August 14, 1999
Q. What did you like in this match?
PETE SAMPRAS: 6-All, net cord, that was really -- the key to the match was that first set. We are both -- I felt we both played about as well as we could on our service games. He didn't miss any first serves and just was hitting the ball clean didn't make any errors and just too strong. I couldn't have really a sniff on his service games. I felt like I was serving well. It comes down to the tiebreaker. When we are both playing that well, it is just a question of a couple of points. And 6-All, I came in on a good shot; got unlucky with the net cord and he got unlucky with the net cord. To beat Andre, you need a little bit of fortune and I got that in the first set. From then on, I just kind of elevated my game just a touch. I got the momentum on my side and I think maybe he got bit down on himself; started rushing things; before I had knew it, I was up 4-Love. That is when things kind of got a little interesting. I was playing kind of in a zone up to that point and I had a breakpoint and all of a sudden it is 4-1, doublefaulted three times in a row, as we know. The whole match just kind of changed its complexion within five minutes. You just can't afford to lose concentration against Andre. He can get hot and returns too well to play a game like that. But 4-3, it was kind of time to regain my composure and settle down and take your time. I felt like up until that point I was rushing a little bit, on those doubles, and I played some good serves when I had to, especially when I served for the match.
Q. During that changeover when you sat down, did you talk to yourself?
PETE SAMPRAS: At 4-3?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, at that point you are not really -- you just want to take your time. When you start looking 4-Love, two breaks, that is a good lead for me. It is hard to -- you just got to settle down at that point and just take your time and that's really what I was telling myself just to really play at my pace. And like I said, you just can't afford to play loose shots against Andre. He just returns too well and the crowd was getting behind him a little bit. The last thing I wanted to do was play another tiebreaker, or start struggling a little bit - you just can't afford to lose your concentration like I did.
Q. At the same time you still felt in control?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I was still up a set and break; I felt like I was -- you know when you doublefault three times in a row you lose a little confidence. You are like -- you start pressing a little bit and start thinking about what just happened. You just got to trust -- kind of trust yourself and believe in yourself that you are going to come through. That is what I was thinking. I was just: Okay, I am still up a break, I have been holding on serve pretty well throughout the match; just get my serve in and make him beat me; instead of just giving it to him.
Q. Prior to that when you were in that zone, you seemed like you were shaking your head --
PETE SAMPRAS: When you are up a set and two breaks everything I was trying was going in and I have a game every now and again I can get hot and at 4-Love I just kind of went for it and a set and two breaks, you just can have some fun. I had that breakpoint and had a Love-30 drop shot that I missed. But 4-1, that is when everything kind of turned. It wasn't a good game. I just flat out just lost it a little bit.
Q. Quality-wise compared to L.A. And Wimbledon, how would you rate it?
PETE SAMPRAS: Wimbledon is different because obviously it is on grass which helps out my game a little bit more than his. .
But L.A. was similar to this. We both were holding on to serve very easily; came down to a tiebreaker in the first set. The difference today, I think last -- couple of weeks ago in L.A. he was kind of still playing well and making me work very hard on my service games. Today I think he got a touch frustrated in the second and I saw that. I saw him kind of get a little frustrated and that is when it is time to elevate it a little bit and I did that. But the quality of tennis was as high as it could ever be for me. I mean, in the first set I was -- we are both hitting the ball so hard. He didn't make any errors in the first set. Seemed like he was hitting the ball as clean as I have ever played. Just goes to show that he definitely brings out the best in me and I have said that throughout my career and I will say it today, he is hits the ball as hard and as consistent as anyone I have played throughout my career.
Q. Do you think that you got a little bit motivated by him winning the French, did that bring out the best in you with that --
PETE SAMPRAS: People talk about that getting me to play well at Wimbledon and I don't need motivation for me to play well at Wimbledon. If Andre is playing or not playing, I feel like that is our Superbowl. But with being said to play him in the Finals and see him play well again and play him a couple of weeks in L.A., it is a certain -- I feel a certain buzz with the rivalry kind of kicking up through the media and through the people here in Cincinnati. And it is good for tennis and America to have us two competing and going at it like we have been the past couple of months. There is no question that he brings out people that really don't follow tennis. He is a very popular athlete all-around the world and certainly has made me a better player through the years. He forces me to add things to my game and that is the respect I have for him.
Q. You said before L.A. (inaudible) good for you guys to be playing every week. Could it be that you are going to start playing him more?
PETE SAMPRAS: When we are both playing well, there is a good chance we will meet each other in the later rounds. But with that being said, there is a lot of competition and it is not just going to be Andre and I for the next couple of years dominating the game. The game is just too strong and, you know, you go down the ranking look at Pat Rafter and Kafelnikov is playing great. So it will be interesting to see how the rest of this year plays out and the rest of our careers play out. But he seemed like he is playing well and he is committed to the game and it is good to see it. It is good for me. It is good for the game and definitely brings out a certain buzz into the sport.
