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ATP Tour World Championship

November 24, 1998

Pete Sampras

Hannover, Germany

Q. Great first set, broke in the second. Was it inevitable you couldn't quite maintain that standard or did you get a bit tense or what?

PETE SAMPRAS: You know, I felt my standard was quite good in the second; not quite as good as in the first. But Yevgeny, the game he broke me, he hit three clean winners, I missed a volley. That was too good. I don't think it was anything to do with my nerves or a letdown. I think he just raised his level a couple notches there, and he had to because things were going just a little bit too smooth for me at that point. After he broke me, the whole match just kind of took a huge turn. Then, boom, I broke him back right after that. That was a huge part of the match, that breakpoint when I got lucky on that overhead and picked off the forehand. So, you know, today was obviously a very good start. Hopefully I can maintain this level tomorrow.

Q. He said he thinks he'll play you in the final. Is that an opinion you share?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm not looking that far ahead. Yevgeny I'm sure has planned out the whole draw at this point. I'm concerned about my match tomorrow. It's tough to predict who is going to be in the final here. Today was a good start. I feel like I'm playing well. You know, getting through your first match is always nice because obviously you're a little bit -- you've got some nerves going, not playing a match out there. But to say "I'm in the final," for him to say that, is a bit -- put it this way: I wouldn't say something like that (laughter).

Q. Nice slam-dunk. Back obviously isn't a problem anymore?

PETE SAMPRAS: The back is fine. Physically, I feel no aches or pains. It's nice to have a little bit of rest after Stockholm to let the body rest, and mind. You know, I'm obviously very fresh in the legs. I must admit last couple weeks in Paris and Stockholm, I felt physically a little bit flat, and it showed. But the break was definitely something I needed.

Q. Did you have anything done to the back when you were back in the States?


Q. Nothing since Paris?


Q. How did you approach the match? Did you approach it like a normal match or did you do something special in the locker room before the match to be sure to be focused?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. Just prepared like I normally do. Just go out and play, you know. There's nothing I did differently today versus any previous matches that I played throughout the years. You know, it was just important for me to get off to a good start, and I did that. When you get off to that first break, everything just kind of relaxes you, you start enjoying it a little bit more. But I definitely had a lot of work to do in the second set.

Q. Do you think if you play the way you did say in that first set, that's going to be enough to possibly bring you the title or are you going to have to lift it again?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the first set, you can't play like that every match, every day. Every now and again things just click. It definitely clicked in the first. But I can't expect to play like I did in the first set tomorrow. I mean, it's not possible. You never know, I'm not ruling it out. It would be a nice way to start tomorrow (laughter). But, you know, it was a little bit in the zone. It's hard to maintain that. It doesn't happen every day. But I certainly hope I can play somewhere near that tomorrow.

Q. Yesterday, speaking about your defeat to Moya last year, you said you felt flat that day. It happened to you a few times in a year to be flat. Is there something that makes you know you will be flat or can you do something not to be flat?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, for me it's mental. It's how much tennis I've played leading up to events that I felt flat. You know, when you play four, five straight weeks like I have, you just every now and again feel flat. You just can't afford to do that at this level. I know this is a very big week. When Grand Slams come around, I make sure I'm mentally and physically fresh. You know, throughout the Tour, as much as I've been playing recently, you can't expect to go into every match as focused as I was today. It's just not possible. You just hope you can get through the matches, that you're not really feeling all tthat great, a hundred percent But, you know, the break after Stockholm was something that I needed. It definitely showed today that when I'm there, when I'm mentally there and fresh, I'm pretty good.

Q. This morning Mark Miles was saying that this event could be changed name, one day be called some other way. Between you players, how do you call it? ATP Tour World Championships? ATP Finals? Masters? What is the best name? Do you consider world champion the one who wins this event or you don't use that terminology?

PETE SAMPRAS: I just call it the World Championships, ATP Finals. That's what it's called.

Q. It has been changed many times.

PETE SAMPRAS: I think The Masters is a golf tournament in Georgia, they play that one, The Masters. It's not called Masters here. Good joke, huh (laughter)? I'll stick to playing tennis. The winner of this the world champion? You know, that's really hard to say. I mean, you look back at the year, I look at the Grand Slam winners as the guys that had the year in my mind. I mean, that's the way I look at it. I mean, I look at Grand Slams winner. There's not really a world champion in tennis like maybe in some other sports.

Q. Where does this come in the batting order, No. 5?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I would put it, yeah, No. 5. I mean, this is very tough to win because you're playing everyone that's in the top eight in the world. Slams in some ways you're not -- sometimes you can kind of get through draws pretty easily until the last week or weekend. But, you know, you can't compete with a Wimbledon's tradition and history and whatever. But this is a very, very big week. All the top guys are here. You know, the level of tennis this week is going to be great. There's no question, you see all the matchups coming up the next couple days. It's going to be good tennis.

Q. Were you able to cut off completely while you were relaxing? Did you have days when you didn't think about what was coming up?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. It was nice. It was nice to have three or four days off, just to relax. The six weeks that I was over here, you're thinking about the race; you're kind of consumed with tennis. It was nice to get away, nice to not think about it for about four or five days, just to give the mind a rest. That's something I definitely needed at the time.

Q. Have there been times at all through this year where you've sat down and thought about the year as to being a bit erratic by your standards, and come up with any sort of explanation? Has it been because there's been so much talk on the Grand Slam record, of the year-end No. 1, is it everybody has just moved up a notch? Have you come up with any conclusions?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think guys have moved up a notch. But I think, you know, a reason why -- I look at the first three or four months of this year, it was erratic. It was a little bit inconsistent. I think it was a result of getting hurt the end of last year, not really having much of a break, Australia coming around, feeling I wasn't really ready for the year to start. It showed for the first three or four months. Getting injured and dealing with my injury for my off-season wasn't the way I wanted to spend my time off. Knock on wood, I can get through this tournament and have a little time off this year, so when Australia comes around next year, I'll be eager. This year I'm not sure how eager I really was.

Q. How disappointing do you find it, considering what you may be about to achieve, that there are virtually no Americans here, journalists?

PETE SAMPRAS: I know. It seems after the US Open tennis in America just kind of..... It's frustrating me because I feel what I'm trying to do here is something that is so difficult to do. There aren't any American writers here. It's disappointing for me as an American to not have anyone over here. There's not a lot going on in the States, NBA, they're not playing. You know, this is something that is so tough to do, what I'm doing this week, what I've done over the last number of years. You feel like you can be recognized a little bit more, especially back home. But I can't worry about it, lose sleep over it. But it is disappointing.

Q. What do you think about the audience this year?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it seemed pretty good today. I mean, first match out, I'm sure it will be a little bit more crowded tonight. But I don't think anything will compare to the crowd when I played Boris in the final here a couple years ago. But the people here support the event. Seems pretty packed just about every match. People here in Germany obviously know their tennis. With Boris not here, no Germans playing in the event, it doesn't help. But I think that they know they're seeing good tennis.

Q. How much of an advantage has it been for you to go out for the first match and really put your stamp on this tournament right from the start, get away to a great start, really sort of put Kafelnikov down like that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I didn't want to do what I did last year when I lost my first match and played a little bit flat. I didn't want to dig myself into a hole, having to win my next two matches. Today, I don't want to say it was a statement, but I definitely was very focused. I think the guys know that, that this is an important week, and it showed. It showed in the way I played in the first set. I just hope I can maintain this throughout the week, which is not going to be easy. But today was definitely a good start.

End of FastScripts….

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