March 25, 2000
THE ERICSSON OPEN, MIAMI, FLORIDA
MIKI SINGH: Two-time Ericsson Open champion Pete Sampras is here. He'll play either
Safin or Vinciguerra in the third round. He's had his 35th win here at the Ericsson.
Q. Pete, last week you were telling us how you were battling the demons of the desert.
Yet today from an ace on the first ball, you looked completely at ease, served 80 percent,
just a different Sampras. Is it simply a question of "in the mind"?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, like I said in Palm Springs, I've struggled there over the years. I
can't seem to control it there. The conditions being a little bit heavier here, a little
bit slower, I just feel more comfortable playing here than I have in Palm Springs over the
past couple years. The game that I played today was about as good as it gets. I mean, I
served 80 percent. If I'm serving that hard, that consistently, it just really helps out
my return of serve, I can be more aggressive, take more chances. Today I really didn't
give a chance for Carlos to get in any sort of rhythm. I came in. I did what I wanted to
do. I definitely learned from my loss in Palm Springs. I wasn't quite aggressive. Didn't
really feel like my game was there. I got back on the practice courts, got back to work,
and things clicked today.
Q. When you get a short ball, are you usually trying to hit a winner off that shot or
hit it in a corner to set up the next shot?
PETE SAMPRAS: Just depends on the shot itself. Certainly if I have a high forehand, I'm
going to go for a big winner. If it's a backhand, I'll chip and come in. Kind of depends
on the score and the situation. Usually, I'm trying to be aggressive and get to the net.
Q. When you see your first match at a tournament is Carlos Moya, last year he was the
top seed here, there's no rest or taking it easy anymore in any matches from the beginning
of a tournament?
PETE SAMPRAS: The men's game is as strong today as it's probably ever been. You have
Carlos Moya, who has been at the top of the game, not seeded, your first match up. It
isn't an easy way to open your tournament. But that being said, you know, you go out and
play the tennis you can play. I don't really mind playing anyone if my game is there. You
know, when you see the draw, you see Moya as a possible match-up, it's not easy. But the
game was certainly there today. Hope I can maintain this over the next couple days.
Q. When you're returning, how do you determine when you're going to chip-and-charge,
whether you're going to block it back or attack and go for a winner?
PETE SAMPRAS: A lot depends on the score, depends on how I'm feeling out there. I just
made an effort today to chip-and-charge early. The thing you can't do against Carlos or a
lot of the Spaniards is stay back and let them control the points with their forehands. I
wanted to be aggressive. But depends on 15-40 breakpoint or a tense moment, he's not going
to serve 95, he's going to serve 75. I can have more time to chip-and-charge and be
Q. Sounds like that's a decision you make before the serve is in play?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yes, absolutely.
Q. Given your interest in the Grand Slam events, length of your career, the number of
titles of this quality you've won, where do you really look for motivation in an event
PETE SAMPRAS: I still have a lot of pride out there. I enjoy competing and playing at
this level. You can't go into the majors and turn it on like a light switch. You need to
go into majors playing well, confident. Certainly if you build an aura about you, it
helps. Certainly the French Open being months away, a different surface, you still want to
play well throughout the year. I want to win every week I play. That's my goal every time
I step into a tournament. It's no exception today. Playing Carlos, he's proven himself as
a great player. If you don't go out keyed up and ready to play these guys, you're not
going to win. I still want to play this game at the highest level, if not ranked No. 1, at
least say in the top couple. If you can't get motivated to play these tournaments and play
these players, you shouldn't be playing.
Q. You tried a lot of different methods of preparing for the French Open. This year are
you going to try something you tried before?
PETE SAMPRAS: I've tried everything from playing a lot on clay to not playing quite as
much. This year I'm not sure what I'm doing, to be honest with you (laughter). Monte-Carlo
is out because I'm playing Davis Cup, playing Hamburg, World Team Cup. Before that, I
might play an event in Orlando or might go to Rome. I don't know at this point. Davis Cup
certainly puts a loop in it all. I've committed to playing all year. I need to play enough
on clay to be in match shape and not play too much to burn myself out. That's kind of
where I'm at at this stage.
Q. Jim Courier talked yesterday about this being the golden twilight for a certain
period of American tennis, he mentioned Chang and you and Agassi. He said, "Hopefully
we'll be around competitively a few more years, but it's the enjoy-it-while-you-can time
of our careers." Can you comment on that? Do you agree?
