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July 12, 1999

Pete Sampras


Q. How does it feel to be wearing that uniform again, Pete?

PETE SAMPRAS: It feels good. It's been a while. It's been since Sweden a couple years ago since I've worn this. I'm glad I'm part of the team this year, and I'm certainly looking forward to a good time.

Q. To what do you contribute the level of interest in this tie?

PETE SAMPRAS: I can just tell you from the buzz around tennis, especially in the U.S., it's been very supportive. It didn't take too long to sell these tickets, something like 80 minutes. You have to know this tie is huge, from as far as the tie being 100 years this week, playing Australia, playing Rafter, who's one of the better players in the world. It's got the ingredients for some exciting, good times.

Q. How difficult has it been, Pete, or has it been difficult for you at all to join the team this year?

PETE SAMPRAS: I was very sensitive about being a part of this team this year. To be honest, what Jim and Todd did in England was an inspiration to myself, and it really gave me time to sit back and look at my year, what I wanted to be a part of. And when I decided to be part of the team, I was sensitive to how they would feel about me playing. So I had some conversations with Tom and Jim and Todd about me just playing doubles here, and they really didn't have a problem with it. And I've committed to the year. The last thing I want to do is jump on the bandwagon. That's why I've decided just to play doubles here, and that's kind of how it all worked out.

Q. Is there a chance you would play singles?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, like I said for the past couple months, if Todd or Jim got hurt and they couldn't play, then I would play. But unless that happened, I don't think it's right; I don't think it's right that I play singles. I think those guys deserve to play singles and it's their show. I'm just happy to be a part of it.

Q. Even if Gully wanted you to?

PETE SAMPRAS: I told Tom when we talked about it a couple months ago, and even throughout the past couple weeks, how I felt. And I just didn't feel comfortable playing singles here, just because those guys showed the commitment to play the first round. They went over there and played an unbelievable tie. For me to hop on and play singles, I didn't feel was right. I would put myself in their shoes to see how I would feel. If we get through this tie, I showed the commitment by being here, then I'll play singles where we play our next round if we get through this match. Unless they get hurt, I just see myself playing doubles.

Q. If they asked you, Todd and Jim asked you to play singles, would you do that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's really hard to say. I mean, it's something that, like I just said, I'm not comfortable doing. I don't know if it's from a PR standpoint, but I just feel like I just want to show the commitment by being part of the team and committing to the rest of the year. Todd and Jim deserve to play singles. They played a great tie. And for me to just kind of want to hop on and play singles and carry the flag is something that I'm sensitive about, and that's why I decided not to play singles.

Q. As far as doubles, is Martin the only other guy on the team you have played doubles with before?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yes. And Jim. I played with Jim a couple years ago.

Q. Pete, when was the last time you did play a doubles match? Has it been a while?

PETE SAMPRAS: Queens Club. I had eight games with Becker. I'll practice this week, and I've played doubles at the Davis Cup before. So I'll get my groove into the doubles and hope to play some pretty good tennis this weekend.

Q. Is this something you feel confident about; that this week you'll be able to get ready for that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yes. Today was the first day I picked up a racket since Wimbledon. I practiced all week, played a lot of sets, returns and serves, got into that doubles frame of mind. I'm not used to playing with rest, so I'll get out there.

Q. (Inaudible)...

PETE SAMPRAS: It's slowly. I just played golf, hung out in L.A., just had some fun. I'm still riding that high. But it's time to get back to reality, start practicing and looking forward to the summer circuit and the U.S. Open coming up. But watching tape of that, I've really been surprised at how well I played. I didn't think I could play that well in that situation. It's like winning the Super Bowl; you're riding high for the next couple months.

Q. Why is it that you decided to play Davis Cup?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, this year, the first four or five months, I feel like I've been in a corkscrew with my career. What's important to me? Is it being No. 1? I'm just trying to figure it out the hard way. Not playing well this year and seeing what Jim and Todd did, they were in that atmosphere; that was the situation I wanted to be in. I want to be in that situation, with a crowd like that. That's what tennis is all about. I see myself being motivated for those situations rather than playing some of those other matches. Not only that, I'm not sure how much being No. 1 -- I feel like I've achieved that goal, and I've always said I can play Davis Cup. I'm not too overly concerned about being ranked No. 1. This year, it's going to be tough for me to do that. So that means all these situations kind of hit me earlier in the year when I wasn't playing well. I was feeling a little bit down on myself. It was a way to kind of get myself going and be a part of something with Jim and Todd and the rest of the guys. I'm glad I've decided to do it.

Q. Can you tell us literally what you were doing when you were watching that match?

PETE SAMPRAS: I was in Florida hitting on clay and getting ready for the clay court season. It wasn't live. I saw it on tape. And it was part of you; you know, you kind of miss it. You want to be a part of it, that situation. And the teamwork that they had throughout that week was, being on the outside looking in, it was a great moment for American tennis. And that's part of the reason why I'm here.

Q. How important is it for you, at the same time in your career, to win the French Open?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's the only thing left for me to try to win, and it's very important. I think the last couple years I probably put a little bit too much pressure on myself to win there. I felt it playing, especially this year. For the French next year, I just need to play it like I play all the Grand Slams. I don't overthink things like I do on clay. I need to prepare well, get in good shape and, hopefully, just play better and not overthink how I'm going to play on the clay and just play my tennis.

Q. Pete, there seems to be commentary that Andre, Jim, and yourself, you've mellowed a little bit. You're there for each other more. Is that reflected in your Davis Cup decision at all?

PETE SAMPRAS: Not really. I think Jim, myself, and Andre have been through a lot together. We respect each other's games and careers, and what we've gone through with jealousy and envy between the three of us. Now we're getting older in tennis years. We kind of look back and appreciate what Andre did at the French Open and what Jim did at Davis Cup. It was good for American tennis. So it's good for American tennis. It really is. We've been doing pretty well.

Q. Do you see American tennis making a bit of a comeback?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think a comeback. I think we've always been very strong, and one thing that concerns me is after myself and Andre and Todd and Jim are done, it's hard to see another group of guys like us. But Andre winning the French, Todd Martin had a great year, Jim having a good year, doing well at Davis Cup, is great for American tennis. So I wouldn't consider it a comeback. I think it was a matter of time before we all got our games back, and we had this year.

Q. Was tieing... (Inaudible)... Grand Slam Title significant for you?

PETE SAMPRAS: More significant. Obviously the record. But I think the occasion of playing Andre in the Finals at Wimbledon, just coming off the French, that kind of hit home more than the actual record. I think now the record is hitting me a little bit more. And to play the way I did, I think makes me feel great. I mean the record, if it happens, it happens. I'm not going to treat this U.S. Open any different than any other U.S. Open. And that's, over time, what I'll appreciate more. But the way I feel now, I have beat the best player in the world in Andre Agassi and played one of the best matches in my career.

Q. Do you prepare differently for Davis Cup than you would for other tournaments?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, no. I don't think you prepare any different. You practice hard and you do the right things and, no, I don't see any difference in preparation.

Q. Todd Martin just spoke to us. He said if it was for the good of the team, he would want to step aside. Do those kind of sentiments for those singles make you any more comfortable with the idea of playing singles?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, like I said a couple months ago when I called Tom originally about playing this tie, it was just to play doubles. I know Todd's a nice enough guy to step aside, but it's something I'm not comfortable doing. Unless Todd got hurt or Jim got hurt, I just feel like Jim and Todd deserve to play singles because they went over to England and won a great tie. And I've said all along these past couple months when I've been asked about it, that that is what I feel was best for me and the team. So it's kind of where we stand.

End of FastScripts....

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