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March 14, 2000

Pete Sampras


GREG SHARKO: Pete moves into the second round, will play the winner of Gambill-Ferreira. About 35 degrees warmer from last week's match at Scottsdale. First question for Pete.

Q. Presumably you're fairly happy with that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, all things considered. Not having played many matches over the past five weeks, and Andrei, he's given me a lot of problems over the years. I have to be pleased the way things went. I hit the ball well, moved well, my body came up pretty good. It was a good night.

Q. How does your back feel now?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's good. It's good. Doesn't feel anything, so that's good.

Q. What did you have to do after leaving Scottsdale fitness-wise to get yourself back?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I went back to LA and just got some treatment for the next couple days. It was a slight strain; it wasn't anything serious. I just needed to take care of it now rather than playing through it and possibly making it worse. So for the next couple days, I just took treatment, got here Sunday, hit a few balls, just kind of casually hit a few balls the last couple days to get ready to play tonight. But it pulled up pretty good.

Q. Do you think after what you've been through with your back in the last year or so that you quite understandably have become a bit ultra-cautious?

PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, absolutely. What happened at The Open, I'll never forget that feeling. The back is a very serious injury, especially when you're dealing with a disc. My coach, Paul, has a ruptured disc. He deals with it every day of his life. I don't want to get it to that point. I want to take care of it, do all my exercises, do all my stretching, kind of be real careful and cautious with my back as far as making sure when I go out there it's warmed up and it's ready to go.

Q. Do you get concerned - may be not the right word - with Agassi going out early for two reasons: First of all, people love that big final match. You, too. Second of all as a Davis Cup teammate.

PETE SAMPRAS: It certainly is not a great start for the tournament. I mean, he's playing great all year. It definitely doesn't help. But first match out, you're always a little bit vulnerable. The conditions here are a little bit quick. The ball flies a little bit. I didn't see his match, but I'm surprised that he obviously lost. There's a long way to go before we get to the weekend. I haven't played much, so I'm not sure what's going to happen this week for me. It certainly would be a good way to start out the whole year and the Masters Series, with Andre and I playing in the final. There are too many good players to have that happen each week.

Q. Your greatest success has been on centre court Wimbledon, arguably the most intimate court of the Majors. How do you feel about a court like this and Ashe Stadium where there's so much room on all sides? Do you feel a little disconnected? A lack of intensity on these bigger courts?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, just a touch. I mean, this court reminds me a lot of the US Open court where the people are kind of far away versus Wimbledon, it's much more intimate. I kind of prefer that. You know, it's a beautiful stadium. Charlie's done a great job putting it all together. I enjoyed playing tonight. But to have the fans a little bit closer to the action is something I've always enjoyed over the years.

Q. Having played this event last year, one could have deduced that you were kind of spooked by playing in the desert. You were talking about the balls flying and everything.

PETE SAMPRAS: I always do.

Q. Would that be a fair surmise?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, yeah. The last I think four years I've only won --.


PETE SAMPRAS: -- 2-4, which is not very good. I've always kind of - the altitude - not the altitude, but the dry altitude, the ball seems to carry a little bit too much for me. The last couple of years I've struggled. This year it doesn't seem like it goes that quick. I played at night, which might be a little bit slower. I play tomorrow afternoon which might be a little bit quicker. I don't prefer really fast conditions out there. I prefer it a bit slower, have a little bit more time to play.

Q. You played at night last year, too, and lost.

PETE SAMPRAS: You're right (laughter). I just suck, right?

Q. Did you do anything to accommodate yourself to these conditions?

PETE SAMPRAS: Not really. You know, I've tried different strings, different tensions. You know, I'm not trying to complicate it here. Just trying to go out and play, come in a lot and hopefully I can win a few matches.

