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March 17, 2000

Pete Sampras


GREG SHARKO: Questions for Pete.

Q. Does it get a little difficult to keep trying to fight back each night from one set down?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, especially when you're not playing all that well, you can't keep escaping like I have, the last couple days. Thomas is at a pretty high level. I just couldn't really seem to find my game tonight from just about every aspect - my serve, forehand was kind of (inaudible) a little bit. He played well, served big. Didn't really feel like I was at the top of my game. There you have it. I played two horrendous service games, going for big seconds, missing them. Just kind of struggled all night. It's a tough one to swallow because I felt like I was playing a little bit better in the second. The third, I just kind of gave it to him a little bit.

Q. You were going for everything on your second serve. Was that because you couldn't kick it in?

PETE SAMPRAS: I've been struggling all week with my second. The ball's going a little bit further here than normal. You get a little bit tentative when the new balls come out. It flies a little bit more than usual. That's my best shot; kind of wasn't there tonight. Really hasn't been there all week. But even still, I still felt like I was hitting the ball well enough to maybe win this match. When you're not playing well, you can't expect to win every match you play. Tonight was a case of that.

Q. How do you see correcting that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Just practicing, getting back into it. You know, my first tournament in quite a while, I didn't expect to play to the highest level. Certainly, still being in the tournament, I felt my form was going to get better as the week went on. It just didn't happen tonight. Just kind of rebound from this and start practicing next week, get it ready for Miami.

Q. How do you assess the quality of your play where your game was by the end of this week?

PETE SAMPRAS: Very mediocre. I mean, just not playing -- I've been playing okay. I'm not playing great. If you want to continue to beat someone like Enqvist, you need to be playing a little bit better than okay. But I felt like in escaping some of these matches, I was going to find my game. It wasn't there tonight.

Q. What percentage of your game is your serve, what would you estimate?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's a big part of it. I mean, it helps out. My return of serve, if I'm serving well, winning a lot of Love games, I feel like I can hit the ball a bit better from the back court on the return of serve. When you're struggling, you know when it's there, you know when it's not; it wasn't there tonight.

Q. When the serve is good, everything else works?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. Everything is kind of based around my serve. These last couple matches, I haven't served great, but I've escaped on just kind of gutsing it out. Tonight it kind of caught up with me.

Q. This was a different player. You had two escapes, but from quite different players.

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. Thomas is a Top 10 player, has had a great year, last year. Not to take anything away from the guys I've beaten, he's at a much higher level. You need to be a little bit sharper. You play two horrendous service games, you can't lose your concentration at this level. I did that tonight. Just didn't play well enough.

Q. Can you recall double-faulting three times in a game before?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I can (laughter). In Rome I double-faulted a game away. Unfortunately, it's not the way you want to lose your serve, just giving it to him. Didn't have my fast ball tonight. That's for sure.

Q. Do you know when your concentration is leaving?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's not concentration, it's a little bit more of confidence.

Q. Can you feel it escaping, like air out of a tire?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, a little bit. I'm not really finding my range from the back court. You kind of go out a little bit on edge, not that comfortable playing. It's going to affect everything, including my serve. Just struggled tonight.

Q. Do you still feel you're playing better than last year at this time?

PETE SAMPRAS: Last year I lost in the first round, so I guess it's an improvement.

Q. Here, Lipton, in general?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's interesting, the last couple years I've struggled a little bit through this time of year. I was hoping I was going to break through here with the new stadium, I could exorcise the demons here, but didn't happen. I'm out of the tournament.

Q. When you have a horrendous service game like that, you start going for second serves. I don't quite understand why you do that. Is that a loss of concentration or are you doing it on purpose?

PETE SAMPRAS: On purpose. I'm going for big seconds. It's because I feel like I can. I feel like I've got the ability to hit the best second serve in the world. Might as well use it. Sometimes you miss them, and tonight I missed them.

End of FastScripts….

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