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June 26, 2000

Pete Sampras


MODERATOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, Pete Sampras.

Q. Are you treating this Wimbledon any different from the others?

PETE SAMPRAS: Not really. I am treating it pretty much the same as I always have. You know, sure, every Wimbledon is huge. Obviously this one is just as big as all of them. Just go out and give it my best shot.

Q. How tricky was it for your footing? It was a bit of a humid day.

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, it was very green. It was very tough to move out there. The court is slippery, and it's tough to play baseline points, it's tough to move. You just expect that on the first day on Centre Court, you know, versus the other courts, there's a lot of practise on them. Centre Court, there's no practise on them. You know, I was having a hard time moving, slipped a few times. But you just kind of go into the match expecting to have a tough day moving.

Q. Do you feel you have a big advantage on your opponent, because obviously this is the seventh time you've done it?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, a little bit. Not just the court and how slippery it is, but just the experience, being out there many times. It was Jiri's first time out there, first time at Wimbledon. It definitely helps with the experience. He was probably a little bit nervous starting off the match. Got off to an early break. But it's always nice to be back on that court. It's comfortable surroundings for me, comfortable court that I obviously over the years have grown to love.

Q. In a phone conference call the other day, Jim Courier suggested you like the first week better because it's greener and more slippery, it suits you better. Is he wrong about that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the first week is maybe a touch slower, a touch softer, it's not playing quite as fast, the bounces are a little bit better. It doesn't matter, either way. It's a different tournament, first week and the second week. A lot of times it's the weather. If it's a cool day, it makes it a little bit greasier. No matter what the conditions are, I feel like I'm playing well, hopefully I can get my game going this week.

Q. You were holding the back of your leg at one point in the first set. Was there a problem there, a touch of hamstring?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. A couple tight spots, but nothing to be alarmed about. Last week was cold and windy. You feel a little sore in spots, especially on the grass. It got cool at the end of the match. It's nice to stretch out a little bit and keep the muscles loose. But it seems fine, ready to go.

Q. Does your fitness concern you at all at the moment?


Q. Are you doing anything different to minimize injuries?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, trying to go out there warmed up, stretched out, in a sweat, and using that five minutes warm-up to really move my feet, break a sweat. Over the years I just use that five minutes to kind of not doing anything. So it's important to go out, keep the feet moving, get the heart rate up, hopefully break a sweat.

Q. For a first round, how would you rate your performance today?

PETE SAMPRAS: It was pretty good. You know, served well. Didn't hit the ball that great from the back court. Your first match out there, you're a little bit unsettled, playing someone I've never seen play, it's always a little difficult. As the match started to go on, I felt my game was getting a little better, served the ball well, hitting well, missed a few balls from the back court. It was not easy to play baseline points. I would have liked to have put in a performance that's a little more solid, but for the first match, I'm happy.

Q. What's your opinion of Alex Corretja and Costa and Ferrero not playing because of the seeding?

PETE SAMPRAS: No matter what the seedings are, there's going to be someone who is unhappy. I know Alex and Albert feel like they should have been seeded. But grass is a very unique surface that you have to make exceptions. You know, Alex and Albert could have just played a couple matches and proved to the tournament they should have been seeded. But they went home, which is obviously disappointing. But this tournament will probably still go on.

Q. How do you change your fitness regimen when you come to a major like this? If you're doing running and weight training in off weeks, what do you do when you get to an event like this?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the points are quick. You change, a little more explosive stuff, versus getting ready for the clay court season, you do more longer runs. Here it's more power and sprint work. It's all explosion type of tennis that you just train a little bit differently. The week off I had, you know, I just spent a couple days doing some sprints and whatnot. Just a little bit different.

Q. Do you do that while you're here or do you just take it easy in case you might have injuries?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, when the tournament starts, you use that day off for a light hit, relaxation, get ready for your next match.

Q. Congratulations on your engagement. Bridgette was here today. Did you enjoy here watching?


Q. You were quite romantic when you proposed.

PETE SAMPRAS: You know me (laughter). I'm not so boring after all.

Q. What effect do you think getting engaged and married will have on your motivation to play? Once you got married, do you think it will affect your motivation?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think so.

Q. More motivated? Not necessarily a negative effect, might drive you even on to greater things?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm ready for the next chapter of my life to begin. You know, I'll always take this sport seriously and prepare. My life will change a little bit, but I'm obviously very happy and very excited with what's happened.

Q. You had said at the Davis Cup you were going to try to convince your parents to come over here. Are they planning on coming at all?

PETE SAMPRAS: For the right match, sure.

Q. If you make it to the final.

PETE SAMPRAS: If I make it to the final, which is a long way away, I'd love for them to come and be part of such a great tournament for me. But it's a long way to go before I make that phone call.

