March 20, 1999
KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA
GREG SHARKO: First question for Pete.
Q. Other than a couple of wayward second serves, pretty hard to find any rust in that performance out there today. Are you happy about it?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yes, I was very pleased. When I saw the draw, the chances of playing Jim were pretty good, it's a very tough first round match. But I was obviously very eager and very focused today. I served quite well, did what I had to do to win. For my first match out, I've got to be very pleased the way things went today.
Q. In a sense, does just having him on the other side sharpen your reflexes a bit?
PETE SAMPRAS: It does. Jim and I have been competitors since I was 16. Whenever I see him across the net, I don't care if he's ranked 5 in the world or 60 in the world, he still plays me very tough. We've gotten to know each other quite well over the years. We know each other's games so well. I've had pretty good results against Jim over the years. Today, your first match out, you're not quite sure how you're going to be playing, but I thought I played quite well.
Q. For those of us who haven't seen you since Hannover, how have the last couple of months been? Are you happy with your decision about Australia?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yes.
Q. Happy where you are at the moment?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I was happy with my decision not going down. I really felt like I needed to take a break from the game. At the pace I was going end of last year, if I would have went to Australia, I think it would have set me back quite a ways. I got hurt in San Jose, didn't play too well in Scottsdale, Palm Springs. Can't seem to get my game going in the desert. But I feel fresh. I feel eager. I've been practicing quite well. I'm enjoying my practices. I'm very positive. I'm looking forward to a good year.
Q. Andre was in a little earlier this afternoon, informed us that George Fareed had been fired by the USTA, shall we say let go, whatever the USTA wants to call it. Were you aware of that? Incidentally, he said he would never, ever again play Davis Cup because of the fact that George was removed from his position.
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, this is the first I've heard of it. You're telling me. I know George quite well. I know George and Andre are very good friends. I don't have much to say because I don't know anything about it.
Q. Tom and Furman were just upstairs corroborating that, Andre said he was fired. He said that was greatly overstated, which is a way of saying they phased him out because he didn't meet certain credentials, they had new credentials they wanted for the job. Would you feel as strongly about him leaving as Andre does?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I've known George for many years. He's one of the nicest people I've met in tennis. It's not really my business who should be the doctor. I give my input. I like George. He seemed very knowledgeable. I'm very surprised, I'm very shocked to hear he was let go.
Q. Have you ever had any bad medical advice or treatment from him?
PETE SAMPRAS: No.
Q. You're young right now, the No. 1 pretty much player in the world. Can you picture yourself living in South Florida someday, old and gray, retiring, playing golf?
PETE SAMPRAS: No, not really. I'm an LA boy. That's where I was raised. I just bought a home there. I don't really see myself moving down in this area.
Q. Is South Florida a special place for you?
PETE SAMPRAS: I love it. I stay at Fisher Island, which is a beautiful island to be on. The weather is always very nice. South Beach is quite a scene. I enjoy coming here.
Q. Do you think it's likely that you may reconsider your Davis Cup position and be persuaded to come over to Britain?
PETE SAMPRAS: No.
Q. Does the news that you've just learned pretty much immediately, does that have any bearing on your thoughts towards Davis Cup?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. Good answers, huh (laughter)? Nothing wrong with being honest.
Q. Your side of the draw is maybe the toughest, with Safin in there, tomorrow Haas. Do you see this as the most challenging Lipton you've had in quite awhile?
PETE SAMPRAS: Not necessarily. I'm sure there are tough draws, some open draws. The way I look at it, if I'm playing well, if I play like I did today, I don't mind playing anyone. Second round, final, doesn't really matter to me. If my game is on, I feel like I'm tough to beat. All these guys can play. All these guys can play in today's game. Today was a good start.
Q. At this stage of the year, if you had a single priority, what would it be?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, as soon as this event is over, I'm straight to the clay courts. I'm considering maybe taking a wildcard in Barcelona to play a little bit more on clay. I haven't played many matches this year. I'm scheduled to play Monte-Carlo. I'll take a little time off after this and start training, start getting in good shape, getting on the clay courts. That's really my next goal.