Q. Don't you think part of it's mental, given that you've won the tournament here twice?

PETE SAMPRAS: I wish it was. But once you get to a tournament and your first hit on the center court, you know how the ball is coming off the racquet. Unfortunately, the last couple years it hasn't clicked, I haven't played well. I don't think it's mental; it's the conditions. So, you know, it's over with. It's a new year, a new stadium, and hopefully some better luck.

Q. How has the new stadium been playing for you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the speed seems nice. You know, you can either stay back or come in. It's a fair court, fair conditions. You're going to see some good tennis this week.

Q. Any kind of major differences with conditions last year at the old place?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the conditions are pretty similar, just the surroundings are obviously different. With the new court, new setup, new locker room, it brings a whole new feel to the tournament.

Q. Was there any point where you thought Medvedev might give you trouble, being a first round match and all that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure, sure. I mean, I think he has a winning record on me. He's beat me on clay most of the time. He has the confidence that he can beat me. But I feel like I've been hitting the ball okay, and I played well tonight. I knew it wasn't an easy match tonight. I had to work hard, hit some good shots, served well, did the things I had to do to escape, but he's always played me very tough.

Q. Do you kind of wonder how come they keep going to build these stadiums bigger, when oftentimes there's empty seats? Even when it's crowded, there's pockets. Why not have it a sought-after ticket and have you be lucky if you get one. Even at The Open, there's tons of empties all the time. Do you see any reason for bigger stadiums or do you think the intimate ones should kind of prevail?

PETE SAMPRAS: Like I said before, I tend to like much more intimate settings when I play. It's spread out, you do see pockets where you don't see people. It doesn't look great on the TV when you see open spaces out there. But certainly it's a financial situation where they want to sell a lot of tickets. I'm sure they have sold out the weekend here. It's a beautiful stadium. I think they did a great job putting it all together. But it's the sign of the times. Today bigger is better. Certainly in the US that's happened.

Q. We heard there was a meditation room in the locker room for players who wanted to focus before the matches. Did you try it?

PETE SAMPRAS: I didn't hear about that.

Q. Charlie told me that.

GREG SHARKO: A room all by yourself.


Q. It's supposed to be like the waiting room at Wimbledon.

PETE SAMPRAS: There is a waiting room downstairs.

Q. One for each player instead of two together.


Q. Are you living here --?

PETE SAMPRAS: Los Angeles.

Q. -- Or Florida?


Q. I think that you last year wanted to play some golf here, that might be the reason why you lost early.

PETE SAMPRAS: We're going to sit here and talk about last year (laughter).

Q. Who is a better golfer, Matt Damon or you?

PETE SAMPRAS: I haven't seen Matt play.

Q. Something like for the Gullikson Foundation.

PETE SAMPRAS: What's that?

Q. Who is the better golfer?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know. I haven't seen him play. I'm sure I would be.

GREG SHARKO: He wasn't in your foursome?

PETE SAMPRAS: He wasn't in the foursome.

Q. You're known for your leaping overhead. Tonight, you had a lot of sweet half volleys and dropshots, touch shots. Do those kind of touch shots give you particular pleasure? Do you like pulling those off?

PETE SAMPRAS: When you make them (laughter). But it's all instinct and reaction at that point. Certainly the crowd loves it, you want to win the point. You do whatever it takes to win the point. Sometimes you have to pull a shot like that off. Tonight I hit a couple that surprised me, a couple drop volleys that I didn't think I could hit, especially without having played much tennis. It was a good touch night.

Q. Unless you did one the two games I missed, no slam-dunks. Have they been banned for a while?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, no, it's definitely there if need be.

Q. Can you talk a little about playing Wayne, I think he's winning now.

GREG SHARKO: It's a tiebreak.

PETE SAMPRAS: I guess we can't talk about it (laughter). I played Wayne last year in LA, finally beat him. He's got a winning record, I believe, against me.


PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know (laughter). It sounds good. He'll be tough to beat.

Q. What is it about his game that kind of gives you trouble?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, his durability, all-court game, he can stay back-court, come in, you know, he's got all the shots. Mentally Wayne against me, he always seems to be pretty positive. He has a tendency to get negative at times, but he will come out with nothing to lose and swinging away. It won't be an easy match.

