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August 12, 1999

Pete Sampras


ATP: Questions for Pete.

Q. How did you feel out there today? Too hot?

PETE SAMPRAS: It wasn't that hot. Humid more than anything. I felt pretty good. Even though I got off to a tough start, I was hitting the ball pretty well. You know, I played with him a couple days ago. He's got a great game. He serves well, backs it up with groundies, moves well. He's beaten good players to get to this point. Kind of raised my level when I had to in the first set. It was good tennis. I felt like I was putting the pressure on him, I was doing a lot of chipping and charging. Even though I was not that successful, I think he was feeling the pressure a little bit. I played a good breaker. Pretty well sums it up.

Q. Do you ever lose your confidence in a match when you're down against a player of his ranking?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't look at the ranking. You know, I look at how he's playing, who he's beaten. He beat Larsson yesterday, who is a great player. Still, it was an early break. I felt I wasn't finding my range early on in the match. I knew eventually I was going to come around, and even though if I would have lost the first set, I still felt like, you know, there's no reason to panic getting down a break. Just kind of tighten up your tennis. I was making some loose errors in the beginning. I just managed, like I say, to get hot at the right time, at the end of the first set, then played a good breaker.

Q. About practicing with him, did you kind of know from the draw that you might end up playing him, you kind of wanted to see what his game was like?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I didn't even really look that far ahead. I just happened to hit with him. In some ways, it probably worked to my advantage, to see what he liked. I've seen him play a little bit over the year, but it's always a little different when you get on the court with him. I knew what to expect, he was going to stay back, he moves well, returns pretty well. I kind of knew what to expect.

Q. Did you ever do that before, practice with a player a couple days before you had to play him?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, not really.

Q. On TV you talked about maybe skipping the Australian, your schedule. Might you skip Hannover earlier as an alternative?

PETE SAMPRAS: That's really hard to answer at this point. You know, I like to give myself some time off. With the schedule, Australia starting so early, I haven't made any final decisions on what I'm going to do. You know, it's a tough situation. It's a tough schedule. I don't know what my plans are going to be. I'll just see how the next couple weeks go, especially at the US Open. At the end of the year, I plan on playing in Europe. Australia, I'd like to play. I'll just kind of see how it feels.

Q. Obviously there's the factor of Hannover, the factor of Australian Open, the factor of Davis Cup. Do you and Paul hash that out?

PETE SAMPRAS: How does it work? I sit down with Paul, just kind of have a heart-to-heart with him on my goals, what I want to achieve next year, playing Davis Cup, Super 9. It's something I'm just going to have to figure out over the next three or four months. I'm not making any decision at this point. You know, we'll see how these next three or four months go with my game. When I have some time off, I'll do some serious thought on where I'm going to go.

Q. Does your result at the US Open, like if you win that, do you think that would be a factor?

PETE SAMPRAS: As far as next year?

Q. Yes.

PETE SAMPRAS: No, no. Next year is really a question of my commitment to Davis Cup and the Super 9. It's just something I'm going to have to figure out. I'm not sure I can do both. It's one or the other. To play Davis Cup, you're certainly giving up your ranking a little bit. But I'll figure it out.

Q. If Tom is not the captain, would you still play?

PETE SAMPRAS: If someone also was named, I would play.

Q. Could be Richard Krajicek next.

PETE SAMPRAS: I thought you meant as captain (laughter).

Q. This guy has given you trouble. How do you look at that?

PETE SAMPRAS: The court here is playing pretty quick. Richard, with his serve, his game, he's going to be very, very tough to break. No question, he has my number, you know. These past three or four times, he's beaten me pretty convincingly. I feel like I'm playing well. I feel like I'm doing the right things. It's just a question of trying to get the serve back. He serves so big that he puts a lot of pressure on your service game. You feel if you miss a couple volleys or something, that could be the first set. He is a very tough guy to break. When he gets hot, he's one of the more dangerous players out there.

Q. Is this a nice birthday present? How do you celebrate?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, what am I doing tonight? You tell me, what should I do in Cincinnati (laughter)? Go the to the Waffle House, which I've been at.

Q. What did you have?

PETE SAMPRAS: Waffles (laughter). No, I mean, tonight I'll have dinner, pretty low-key. I play tomorrow. Really can't go out and liven it up.

Q. When you show up at the Waffle House, do they know who you are?

PETE SAMPRAS: Took them awhile to figure it out. It's a great place.

Q. You and the truckers, right?


Q. If you had no obligations to the Tour or any sponsors or anything else, how many tournaments would you have to play to play the way you did at Wimbledon?

PETE SAMPRAS: One (laughter).

Q. You would just have to play Wimbledon? I'm saying, how many tournaments would you have to play to get ready to play the way you did at Wimbledon?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I mean, leading up to Wimbledon or the whole year?

