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March 10, 1999

Pete Sampras


MIKI SINGH: First question for Pete.

Q. Was that a classic case of lack of matchplay?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, yeah. Obviously, I haven't played many matches this year. It showed tonight. Just lacking a little bit of confidence out there. I started playing a little bit better in the second set. But as the match started, I didn't feel too comfortable out there. It was quite cold and pretty heavy. If I had a choice of playing at night or during the day against Felix, it would be during the day. That being said, I just struggled. I really didn't play well. This tournament has been a struggle for me for the past couple years now. Today I just couldn't get my game going. I really struggled with everything, my serve, to my groundstrokes. Just didn't have it tonight. I don't know if it's because I haven't played many matches. That's probably a good reason, but, you know, it's back to the practice courts and back to the drawing board, so to speak. I'm going to take this hard. I don't like, obviously, losing and playing the way I did tonight. It was a wake-up call.

Q. The second set, you started getting it going a little bit?

PETE SAMPRAS: I started getting my game going a little bit in the second set. You know, the conditions were quite heavy. I wasn't sure if I should come in or stay back or grind it out or play safe. Finally, got off to a break, and I started feeling a bit more comfortable. You know, one set all, he hit a couple good shots to break me. I lost a tough first set. I could have maybe squeaked that one out. I just couldn't get my game going. That's really the bottom line.

Q. Obviously, very despondent, which is understandable. When did you last feel like this after such a loss?

PETE SAMPRAS: Seems like after this tournament. Every year after this tournament. I love playing here, I love the tournament, I played well here, won here twice before. Just losing last year to Muster, losing tonight, that's not a low point, but it's not good for the confidence. Not having played many matches this year, you can't just really try to find your form, like last year playing Hannover where I was playing great. It's going to take some time, but I'm a pretty impatient guy. I want to win everything I play. You know, I'm here just scratching my head, just wondering what happened tonight.

Q. The conditions you said here were heavy tonight. Other times you said the ball tended to fly a lot. Are there extremes involved here?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you know, the last couple years, I just can't seem -- balls seem to be flying on me. Tonight was quite cold. I couldn't seem to put the ball away. I started overhitting, started pressing, started missing a lot of forehands. I really didn't get a rhythm on my serve. Sure, I mean, he likes me staying back and having these long rallies. During the day, it's a little bit quicker. But I've been practicing very well. I've been hitting the ball extremely well since I've been here. Go out and play matches, it's a completely different setup. You're a little bit more nervous. In the match, I feel a bit vulnerable. It's the first one out. It showed tonight.

Q. Pretty tricky getting involved in a baseline duel with a Spanish player?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. All the Spanish guys love it when I stay back, love when they control the middle of the court. I'm much better when I'm aggressive. But conditions tonight, it was tough to chip-and-charge, tough to come in. He had, it seemed like, a lot of time to pass me. You're out there, you're always going to do what makes you comfortable, what you always rely on. Usually over the years I figure out a way, and tonight I didn't.

Q. Obviously, there's a huge difference between practice and matches. But how have you been feeling the last few days coming in?

PETE SAMPRAS: Fine. I'm feeling great. I've been practicing very well, very motivated. I had a great break. I'm enjoying my tennis. But playing the way I did tonight, I didn't obviously enjoy it. It's not the way I wanted to play here. I really felt this was a good year for me to do well. I like the conditions. I think I'm going to find a new career, maybe be an actor or something, show a bit more personality.

Q. Speaking of which, there's talk that Kimberly is going to be appearing in London. Is that so in the spring?

PETE SAMPRAS: She's in London at the moment.

Q. Are you going to go over and see her and take in a bit of tennis while you're there maybe?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, there's a tournament called Wimbledon that I'll be at. That's in London. What are you getting at?

Q. Birmingham in April.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I've already made my decision. The fact that she's there, you know, it's not going to make me play. I heard Greg said something about that.

Q. He did.

PETE SAMPRAS: It's all rumors, you know. I've heard a lot of rumors about Greg.

Q. Tell us, please.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, there are many years that everyone thought he was Canadian, but .... (Laughter) We all know Greg, and we all know he's English. Rumors are rumors.

Q. So what's the answer in the end? Is it still no, as we've been told?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, it's still no.

Q. And it's going to remain no?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, yeah. I've made my decision. I've explained why. That's it.

Q. Were you aware of all the guys, with the exception of Moya, who had a chance to be No. 1 this week, falling before you played tonight, Rafter, Kafelnikov and Corretja?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure, I heard they lost. As far as the ranking is concerned, it's not the priority at the moment. If it was the priority, I would have gone down to Australia, I would have played some of these tournaments in Europe. It doesn't matter what you're ranked in February or March; it comes down to December. You could beat three or four guys that could possibly touch No. 1 sometime this year. But it's always been end-of-the-year goal for me. This is a good opportunity to gain a lot of points not having played well here last year.