Q. Could you clarify something. If you're fit, are you going to play all the Tennis Masters Series events this year?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm not planning on it, no.

Q. Were you a little surprised, I think your racquet went for $50,000? Does that astonish you?

PETE SAMPRAS: It was very flattering.

Q. How many racquets do you play with at The Open?

PETE SAMPRAS: What do you mean?

Q. I thought it was --?

PETE SAMPRAS: It was from the '90 Open.

Q. The winning racquet from the '90 Open?

PETE SAMPRAS: First Slam. A couple from England that was from some Lord Mayor, someone with a lot of money.

Q. How much did you think it would go for? Did you have any idea in your mind?

PETE SAMPRAS: Just over the years, they've gone for five to ten grand. 50 is really out of this world.

Q. How many of those racquets do you keep? Do you keep your racquets from every Slam you won?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I'll just start doing that. If I ever break the record, I'll keep that racquet.

Q. Not even from, say, first Wimbledon?

PETE SAMPRAS: (Shaking head.)

Q. Will you keep your racquet from tonight?

PETE SAMPRAS: I keep the trophies.

Q. The last trophy, Wimbledon, you gave to the Nike CEO.

PETE SAMPRAS: He gave me a building, so I figured I'd give him a trophy (laughter).

Q. If you're looking to play eight or seven of the nine, what's your thought on the ranking impact? Does that enter into your mind? You're thinking more about the Slams?

PETE SAMPRAS: I base my year around the Majors. I'm going to try to give myself every chance possible to do well at those tournaments. Sure, I'd love to get back to No. 1 and try to finish No. 1. I feel like I've done that in my career. It's not so much a priority. You know, playing Davis Cup this year, I kind of told myself the ranking I'm just going to let go. Not playing all the Super 9, the Masters Series, I'm going to have to win Wimbledon, The Open, a couple Majors, to finish No. 1, which is what I'm going to have to do.

Q. What is your buildup into the French this year?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm playing World Team Cup in Hamburg.

Q. No Rome, no Monte-Carlo?

PETE SAMPRAS: No Monte-Carlo. Rome is up in the air. Possibly Orlando. Still trying to figure that out, see how the next three weeks ago.

Q. Is that enough?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I'll get plenty of matches. That's why I'll probably play Orlando, see if I can win a few matches there, go to Hamburg, Dusseldorf. I'm guaranteed three good matches. I hope it is enough. I mean, I hope I can break through and play okay there.

Q. Hamburg because it's a week later?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. It just makes sense with the schedule. Hamburg is probably the toughest clay to play on. If you can play on there, you can go to the French and it's a pleasure to play there.

Q. Do you still maintain a place in Orlando?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm out of Florida. I'm an alien resident, paying my California taxes.

Q. What is the better bet, Lakers winning the NBA title or your winning Wimbledon?

PETE SAMPRAS: The Lakers have won 19 in a row. They haven't won a championship in a while. I'll let Bill Dwyre answer that because he knows more than I do.

BILL DWYRE: Better odds he wins Wimbledon. Lakers have Miami, New York, back to back.

Q. We saw you in the tunnel doing wind sprints before the match. Is that part of your regular routine before a match?

PETE SAMPRAS: It is now.

Q. What was going through your mind?

PETE SAMPRAS: I want to make sure when I go out I'm warmed up. When I move, I move explosively. If my body is not ready for it, like it wasn't in Australia playing Andre, I'm going to pull a muscle. I'm making an effort each time I go out on the court that I do a sprint, I'm warmed up, sweated, ready to go. I've had too many serious injuries over the past six months to really make it an effort to make sure I'm warmed up.

Q. In your first set Andrei didn't have any unforced errors, there were no break opportunities. What happened in the last game?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm not sure exactly what happened. I don't know what even happened. I just know I won the set.

End of FastScripts….

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