Q. Is that a roundabout way of saying the French?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yes. The French is obviously the next major we have. I've talked enough about how important that tournament is to me. I just feel like I need to get in good shape. The time off that I had at the end of the year and beginning of this year was great. I had time to do some training, get into the gym. Hopefully that will pay off.
Q. How does it feel to have a chance to play against your old friend Boris Becker, the possibility of facing him?
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't even know where he is in the draw. If I play him, that's great. I've always enjoyed my matches with Boris. He definitely brings out the best in me. We have a ways to go until that happens.
Q. You've tried so many ways to approach the French Open. You've gone over early, late, played more clay tournaments, fewer clay tournaments. What's the plan this year?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the key for the French, you don't want to overplay yourself. You don't want to play too much on clay. Obviously you want to play enough matches where you're in shape. I'll for sure play Monte-Carlo, for sure play Rome, for sure playing the World Team Cup. That should give me some matches. World Team Cup, I'm guaranteed three good matches. The best I've ever done at the French, I didn't play on clay, I went there and got to the semis. I think a lot of guys play so much on clay leading up to the French, by the time the French comes around, they're a little flat. The key for me is playing enough to be in good shape, be in clay-court shape, but not playing too much. It's kind of a fine line that I've had to deal with over the years.
Q. How important is it to play the week before the French?
PETE SAMPRAS: I've tried different things. Last year I was in Paris for the whole week. I think I was there for too long before the tournament. This year I'm playing Dusseldorf. I'm guaranteed extremely good matches against top guys. I've tried different things. Hopefully, one year it will kind of come together. The best I've done, like I said, is I haven't played at all on clay. We'll see what happens this year.
Q. Ten years from now, is there any chance you'll want to take a crack at broadcasting, being in an NBC or CBS booth, being the henchman?
PETE SAMPRAS: You never know. McEnroe has kind of filled that job. He does a damn good, very good job of doing that. Once I'm done with the game, I see myself on a boat sailing the Pacific.
Q. Are you a member of a public radio station or, television station? Do you watch or listen to public radio or television?
PETE SAMPRAS: Not much. I watch Charlie Rose.
Q. He wants to know what you think about Carlos Moya?
PETE SAMPRAS: As a player?
PETE SAMPRAS: I mean, I think he's a very good player. Not only can he play on clay, he plays well on all surfaces. He's had a good last year. But it's a whole new experience for him being No. 1. It's not easy to stay there. Seems like he's got a good head on his shoulders. He handles it pretty well. But it's a long year. A lot of guys could touch No. 1 this year. It comes down to the last day of the year.
Q. Can you tell from your practice sessions before a tournament how you're going to do?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. I mean, I've done well at tournaments practicing poorly. It depends on the day. The only thing you can do is practice hard and practice the way you're going to play. But once you get out in the atmosphere with people in the stands, more nervous, you just don't know. It's good to get this match under my belt. That's the one thing that I felt playing last week in Palm Springs a little out of sync. I haven't played many matches this year.
Q. How were your practice sessions here?
PETE SAMPRAS: Good, very good. I was disappointed with what happened in Palm Springs. After a couple of days, it's back to work, back on the practice court. I've been here for quite awhile. The harder you practice, the more you push, the better off you're going to be out there. I feel I've been hitting the ball well, but this was a good start.
Q. When you decided to take just a couple months off, did you sort of accept that it would take you a while to get back into the groove?
PETE SAMPRAS: I'm my biggest critic. When I -- I expect myself to win every event I play. After losing a couple matches, I was hard on myself. I feel like I should win every match I play. To be fair to myself, I'm not going to play at the level I was in Hannover, where I was playing great. It takes a little while to get your feet wet, get some matches under your belt, get into a rhythm. I was disappointed, but I felt I was still very positive and looking forward to a good week here.
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