I had a good time.

Q. Will your parents come if you get to the finals?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't -- I'm not looking that far ahead. If I do, I would doubt it. I think I tortured them enough in the final against Rafter.

Q. Of the younger Americans, what does Gambill have to do to get in the Top 10?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, just win more matches, you know.

Q. What part of his game?

PETE SAMPRAS: What part of his game?

Q. Where is the weakness?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you know, Jan-Mike has two hands on both sides. Some quicker surfaces, like here, it's a little limited on the return a little bit. You know, it's hard to say how far Jan-Mike can go. He's got the potential, he's got the game. There's a lot of pressure, a lot of young guys wanting to break through. You look at his game, you look at his serve, it's a big serve. Two hands, you know, he's still dangerous, but I think he could open up something in his game. We'll see.

Q. What do you think of No. 81, Jeff Tarango, representing the US in the Olympics?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't really know what to think. Hope he doesn't walk off the court.

Q. Americans aside, is there anybody out there who you see as sort of the next great player, one or two young guys?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, to be No. 1 for years?

Q. Yes.

PETE SAMPRAS: It's hard to say. I mean, being No. 1 or dominating the game is much more than playing great tennis; it's a lifestyle that you're willing to lead, that I was willing to do. It's hard to say if there's someone today that I see that in them. You look at Philippoussis, who has the biggest game, can go out and win a Slam with his serve, but there's a lot of intangibles that you have to look into to be No. 1 year after year. I don't see one person doing it.

Q. Do you think we're looking at a sport where you're going to have individual Slams won by different guys, no real domination?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't see one guy dominating. You look at Kuerten, I think he's dominated on the clay, can maybe do well here, maybe win here a couple times. To have one guy do it, I think he's maybe the one that stands out a little bit. Other than that, it's really hard to say.

Q. When you were introduced today, did you hear you were recognized with your 13 Slams and the ovation that you got? Did that sink in at all? Did it register with you as you were warming up, to be recognized in that way?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure, absolutely.

Q. How did you feel about that?

PETE SAMPRAS: It feels great. Since I broke the record, playing in Cincy, Toronto, when they say that, I think people appreciate it. It was a nice ovation. It feels great. I mean, it took a lot of hard work to get to this point. It feels good to have people appreciate it.

Q. Did you know at that point you'd be introduced in that way? Talked to ahead of time?

PETE SAMPRAS: At The Open, they introduce you as when I won Kalamazoo or something, a USTA event. Not only that, but just being No. 1 for the years that I was, certainly it's been a great career. It's not over yet. It's always flattering to hear what I've done, get a nice ovation.

Q. How long did it take you to appreciate, after Wimbledon, the whole accomplishment?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think it's still going to take some time. I only had a couple weeks, started getting ready for the summer circuit and The Open. I think I'll appreciate it a lot more later on this year when I have my time off, maybe more when my career is over and I look back on it. I'm still riding high from what happened. Hopefully I can, you know, transfer it into winning here.

Q. You talked about the lifestyle of being a No. 1 player. Can you talk about some of the things those of us out here wouldn't understand?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, to be No. 1 for years and years at a time, you have to be consumed with the game, you have to eat, live and breathe tennis. Being No. 1 is almost a passion. You want to be there. It's something that you're consumed with. For years I just wanted to win majors and I wanted to finish the year No. 1. That was always my goal. No. 1 today to me isn't what it used to be. I mean, I'd like to get back up there, but I'm not willing to play all these extra tournaments to do it. But it's definitely, you know, something you have to want, and I wanted it. It's definitely a passion that you need to have deep down inside of you to want to be the best player and just be the man each week. Everyone talks about being No. 1, and you're a wanted man. That's not easy to deal with week-in and week-out.

Q. Was there a point where you want to get a life, wanted to be No. 1 also?

PETE SAMPRAS: You know, you can't have your cake and eat it. To be No. 1 for a long time, you have to give up things. For years you're playing, you're training, playing a lot of tennis, you don't have a lot of time for any outside stuff. It just takes a lot out of you. You have to be able to have the game, but also be able to deal with the pressures of being No. 1. I think that's one thing I'm most happy with in my tennis, is being able to handle what it's like to be on top year after year.

Q. Is there something you're doing, kind of a guilty pleasure you're allowing yourself now that you didn't allow yourself back then?

PETE SAMPRAS: Not a guilty pleasure. I'm still working hard. I'm giving myself the best schedule to do well at the majors. When I got to be No. 1 for six years, I was over in Europe for seven weeks. It's something I'm not going to do again. It took a lot out of me. It's time to kind of cut back on my tournaments, not play quite as much, but try to find ways for me to keep it exciting and fun.

Q. Nothing like taking up fishing or something like that?


Q. Would you still characterize yourself as being consumed by the game, if someone was to ask you that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Maybe not as consumed, not like I was three, four years ago. Being back in LA, getting married soon, it's definitely a change to my life to four or five years ago.

Q. Being the fourth seed, talk of the field being wide open, is this kind of tailor made for you to walk in after having this record, sort of being forgotten in some respects?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think I'll be forgotten.

Q. Relatively speaking.

PETE SAMPRAS: I think we're making too big a deal out of the seedings. Since I'm 4 doesn't mean I'm less of a favorite. I still feel like if I get my game going, I can win here easily. But there's a lot of competition. There's no guarantee that I'll get to the second week. The seeding is over now. There's nothing we can do about it. It's time to play.

Q. You mentioned that you don't have a number for the Grand Slams, that maybe being No. 1 isn't what you're going after anymore. Is there anything in your life you always wanted to do that now you can feel you can do?

PETE SAMPRAS: As far as?

Q. Anything else that you've always wanted to do.

PETE SAMPRAS: Other than tennis?

Q. Other than tennis.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, like I said, starting a new chapter in my life, getting married, settling down, one day having a family. Having a family isn't going to happen soon, but I'm still going to take the sport seriously and do whatever I can to stay on top and make it 14 one day.

Q. Would you set a date?


End of FastScripts….

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