Q. Are you also feeling good about playing Rafter since he won the last two Opens (inaudible) --
PETE SAMPRAS: I think by the time the Open comes around these tournaments will kind of be in the history books so to speak. But sure, I mean, he has given me some problems the last couple of times and probably the best serve and volleyer we have on the Tour right now. Obviously plays well here at Cincinnati so it is not like I am trying to get even to him, I am looking forward to a good match.
Q. Going into the Open you sort of got some good wins; now you will be playing Rafter, would that give you an advantage?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, not necessarily. Like I said, by the time the Open comes around it helps going into the Open playing well and beating the top players. It just -- it helps your confidence. It gives you a little intimidation when you go out and play him. But I hate using the cliche each day is a new day, just because I am playing great now doesn't mean I am going to play great at the Open. Certain wave of peaking at the right time and right now I am at pretty high peak. So the question is trying to maintain it, playing next week and having a week off to kind of come back down to earth a little bit and get ready for the Open. But it helps the whole intimidation that the guys know I am playing well and -- obviously I talk a lot about the Slams and how important they are to me. But doing well at L.A. and here definitely helps.
Q. Queens was the first tournament where you started playing very well again-- (inaudible)
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, like I said, every year I lose to the French. Only positive is that you have an opportunity in a couple of weeks to do well at Wimbledon. Queens I just -- I went home after the French and I was probably as low as I have ever been personally and professionally, just the whole year and had some heart to hearts with Paul and really tried to look at Queens and the rest of this year as a new beginning. And mentally it was a time to kind of regroup and to show my true character. When things aren't going well, that is the time to really show what you have. Doing well at Queens and then -- ever since then I have been on a very good roll, but you are not going to play well every month on the Tour and up until Queens I wasn't playing well, plain and simple. Queens and Wimbledon, obviously was a huge confidence to leading into the summer.
Q. Can you talk about should play Kafelnikov?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I had pretty good results against Yevgeny, he has got all the tools. He returns well, serves well, he has got great imagination around the court. He is -- his confidence just getting to the final last week, going to be a good match tonight. It is really anyone's ballgame tonight. But I have always felt that he has got a great game all around. Doesn't have any holes in his game. It will be a good -- another good test to see how I do tomorrow.
PETE SAMPRAS: Losing to Richard the last couple of times, but there is still -- the motivation is I am playing a top guy; I am playing the defending US Open Champion. That is enough motivation for me to do well. But Richard beating me four times is quite a statement; not saying Pat hasn't made a statement. He has done great against me the last couple of times, but I am looking forward to it. Hopefully it will be a good final.
Q. You said many times that what counts mostly as far as rankings at the end of the year and at this stage is that important for you to even --
PETE SAMPRAS: Do it?
Q. Yeah, do it. Do you think of like at the end of this week you might be --
PETE SAMPRAS: It kind of dawned on me after winning Wimbledon I went to three in the world. It is the way -- it can work, but, you know, it is -- I am really to the point where I have felt I have been No. 1 for a very long time and I can sit here, having played more tennis this year, Australia, Montreal, just a matter of kind of really all the tournaments that you play you need to play a lot. But this year I have kind of told myself I am not going to play anymore than I have to; I am just going to -- not do what did I last year. Last year was the year where I was consumed with my ranking. This year I am really not. I'd love to finish No. 1, I would be lying to you if I didn't say that. But I am not going to stress it out like I did last year playing seven weeks in Europe like I did last year. I am to the point where obviously the Majors is it for me. No. 1, it is great, don't get me wrong, I have appreciated it every year that I have done that. But it takes its toll over the years. These next couple of years it could be time for someone else to carry the torch for a while and deal with what I have dealt with throughout my career. So whoever that maybe, I mean, I will still be around competing at the top.
Q. Talk about getting that confidence back after --
PETE SAMPRAS: It was -- I think it all happened last year here, I lost a tough match, I said a few things and when you lose a tough match and you are a little emotional, I regretted some of the things I said. I have always respected Pat as a competitor, as a person, he is a standup guy. I think the media and in some way tried to twist and turn some things he said around to make it seem like we don't like each other; which is not the case. Pat is a standup guy. He called me the week of L.A. to kind of really clear the air of what has been happening. That is the best thing, we don't want to communicate through the press. We want to talk in the locker room and on the phone and it has really been fine.
Q. Did you like that he called you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I was doing a press conference in L.A. and this Australian guy trying to stir something up kind of said a few things and I was a little surprised, but I don't think Pat is not that type of guy. He really isn't. I mean, he is one of the nicer guys on Tour. And to call me was definitely a lot of class.
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