August 28, 2000
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
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
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?
PETE SAMPRAS: Not here.
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?
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?
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
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
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?
PETE SAMPRAS: No.
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
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
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
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?
PETE SAMPRAS: No.
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