Q. And the US Open, this time of year.

PETE SAMPRAS: If you look at the years, I wasn't playing much all the way through Queens. Queens, that's really the only preparation you have for Wimbledon, and the week before. To answer your question, I mean, for Wimbledon, all you have is two weeks. US Open, you definitely need to play more matches because the conditions, three-out-of-five, the heat, you need to be in good match shape. The schedule that I planned this year, LA, week off, Cincy, Indy, really makes sense. I wanted to play some, but not too much. That's why I decided not to play the Canadian. That's four weeks in a row. I feel that's too many weeks in a row to The Open. I opted not to play the Canadian Open. It's a good schedule, I mean, to have that week off last week.

Q. Theoretically, eight weeks?

PETE SAMPRAS: Eight weeks a year, no. What do you mean?

Q. If you count the weeks that you just talked about, that would be eight weeks. How about the French?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think you're misinterpreting what I'm saying. You still play Indian Wells, Lipton, Rome. I'm still playing a lot. He's asking about Wimbledon.

Q. Well, to play that well in the tournaments that you want to win, you have certain goals.


Q. I think your outlook is to play tournament (inaudible).

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I play them because I want to play them, not because I have to.

Q. The last couple years, you've had some obvious goals. What kind of goals did you have when you were starting out? How far ahead did you look?

PETE SAMPRAS: As far as this year?

Q. No, before you won your first US Open.

PETE SAMPRAS: When I was 18, 19, I was trying to pay my bills, you know (laughter). At that point, I'm 17, 18, you're trying to make your mark. I was ranked 90 in the world. You're looking at all the points, prize money. You know, you walk in here to these press conferences, you feel insecure about your results or whatever. I never, ever thought this would happen. You know, fortunately I had a couple tough losses for me to realize how bad I wanted to be good at this game. But, no, I never thought this would ever happen.

Q. When did you realize, "I could set some records"?

PETE SAMPRAS: Like I said, probably the last couple years when I won my eighth and ninth major, I felt, "Okay, wow, this is a little ahead of schedule." I never, ever thought I would be in this position with all these majors. I look back on my career, I look at the '92 Open, the loss I had against Edberg was really the turning point for me mentally, how much that loss affected me. Up until that point, it was good enough getting to the finals. That match, ironically, such a tough loss, it was like, "Wow, I really hate to lose." That match showed me more than any match I played in my career.

Q. You seem to be the proof that you don't have to go to an academy to make a great tennis star. What was the advantage of your not doing that and do you think there was any disadvantage of you not going to an academy?

PETE SAMPRAS: For me, fortunately I was in LA. I had a lot of competition where I was living. You know, I was playing in tournaments against Michael Chang, Jeff Tarango, Agassi. I had great competition just where I was living. For someone that lives in maybe a place where the competition isn't that good, it makes sense to go to a Bollettieri or Saddle Brook to get some instruction. I had coaches when I was growing up. I was living in the right place. But someone that lives wherever you may be, it makes sense to go to an academy.

Q. Do you think you would have liked that?


Q. On your 28th birthday, Pete, are you as good as ever and how much longer can you win Grand Slams, be No. 1, et cetera?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I feel that I can -- I don't know (laughter). I feel I can do this for a little while longer. It's hard to say how long I'm going to play the game. As long as I'm enjoying it, as long as I feel I can win Majors, I'm going to continue to play. But the competition is getting tougher. We all know that guys are getting stronger and younger. I feel like I have a pretty good frame of mind on what I want to do. You know, there's no reason to look ahead to next year, the years after that. I'm obviously pretty consumed with this week, US Open in a couple weeks' time. But I feel like with the right schedule, I can play this game for many years. The biggest concern for me is playing too much and burning myself out, and that's why I want to give myself a break, you know. That could really help out my career.

Q. After nine plus years of spending your birthday in Cincinnati, does it feel natural?

PETE SAMPRAS: Usually it's in Indy. It's a different week. Indy, Cincy, two hours away (laughter).

Q. Do you have any burning desire to win the French?

PETE SAMPRAS: Absolutely. I mean, it's the biggest challenge right now in my career is to try to win that. You know, the fact that I've won all these other Majors makes the French stand out that much more. These past couple years, I probably put too much pressure on myself to do well there, a little bit too consumed with the French and talking about it, thinking about it too much. I think now I just realize that I have to play it like I do all the other Majors, just go out and play my tennis and not worry about not winning the French, just go out and play the tennis I can play on clay. But I'm thinking of making it a point to not talk about it. You can ask me the question (laughter), but I just found myself this year in February thinking about the French already. You can't put that much weight on just one tournament.

Q. What continues to motivate you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's a challenge to win majors, it's a challenge to stay No. 1, seeing how long I can do it. The older you get, you've been on the Tour for many years, it can get a little monotonous at certain times the year. That's why my schedule is important. When I look at the next couple years, I want to know how much I want to play, where I want to play. That's important to me.

Q. Do you feel you drive yourself more now or is there more of a drive for you now?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the motivation and drive has always been there. It hasn't changed when I'm 28 or when I'm 20. I still want to play well. I still want to win. Through the years, I've had my months that I was a little content and didn't train as hard, but I know what I need to do, and that is to play enough, but not really play too much. That's important these next couple years.

End of FastScripts….

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