Q. Speaking of changing your lives, your entire generation is coming up to crossroads. Jim was the first of your lot to retire. Can you comment on what he brought to the game and encapsulate his record?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, Jim was the first one out of all of us to get to be No. 1 and stay there and dominate the game for a couple years. He would admit that he didn't have the talent, the natural talent, of myself or Andre. Jim worked probably harder than anybody in the history of the game. He'd play his matches, go for a 20-minute run, hit more balls. He really dedicated his whole life to tennis. He was a great player. He had a big, big serve. Backed it up with big groundstrokes. Fought hard, was in great shape. Did well on every surface. Almost won here. You know, truly one of the best players I played over the years. It's definitely a loss, but I think Jim is to the point now where the heart isn't there. If Jim's heart isn't into it, he's not going to be very effective. You know, out of all of us, the first one to stop, you know, we're all getting a little bit older. But, you know, he's had a great career.

Q. When he retired, made the announcement, does that make you think of your own sport's mortality, think, "My career is coming not to a close but coming down"?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, yeah, you see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. But it's nowhere near to the point of stopping. Maybe slowing down, maybe not playing quite as much. But sure, you know, I'm 29 in a few months. Historically that's when guys pretty much stop or get close to stopping. You know, I feel like I've got the game and the body. Hopefully I can stay healthy and enjoy my tennis over the next three or four years. I always want to play for The Majors and the big tournaments. When the day comes where I feel like I can't contend will be the day that I'll stop.

Q. Does your experience on grass carry you through patches of matches here, more than it does on other surfaces?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think, if anything, my reputation here, especially at this tournament, helps. If I'm not playing well, guys might fear me a little bit more here than they might at the US Open. It helps. Obviously I've grown to love to play the surface. I'm comfortable on the Centre Court. That same cliche, you take one match at a time, you can't take a look ahead at the draw. Be careful, play solid tennis, play smart. But experience definitely helps.

Q. By contrast, Pete, a lot of guys seem to kind of blow it off here, particularly guys who play a lot on clay. They almost don't give it a chance. You struggled in the beginning, yet got on top. Are you surprised that many people have negative attitudes about the grass, and "the club"?

PETE SAMPRAS: A lot depends on where you're from, what surface you like playing on. The Corretjas and Costas are coming here not expecting to do great. It's great to see players like Kuerten play well here. He's got the right attitude, even though it's not his best surface. He comes in here, and he did well last year. He'll probably do well this year. When I first came here, I didn't like the grass. I obviously loved the tournament, loved playing on the courts here, but I never really liked the surface until pretty much '92. Took me three years to really feel like I can do pretty well here.

Q. I know you'll have other chances at the record, but how badly do you want the two records right now?

PETE SAMPRAS: What's the second record?

Q. Seven.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you want them all. Especially it's a tournament I love to play, I'm very passionate about this event. It would be great to do it here. But there are no guarantees I'm going to win here. It's going to take someone playing well to beat me. If it doesn't happen, maybe I'll do it in New York. Right now, you're going through it. You're going through each match. You're preparing. There's not a lot of time to think about the record books or the history that you're going to make. It when you're going through the trenches, you just worry about what's ahead of you, nothing anything historical about what I'm trying to do. Maybe if I get to the final or to the weekend. That's maybe a time to think about it. Right now I'm just trying to get ready for my next match and hopefully put myself in a position to do well.

Q. If they seeded off the rankings like at the French, even though you've made a semifinal there, you probably wouldn't be seeded that high.

PETE SAMPRAS: That's fine (laughter). As long as I don't have to play Philippoussis first round.

Q. You could live with that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure. I don't care what they seed me at the French. They cannot seed me. I've had tough draws there. There's no advantage of being seeded. You know, if I didn't get seeded at the French, I'd go out there and try to do well to prove to the event that I'm worthy of being seeded. You really try to rise above it instead of being a little childish about it and going home. It's a bit disappointing.

Q. Do you suspect that the Spanish withdrawal is in a way related to Davis Cup, they might not want to play on grass?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I don't think it has anything to do with it. They did have their reasons why they didn't play. It's just disappointing. You know, this is the biggest event we have in the game. Everybody should play it.

Q. At Pebble Beach, people were asking Tiger about records. He said, "All I'm trying to do is go out and win the tournament." Is that a danger when people continually ask you about breaking records? Do you have to remember to retain your focus or is that not a problem?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's not a problem because when you step out on that court, like I did today, you're not worried about history; you're worried about who you're playing, you're worried about where you're hitting your next serve. You can't get consumed with records. When it's all said and done, you look back, you love to do it. When you're in the battlefield, you don't think about breaking records. Really just go out there and play another tennis match, hopefully get through them.

End of FastScripts….

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