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July 7, 2000

Pete Sampras


MODERATOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, Pete Sampras.

Q. Another Wimbledon final. How are you feeling?

PETE SAMPRAS: I feel great. It wasn't an easy match, playing Vladimir. Really a heavy favourite. Not having really seen him play much or not having played him, it wasn't an easy match to play. But got through it. Obviously the first set was a big part of the match. Got through it. I'm obviously very ecstatic that I'm in another final. Hopefully I can do it, but it won't be easy.

Q. You had to call the trainer out a couple times. Any specific thing that you did that reaggravated it?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's sore. Put a little ointment on it to try to cool it down a little bit. But it's there, so...

Q. Has it seemed like the longest two weeks ever in a Grand Slam tournament for you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's been different. It's definitely been a struggle a little bit. I'm still here and I'm obviously very happy that I've gotten to this point. I've worked hard to get here. I'd love to do it. You know, when you don't practise on your days off, you go out there kind of cold, it's not that comfortable. Hopefully tomorrow I can hit a few balls so I can go out there and find my game a little bit quicker. I'm not starting off that well, especially today. Against Rafter, I'm going to need to be on top of my game from the first point on. You can't afford to play any loose games because he's obviously playing at a very high level. So we'll see.

Q. You're saying you're going to practise tomorrow, unlike everything you've done so far?

PETE SAMPRAS: Try to, yeah.

Q. Has it been a long two weeks for Bridgette?

PETE SAMPRAS: Two weeks for her and everyone. There's obviously pressure at a Grand Slam, but when dealing with a situation, it's definitely a little more stressful. You know, there's nothing I can do about it. I'm in the final. I'm obviously very happy that I've gotten to this point. Have a day off tomorrow, get ready for Sunday.

Q. Is there added pressure and stress because of the historic implications, going for the records?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I'm not looking at Sunday as pressure. I'm looking at it as an opportunity. I'd love to break it here. If not, I have nothing to be ashamed of for what I've done these past couple weeks. If it doesn't happen here, maybe in New York, maybe next year, maybe in two years. I'm not looking at it as pressure; I'm looking at it as a great moment for tennis, a great moment for me. I'm going to give it the best effort out there and hopefully use the experience that I have maintained over the past six, seven years to maybe get me through.

Q. To what age do you think you can play tennis at the highest level?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think you can play at a high level till your early 30s. Look at what Connors did. He's a rare athlete, but he played at a high level until he was 33, won the US Open at that point. I feel as long as I'm playing the game, I'll always be in contention - especially here. I feel like I can possibly win here 30 and beyond. You can definitely look at Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, they played at a high level until they were 36. Tennis is a different sport, but it can be done. It's more of a mental battle.

Q. You've been in harder matches going into finals, and almost lost. Have you ever had a harder road to a final than here?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, yeah. I mean, during a few Slams, one at the US Open against Corretja, a couple down in Australia, it's physically demanding. This has been a little bit of both. You know, you look at Wimbledon, you look at how important it is to me, to my career, you just have to play through whatever you have to play through. I've kind of accepted that. Obviously trying to make the best of it. I definitely could use a day off here and there eventually.

Q. As you look at your opportunities to break the record, do you pretty much narrow it to Wimbledon and the US Open?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, and Australia. I mean, the French is a longshot, but I look at those as the three best tournaments for me to break the record. Wimbledon might be, you know, a slight advantage because of my success here and because of grass. But if it doesn't happen on Sunday, then I'll look at myself at The Open as a strong favourite. Maybe it will happen there. I'm going to do whatever I can on Sunday to get my game going, but it won't be easy.

Q. You've talked about Wimbledon just now, you mentioned Gretzky, Jordan. How important is legacy now, thinking about those kinds of things, where will you fit in in history, how important is it to you to start thinking about that kind of stuff now?

PETE SAMPRAS: At the moment, I'm not thinking about it at all. It's the match at hand. When you're competing, you're kind of on the inside, not looking on the outside. I'm sure two weeks from now, a month from now, ten years from now, I can appreciate my career much more than I am tomorrow or Sunday. But my legacy is really the last thing on my mind on Sunday. It's really preparing and doing whatever I can to possibly win here. You know, when you're going through the battle, you can't think of your place in history or your legacy. It is the match at hand. That's the attitude that you have to have. You can't put that much pressure on yourself, you know, looking at breaking records or whatever. You wake up Sunday morning, prepare for your final. You know, when you're competing, you're in kind of your own little world. You're not thinking about history, your place in tennis history. It's kind of something I'll probably appreciate much more when I'm done.

