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August 8, 2000

Pete Sampras


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Pete?

Q. What do you think of this new format where you have to play every round, you don't get a bye? Is it bad for you?

PETE SAMPRAS: More work. I've never been crazy about a bye because you're playing someone that's played a match, who's used to the court and the balls. Your first match out playing someone that's played, I never really liked it to be honest with you. You like it if you win the match. Your body's a little bit fresher. If you get to the weekend or finals, you just played five. But now it's possibly six days in a row for everybody just about. And just after last week and playing a lot of matches last week, it can take its toll. But I mean matches is what I need, obviously going into New York, and I'll have my fair share. Last week and this week hopefully.

Q. Do you like the format this year, where they tell you you have to play those tournaments or you get nothing if you don't play? Is that good for you, bad for you? I know you missed a couple.

PETE SAMPRAS: Right. Well, I believe to grow the sport, to have all the guys play the same tournaments, ultimately it will make an impact on the game. For me personally, I didn't play all of them. I'm to the point where I'm obviously at a different place than most guys starting out, the young 20-year-olds. So I'm going to give myself the best schedule to do well at the Grand Slams. And, you know, with playing Davis Cup this year and, you know, it's tough playing all of them and playing everything. But, you know, nine is a lot. But that's what we have. And 90 percent of the guys are playing most of them. It's hard to play all of them.

Q. How do you feel about the two guys that left Wimbledon because they didn't get seeded? If they had tried to do that to you at, say, the French Open, you would be out of your seeding, how would you look at it?

PETE SAMPRAS: I have no problem with it. I really don't. There are no advantages of being seeded No. 1. I've had tough draws, I had to play Philippoussis this year. If they would have not seeded me or seeded me 5 or 8, you still want to play the event. It's a major tournament, and, you know, you try to make a point by going out and playing and beating some guys that are seeded and getting to the semis or finals and proving to the Federation or Seeding Committee that you're worthy of being seeded. That's the way to really rise above it. I'm sure that would have been my goal.

Q. You emerged with the idea of, "Is this going to be the guy that saves tennis in the post Connors, McEnroe, Lendl era." Now it's 10 years later and the hunt is on for the guy who's going to save tennis in the post Pete and Andre era. Why are we always looking for someone to save tennis? Is it important anymore? You yourself just said, "for the good of the game." Why is the state of the game so precarious that one always has to worry about that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, as we know, myself and Andre aren't going to play forever. We're looking a little bit of the -- we're getting closer to 30, he is 30, and I'm sure the media and people in tennis are looking to who's next, what next American or what group of Americans is going to dominate the game. It's just the nature of sports in general, who's the next great basketball player after Michael Jordan? They're always looking at the future of the sport. And that's just the nature of what we do. People are looking at the next great hope. And, you know, in America we have some young guys that are, I feel, that are going to be good and be around for many years. It's hard to say if there's anybody that's going to be No. 1 or a Wimbledon champion or whatever, it's possible. But a lot of young South Americans, Europeans, Australians are really making a move.

Q. Talk specifically about Guga in that context. Here's a guy who is flamboyant, a likable guy, who's shown success on one surface. Now the thought is, "Boy, if he can just prove he can win on hard courts, he might be the one that takes tennis to the next level." Is that fair to him?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think it's fair to him. One guy is not going to carry the game. You need rivalries; you need a bunch of different players from different countries; you need the whole different personality thing mixed in. One guy can't do it. To put that pressure on him is not fair. He's someone that's going to be around the top of the game for the rest of his career and could really be No. 1. Consistently.

Q. You think so?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure. I'm not sure how old he is, but he's, you know, early 20s?

Q. Twenty-three.

PETE SAMPRAS: Twenty-three, so he's going to, you know, be around for many years.

Q. Is it a more demanding schedule this year, the mandatory matches with the Olympics?

PETE SAMPRAS: More of my commitment is to Davis Cup. The Olympics wasn't really a consideration, playing this year. To have the Olympics and Davis Cup in the same year is -- isn't very smart of the Federation. And what they're trying to do with the schedule, it's too much tennis. So the Olympics wasn't really a consideration for me this year.

Q. (Inaudible)??

PETE SAMPRAS: Absolutely. I've always been a proponent of changing the Davis Cup schedule entirely. To have it four times a year in different -- tough scheduling, on different continents, takes its toll. And you look at the Ryder Cup in golf, they've made that into a huge event, one week every two years. I mean it's definitely on the lines of what I'd like to see Davis Cup turn into is, you know, maybe have it once every couple years in a two-week span in one country. To have it the way it is today, it's not easy to commit to. That's why over the years I haven't. So...

Q. With the Olympics, tennis is still kind of a new thing, relatively.

PETE SAMPRAS: When you think of the Olympics, you don't think much of tennis. You think of track and field and swimming. Tennis in the Olympics, it doesn't have quite the history as the other sports. But it is there, and a lot of guys are going to play it. But I won't be there.

Q. Can you talk about your match today?

PETE SAMPRAS: I've never played him before. It's always a little bit difficult playing someone that I've never played, and get used to his game, where he likes his shots. He's got a good forehand. I came out a little bit flat today, but started to feel a little bit better as the match went on. Got the break at 5-4, just kind of relaxed and got my game going. But it's always a little bit difficult your first match out, and the court's a little bit different. The weather's a little bit different here than in Toronto. It just takes a little while to get your bearings. But getting into this first match, I hope I can build on it and play better tomorrow.

Q. You always do well in this tournament. Do you have a comfort level here?

PETE SAMPRAS: Usually this event lies in the middle of the circuit, summer circuit, so I've played matches coming in here, and I've always enjoyed playing on the court. And being here in Cincinnati is -- you always look forward to coming back to a place that you play well. The field here is very strong. Everyone's playing it. So you go out, it's a Grand Slam type of atmosphere. So you go out playing hard and hopefully doing well. When you can win here in Cincinnati, you know you're playing great going into the US Open.

