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ATP Tour World Championship

November 26, 1998

Pete Sampras

Hannover, Germany

Q. Now that you accomplish your goal for this year of being for the sixth time the No. 1 in the world, what is left for next year? What is going to be your goal for next year?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I haven't --

MR. TIRIAC: Seven times (laughter)?

PETE SAMPRAS: That's from Mr. Tiriac. I haven't really thought much of next year. When I have some time off in December, I'll assess my goals for next year. Obviously we start off the year in Australia. That's going to be my first goal. But I don't think things will change as far as my goals. It's obviously The Majors and try to stay -- I'm going to try to stay on top for as long as possible. But this is an achievement I'll enjoy when the year is finally over, after this week, go home and enjoy it. I put a lot into this record, and it was worth the sacrifice. I spent a lot of time over here after the US Open, six weeks in a row. It was well worth it.

Q. Did you find it a little ironic that having worked so hard to get here, you won it without even having to hit a ball today?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it is a little bit ironic. I was home at the hotel eating some pasta. There I saw he pulled out. It was kind of a weird feeling. I thought I was going to have to win a match or win the tournament or whatever. It was just kind of ironic how it all worked out.

Q. Did you have a little celebration right there with the pasta?

PETE SAMPRAS: Me and all my friends (laughter). I was by myself. Yeah, it was kind of an awkward feeling. Like I said, I thought I was going to have to either win over the weekend, or win the tournament. It's unfortunate for Marcelo. I mean, he had a lot of work to do if he was going to make it to the weekend. It's not going to take away from what I've done this year and over the past six years.

Q. How many chances do you give that Jimmy Connors calls you and congratulate you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I haven't received any messages so far today. But it is Thanksgiving home, so I'm sure he's busy.

Q. In a curious way, does this make it even more important for you to win this title again?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, my main goal these past couple months was to try to finish No. 1. I've done that. Now that I'm here and I'm playing the way that I'm playing, there's no reason why I couldn't win this weekend. It would be the icing on the cake.

Q. Although you heard Marcelo had pulled out, so you'd got the record, you obviously went out there determined to enjoy it today and show how well you're capable of playing, and really put the icing on it?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. It wasn't a live match, but I'm in the semis. I still have a lot of pride, and people came tonight to see some good tennis. I got the No. 1. I just told myself I was just going to enjoy my tennis today, and just have some fun. I was up a set and a break within 20, 30 minutes. I just had some fun. I was pretty loose because of the day and the way the day was going for me. Really seemed to enjoy my tennis. I couldn't play any better.

Q. Would you see any contradictions in being No. 1 for six years in a row and maybe not be World Champion again this week?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. You know, everyone is in the same boat. If I don't win this weekend, I don't win. But it's not going to take away from how I'm feeling right now and what I've achieved. There's a lot of events through the year, and this is one of them. But, you know, I'm going to go home feeling good about what I've done here.

Q. We've all talked many times with you earlier in the year about the fact that you didn't seem to be playing so well, and it was a bit of a struggle for you then. Was there any moment that you doubted that you'd be sitting here now as the No. 1 at the end of the year?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, a turning point me for this year was Wimbledon. If I didn't win Wimbledon, I felt the chance of me being No. 1 was going to be pretty slim. But I won there, and from that point on I felt I had a pretty good chance. I felt if I could have won The Open, then I wouldn't have to play six weeks in a row. But I got a little unlucky there and felt I needed to play a little bit more, and I did that. It was well worth it, like I said before. Not playing so well in the first four or five months, you know, I had to play some more at the end of the year. It's something that I had to do. Like I said, it was worth the sacrifice.

Q. Do you feel it's like a burden lifted off your shoulders? There was so much talk about this No. 1 ranking.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I don't look at it as a burden; I look at it as an ultimate achievement. This is a record that I feel will probably never be broken ever, and I knew that. I knew that over the past couple months, it was either now or never. I felt, "This is my chance to do it." To get to No. 1 is one thing; but to stay there is another thing. It's twice as hard. To have stayed on top for most of my career is a little overwhelming. You see many players in the past have not handled the pressure or not enjoy it. I'm very comfortable being No. 1, and that helps.

Q. Is there one special present you're going to award yourself as a result of this?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm working on it right now. Hopefully I'll fly home in style (laughter).

Q. Considering that no other sportsman has been able to finish six times in a row No. 1, do you think we can consider you the best sportsman in the world at this moment?

PETE SAMPRAS: That's hard for me to answer. I feel like what I've done over six years -- you know, I'm trying to stay humble through this whole process, but it is so difficult to do. Guys that have been No. 1 really know what I'm saying. I'll never sit here and tell you I'm the best ever, the best sportsman. I'll just kind of let the record speak for itself. People that know tennis and have been around the game know how difficult it is to stay on top. To have been on top for six straight years, it's something I'll appreciate when I'm done playing. I'll appreciate it a little bit at the end of this year. It's so tough to stay on top in any sport, but especially tennis where it's a one-man show. It's something that I feel pretty proud to have achieved what I've achieved here.

Q. You say you'll appreciate what you've done when you retired. Do you think the public at-large and the media will appreciate you and what you've achieved perhaps more when you stop playing than while you're continuing to play?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think in the past couple years, it's slowly beginning, with the Grand Slam record and the No. 1 record. There's not a lot of American media here, which is unfortunate. But it seems like we have a pretty full house here, which is great. But you're probably right. I probably will be more appreciated when I'm done playing. I feel a certain appreciation tonight and over the past year. I mean, when I'm 22, 23 and winning Wimbledons and US Opens, you hear from so many years the game is not doing well, it's boring, whatever, those are some difficult things to hear. But now that I've been doing this for a while, there's only one thing you can really feel, and that's respect. I feel I've gotten that respect over the past couple years.

Q. Having got this record now, do you think it will give you an added impetus for the other one, the Grand Slams?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, yeah, that's on my mind. It's been talked about quite a bit over the past year or so. When this year is over, over Christmas, whatever, I'm going to start getting ready for Australia. That's the next goal. But the older I get, I want to appreciate these good times, appreciate the Wimbledon that I won this year, appreciate what I did here, and did all year. For many years, I just kind of went on and on and didn't really enjoy some of my victories. Now I'm going to make it a point to have a glass of wine or whatever tonight, have a little fun.

Q. With all you've achieved at the Grand Slams and your getting the record, six in a row, has the quest for the French championship, has that diminished a little bit, or is that still uppermost in your mind? Is that still something you'd like to do to cap it all?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, that's obviously the biggest challenge in my tennis right now, to try to win the French. But I can't play and look at my year for just one tournament. I can't put that much pressure on myself just for one event. I'm going to prepare the best I can and work very hard to try to get in good shape to hopefully win there one year. That's kind of my mind set. But I look forward to hopefully a good year next year, a little bit more consistent. When the French comes around, hopefully my tennis will be there.

Q. Is Davis Cup among your priorities or you still don't care too much about Davis Cup?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I care about it. It's kind of a tough situation because I feel like if I play, you know, it's a lot of tennis. If I play the first round against England. (Arrival of congratulatory cake and champagne)

MARK MILES: Pete, you are one of those rare people and rare athletes that make it look too easy. But those of us who love the sport and follow it realize the commitment you put out this year, and really for six years. We just can't tell you how much you deserve it and how proud we are of you. We're going to have a little chance a little later with a little crystal. You mentioned something about some wine tonight. I think there's one glass of champagne. (Spraying of champagne.)

PETE SAMPRAS: I would have preferred the glass.

MARK MILES: Anyway, well done. I think there's going to be another opportunity for a photo outside.

End of FastScripts….

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