Q. Do you think they might have been feeling the pressure a little bit?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, absolutely because Kafelnikov had a chance, they had chances this week. All these guys want to get there. The easy part is getting there; staying there is the tough part. Sure, I mean, everyone feels the pressure, especially the guys that have yet to do it. But, like I said, the way the ranking system works, it's like a matter of timing. It's a computer and it's points. It doesn't mean because you're No. 1, you're the best player in the world. It comes down to the end of the year. You add them up, and there you have it. That's the true indication.

Q. You're a guy who has always enjoyed going for records and getting records. You are tantalizingly close to that Lendl record, aren't you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, sure. It's not why I'm playing this game, is for that record. Sure, it would be great to get the weeks, but it's going to happen eventually. I'm not going to be done with this game anytime soon. That's why I'm disappointed sitting here, because I had a chance to do well here this week and kind of separate myself from some of the other guys, and didn't do it. Don't get me wrong. Sure, it would be nice to - whatever the week number is, 270 - it's something that I'm not thinking about quite a lot, but something I'm hoping will happen one day.

Q. Late last year you talked about working with the guy from New Zealand.

PETE SAMPRAS: Australia.

Q. Are you working with him?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. Over my off time, December, January, and February, I was working quite a bit on my conditioning, spending a lot of time in the gym, on the weights, trying to get in the best possible shape. I feel like I'm in good shape; I just need to work on the tennis. I'm spending more time in LA now. I need someone there to push me and train me hard. He's definitely the man to do it. I feel like I'm very fit. It's just a matter of getting the confidence back in my game. Hopefully, I can do that by Lipton time.

Q. One of the reasons why you said you don't want to play Davis Cup is because it pretty much tires you out, it's a heavy schedule. But you lost early here, then you'll have Lipton. Is there any possibility you might think, "I'll be pretty fresh in two and a half weeks, why not go over and play for the weekend"?

PETE SAMPRAS: Maybe I'll get a message from God and He'll say, "Play Davis Cup." But I haven't spoken to Him recently. It doesn't make sense for me to play one round. If I'm going to play Davis Cup, it's to win the Cup. In order to win the Cup, you need to play all the matches. You pay a big price. The schedule of Davis Cup are tough weeks. It's the week after Wimbledon, second round. It's in December, the final, which is a huge round. To me, I feel like I can't stay No. 1 and play Davis Cup. I don't enjoy the criticism and the shots that people take at me over Davis Cup, but when my year is over, there's two things that I want, that's to try to finish No. 1 and win a Grand Slam. I feel playing Davis Cup really puts that in jeopardy. I wish people could understand that, that it's not a four-week commitment, it's an eight-week or 12-week commitment. You can't just -- it would really jeopardize some of my goals. I would love to play Davis Cup, I really would. If the ranking system was different or if they had better weeks, I'm there. But, unfortunately, it's not worth the sacrifice. I feel like if I play Davis Cup, it would really take a toll on me for the year. It's happened in the past. I played Davis Cup in the past, and it's really hurt me a lot physically and mentally. It's sets me back a little bit. I mean, I can talk all night about it. I'm not going to. It's something that maybe I'll play it much more in a couple years if my goals change, I want to be more a part of it. For right now, I want to continue this streak of ending the year at No. 1, and playing Davis Cup I think really hurts that chance.

Q. Does the Olympics fall into that same category? I know it's a ways down the road. But same thing?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I mean, I don't plan on going down to Australia after US Open next year.

Q. It's like one week.

PETE SAMPRAS: It's not appealing to me.

Q. There's also the fact you have paid your dues over the years. Already, you've played a lot of that Davis Cup stuff.

PETE SAMPRAS: I have. I mean, you play the finals in December. It gives you a couple weeks off before you go to Australia. These next couple years, I want to play when I want to play and where I want to play. There have been many years I've gone down to Australia not really that ready. It's shown in not having good results there. Davis Cup, they could do a much better format on Davis Cup, make it a little more appealing, especially in this country. As of right now, I don't plan on playing. I'm not going to play. That's really it.

Q. Who would you say is a better all-around player, Moya or Kafelnikov?

PETE SAMPRAS: Probably Kafelnikov has a little bit more of a rounded type of game - serve is a little bit better, he comes in, has a bit more of a net game. Moya has that big forehand, fights hard. They're both good players, but I see Kafelnikov a little bit more rounded.

End of FastScripts....

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