Q. This tournament has so many of the very top players in the Finals, more so than any other tournament. You would think there would be a year every two or three years where it wouldn't be the case. Why is that the case year after year?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't have an explanation for that. I mean look at -- Toronto has had different winners, different guys coming through. Here you've always had either myself or Rafter, Andre, in the semis and finals. I really don't know why. This year might be different. But it's possible. I mean there are no guarantees that we'll be around on the weekend. It could be any number of guys that could get to the finals here. So I'll let you know on Friday or Saturday what it's looking like.

Q. You've played a full schedule and there's been no secret that it's more than enough for a professional athlete. What do you make of Kafelnikov, who never takes a week off? If there's a tournament, he's playing in it. Obviously from your mindset, that's not how to go about doing it. Have you spoken with him about it? Is there something that makes him stronger to do that, or is it foolish?

PETE SAMPRAS: One word with Kafelnikov, the green money.

Q. That's three words.

PETE SAMPRAS: That's three words. If there's money to be made, Yevgeny's going to play.

Q. But longer term, isn't it better --?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, sure. We all make our own schedules, and I look at my year differently than he does. He wants to play every week. He plays a lot. I'm joking about him making money, but he likes it. So... I just -- you know, I give him a hard time about it. He plays every week. For him to take a week off or two weeks off is just a huge vacation for him. I'm surprised that he's one guy that plays a lot that doesn't seem to get hurt that much. He stays pretty healthy. Mentally, I'm sure it takes its toll. You can't be 100 percent mentally each week when you play every week. You know, it's his career and his decision on what he wants to do and what his goals are. Everyone's a little bit different.

Q. You've always made no secret that your No. 1 priority during the year is being listed at the end of the year. Kafelnikov had the worst all-time reign as No. 1, losing seven straight weeks and just really blowing it off. You were around him at that time. What was going on with him?

PETE SAMPRAS: You know, I don't know what was going on. He was over in Europe playing a lot, every week. I'm sure the ranking, the pressure, all the attention that it brings about, it can get into your mind and it can affect your tennis. Maybe that's what happened. You know, I don't know if that's exactly what happened. Just from the outset, I'm sure that's probably got something to do with it.

Q. Do you think he pays much attention or doesn't care?

PETE SAMPRAS: Maybe he cares about it too much. That can also happen. You know, I'm sure playing every week, it's not easy. And he does it. You know, he plays singles and doubles. And that's just -- it will be interesting to see how long he's going to be able to do that.

Q. I wonder if you could just talk about your experience yesterday. They're now giving you credit for starting a winning streak for the Reds.

PETE SAMPRAS: Whatever works. (Laughter.) It was fun. I was in Toronto and I was part of the Stars program. I heard that that was a possibility, and I think it's one Stars program that I was more and more willing to do, to meet Ken Griffey, Jr., Who's one of the all-time greats, and to be down there and to see him hit a few out and actually be able to partake in some batting practice and hit a couple okay. It was fun. And being on that field, it's a long way to go to hit it out of there.

Q. How far did you come?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think it was really close to the warning track. (Laughter.) On a roll. (Laughter.)

Q. When was the last time you played baseball?

PETE SAMPRAS: I never really played baseball. Just as a kid throwing the ball around, but never in a batting cage, never seen live pitching.

Q. No Little League or anything? Who was pitching?

PETE SAMPRAS: No Little League, nothing. I don't know who was pitching. A leftie.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know who it was.

Q. Pete, we ran into a couple girls outside, 12-year-old girls, who landed one of your towels with sweat on it. They were walking around showing it off to people. Do you ever get tired of that fanaticism?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's flattering. People like my sweat, I don't -- it's not that appealing. (Laughter.) But, sure, it's flattering to have people like you and cheer for you and want a towel that has your filthy sweat on it, sure.

Q. Are you feeling more comfortable now that you've got your Grand Slam record, and do you feel like, "Okay, I've got it, now I can just relax," and do the rest of your career and maybe add on to it?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. It's interesting. I mean being with 11 and 12 Slams, people talking about the pressure of breaking the record, I didn't look at it as pressure. Obviously I wanted to do it, but to be at 12 or 11 is a great achievement in itself. Now that I did break it and I do have that unbelievable record put away, sure, it feels great. But I'm sure when the US Open comes around I'll want to win that one just as much as I did the first one. So I will always --.

Q. But you feel you've eliminated the need to win one more to have the record?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I've eliminated that. But now that I'm where I am, I'll try to add on to that. I'll try to add on to what I have and, you know, there always will be -- the driving force in my tennis are the Majors. And that will always keep me training and practicing for that one goal. And I'll have a chance in a coupple weeks to maybe make it 14. So we'll see what happens.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: They were offered two in the box and they didn't want any part of it. I think it was member seats. As a member, I get those. So they were more than happy to, you know, be in the rafters.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: You get them everywhere, I think. I'm not sure exactly.

Q. Do you have any plans when you retire from tennis to take up a baseball career?


Q. Michael Jordanesque?


Q. The Reds aren't your favorite team or anything like that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, being from LA, I grew up watching the Dodgers. I'm more of a Dodger fan than the Reds. But if I said I was a Reds fan, I would be jumping on the bandwagon I guess.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I didn't face 95-mile-an-hour curveball. It was more of a 50 down the middle, and even that I thought was pretty heavy. But that's comparable to returning serve out there against a Krajicek or Ivanisevic on grass, you know, it's like probably facing Randy Johnson on the diamond. But I would probably give baseball the edge to being able to hit that ball when it's moving like that.

End of FastScripts….

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