PETE SAMPRAS: Sure, I agree. Jim and I and Andre and Michael grew up playing against
each other through the Juniors. We've accomplished a lot in our own careers. We're all
getting up there in age, closer to 30. That's when tennis players historically, that's it,
you know (laughter). Some players. It is a time to enjoy it. I'm not saying we didn't
enjoy it through the years, but you get to appreciate a little bit more your career and
what you've done. But someone like Jim who has been No. 1, has won four majors, he can sit
back, go out and play and not feel the pressure he felt when he was 1 in the world and
enjoy it. I obviously still want to be on top of the game for many, many years. As long as
I'm playing, I want to play at the highest level. But we've all used each other to get
better. I mean, you're so competitive. I remember Michael won the first major, then Jim,
then Andre, then me. We all kind of had each other to make each other better players. Now
Jim and Michael aren't quite on the top of the game, but they've had great careers.
Q. How is your back feeling now?
PETE SAMPRAS: It feels pretty good. I still have my good days and bad days with my
disc; something I'm going to have to live with for the remainder of my career is my disc
problem. Just got to do the things as far as preparing and doing the therapy and
maintaining the strength around my back.
Q. Jim says he kind of runs a frat house for all these Juniors coming up and has them
come up and practice and whatever. Do you do anything like that with maybe some of the
Juniors out in California?
PETE SAMPRAS: Uh-huh. I hit some with Kevin King and Phillip King, the two young
players coming up that are playing the Satellites. I hit with them quite a bit at my
house. Certainly after the generation of players I've been talking about, American tennis
is a little bit thin. But it might be 10 or 20 years before you might see a group of guys
like what we just have in today's game. But for me to hit with those guys, certainly it's
a thrill for them. Anything I can do to help out their games is something I'm willing to
Q. I think those of us long in the tooth remember when Jimmy and John McEnroe were
coming to the end of their careers. Again, the feeling of: Where is the next generation?
The four of you burst on the scene. Do you see in the people you're hitting with, Andy
Roddick, a bright future, a next group coming through?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I haven't seen Roddick play, but I've heard some good things.
Knowing the American media and the American public, if you're not No. 1, you're not quite
good enough. It's true, unless you're winning Slams, you know. It's hard to say where
those players are going to go. The game, if you look at it, you look at some of the
Australians, Europeans, South Americans, I think those are the guys going to be dominating
the game in five, ten years' time.
Q. According to the tournament, this is an unprecedented day in men's tennis, top 13
seeds are playing. Comment on that and what do you think it would be like to be a fan here
PETE SAMPRAS: Early on in tournaments like this tournament we have here, it's great for
the fans. They can go out and watch all the top guys play in the world. You've got myself
on stadium, Kuerten playing on Court 1, Henman playing out there. To see these players up
close and personal is a thrill. It's a great day for Juniors and for just fans in general
just to walk around the site and check it out. It just goes to show that the tour is doing
a good job with their new format as far as getting all the players to play the same
events. It's one thing that's going to help this game.
Q. Do you support that, by the way?
PETE SAMPRAS: What?
Q. The change, the new format.
PETE SAMPRAS: I do. The ranking is more of a race, a lot easier to understand. You
know, they're certainly taking the game to a direction I'm not sure I'm going in that same
direction. I mean, I'm not playing all the nine. I'm doing whatever I can to get my best
chance to do well at the majors. That's where I'm at right now in my tennis. I certainly
like what's going on. You have ISL, which is a big company, trying to market the sport,
trying to get the sport more popular in this country. I like it. I mean, we'll see how the
next four or five months go with how the rankings fall through and how it turns out. I
like the effort, it's definitely there.
Q. How does your disc problem affect your play or game at all, your time on the court,
how does it affect you off the court? How has it made your life different since it
PETE SAMPRAS: Just being more disciplined with my body, you know. I mean, it was a
serious injury. It's still herniated. Sometimes I wake up and it's a little stiff. I just
have to prepare my matches and my practices from stretching and keeping it warmed up. If
anything, it woke me up to being a little bit more disciplined to my body and listen to my
body. But for my everyday life, it doesn't affect me. It's just when I practice. I might
come up a little bit stiff if it's a little cold. Just got to be careful.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.