Q. What do you have to do against Rafter?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I need to return his serve consistently, you know, get a second serve, get it down, make him hit volleys, take care of my serve. It really comes down to the return of serve and who puts more pressure on the service games. I saw a lot of his match today against Andre. He's playing great. He's a great athlete. Volleys well. Covers the net as well as anyone in the world. He's coming in on his first final I'm sure very pumped up. I'm sure we'll both walk out there a little bit nervous. It should be exciting. But it really comes down to how well I return against him.

Q. You said because of what this tournament means to you, you're just going to go out there and try and get through whatever pain or physical situations you have. Are you capable of overcoming more here physically than you might be at another tournament because of what this tournament means?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, not just what this tournament means, but the surface. We're playing on, obviously, grass - quick points. It would be tough to play out there on clay or even hard court. You know, as long as I have my right arm, on grass I'm still a threat. You know, that being said, it is what it is. Part of being an athlete is playing through situations. I've done a good job getting through it.

Q. What is your opinion about the skill and play of Vladimir Voltchkov, a few words about his prospects for the future?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think he's got a good game. He came out today the first time on Centre Court playing me very relaxed, played really well in the first set. Obviously, he's beaten some good players to get to this point. He's got a lot of talent. I'm sure he'll grow from this experience. His ranking will go up. He can probably get a contract now for some clothes (laughter), which is a good sign for him.

Q. What kind of a mental struggle has it been for you these two weeks - the injury, the pressure of a great draw, so on? Has it been tough?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, all Slams are tough. You know, I've been through personal problems in Australia one time, in different situations. This has been a little bit different. But, you know, you go out and you just do the best you can, compete as hard as you can. That's the attitude that I've had, is to be positive, go out there. At this stage of my career, this is what I'm playing for. It means a lot. It means a lot to me. I'm going to, you know, get ready for Sunday.

Q. (Inaudible) your career because of what you've had to contend with getting the finals? Would you rank that as high as anything you've achieved so far?

PETE SAMPRAS: At the moment, I don't know. I'm sure next week, when I look back --.

Q. If you won it, would you consider it maybe?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, definitely. I think even getting to the final has been, you know, one of my best efforts. It would obviously be great to win it. We'll appreciate this time much more when I'm done, you know, looking at kind of what I've gone through. You know, it's part of what we do. You know, you get through tough situations.

Q. Do you have another gear left for the final or are you kind of unsure whether you can step it up to another level, given the injury?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I just know this is my last match. Mentally that feels good, that I don't have to come back and play again. You just let it all hang out, just go out there and not think about it. The adrenaline, the occasion can really get you through a lot of tough situations on the court. Sunday I'm sure that will be the case.

Q. Did you expect Andre to win today?

PETE SAMPRAS: I thought he was the slight favourite, but not a guaranteed win. I saw a lot of the match. It could have gone either way. Pat played great. You know, he really, you know, used his serve and volley, played a great, great match. Maybe I'm a little bit surprised, but, you know, Pat deserves to be here. He's had a great tournament.

Q. It's going to be about as classic a match as this surface can call for. We haven't seen that in a while. Obviously you're not going to revel in it - you have too many things to think about. What does it mean to you meeting another serve-volleyer?

PETE SAMPRAS: Obviously it's a much different match than playing Andre. We're going to be coming in on both serves. It really comes down to who returns better. That's really the key to the match. That's pretty much it. I mean, you're not going to have the contrast like you had today, which is sometimes more fun to watch. But I'm sure we'll hopefully play some tennis that's worthy of a big final.

Q. How would you characterize the relationship that you've had with Pat Rafter off the court, some of the things that have been said between you two?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's fine, it really is. We get along fine. We respect each other as people and as competitors. We'll just go out there and do the best we can, shake hands. But it's fine.

Q. Was that just bravado early on, two guys trying to establish turf on the tour?

PETE SAMPRAS: You know, just the media maybe kind of blowing a few things out of proportion, something I might have said, something he might have said. It's over and done with. There's no sense really talking about it.

End of FastScripts....

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