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September 5, 1998

Pete Sampras

U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Flushing Meadows, New York

Q. Would you have preferred to have been out there longer?


Q. How do you assess this match? A lot of aces, double-faults.

PETE SAMPRAS: It was a little up-and-down for both of us. I really had no rhythm on my serves. I was going for big second serves, throwing in a number of doubles. Got a little bit careless at times. For the most part, I played the way I wanted to play. I came in, I was aggressive, I was chipping and charging. The court is playing pretty quick out there; I took advantage of that. A little bit up-and-down, but overall to have won 3, 2, and 1, whatever it was, it's a pretty good day.

Q. How do you size up your next opponent?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I've never obviously played him. But I feel -- heard a lot of good things about him. He has a big game, huge serves, backs it up with some pretty good groundstrokes. Here he's a really good young player. I'm sure I'm going to have to work real hard. To beat Muster today, who is not an easy guy to play, it will be tough.

Q. Wayne Gretzky says he likes to watch other sports because he can appreciate greatness in other sports. Do you watch for the same reason and do you watch this McGwire stuff with the same kind of interest?

PETE SAMPRAS: Absolutely. I mean, I'm really obviously like everyone in this country is following the race. And obviously he's looking pretty good, he's going to break it. To be living today, not every day you see something like this, what he's going to do. And certainly it's like Cal Ripken breaking the record. It's going to be a similar atmosphere when he does it. It's great to see. I mean, history is something that you don't see every week. So, I'm sure when he breaks the record, it's going to be a huge moment. I'm certainly going to be rooting for him. It will be an exciting time.

Q. Do you think people will equate, if you get to Roy Emerson's record, equate it in the same vein?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's really hard to say. You know, what McGwire is doing in baseball, that record has stood for so many years. Obviously, baseball is a very popular sport. I'm not saying tennis isn't popular. Sure, if I tie the record or break it one day, I certainly hope it has the same impact of what McGwire is doing, because it's not easy, you know, winning majors each year. But we'll see. You know, I'm not worried about it. Obviously playing here, if it happens, it happens. If not, I certainly am not panicking by any means. I certainly would like to break the record.

Q. Do you realize you're much more known outside of the United States than McGwire will ever be? You're much more famous in the United States than McGwire will ever be.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, baseball is probably not too popular in France, is it (laughter)? Or Russia. But in the States, this is American's passion, America's sport, baseball. Mark McGwire can probably walk around the streets of Paris and London and not get that recognized. But here he probably won't be able to get around too many places.

Q. Andre said earlier today he considers hitting a baseball the toughest thing to do in sports. How would you describe what McGwire is doing from an athletic perspective?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I've never been in the batter's box facing these guys. It's really hard for me to say. What I've heard, it's impossible. I mean, your eyes and your hands must be so quick. McGwire is not a small man by any means. He can definitely pop it. I've never been in the cage, you know, with a ball going at me 70 or 80. These guys are throwing hard, spinning it. That's really hard for me to say.

Q. What do you think of the controversy surrounding him and that record, the stance tennis is taking on that?

PETE SAMPRAS: I really don't think there's much of a controversy. You mean with what he's taking?

Q. Yeah.

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think much of it. You know, I think it's blown up a little bit. I mean, to be honest with you, I don't think it's a big deal. You know, he's hitting the ball so far, his eyes and his hands are the reason why he's hitting home runs, I guess. I mean, I don't know baseball. I really think it's blown out of proportion. You know, he's going to break it. I don't think the fact that he's doing what he's doing is going to in any way hamper the record. I don't think it's really a big deal.

Q. What would be your reaction if you knew some tennis players would take the same thing?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I don't know. I mean, you certainly hope players aren't, you know, taking illegal stuff. If they are, then they are. But the tour does a lot of random drug testing throughout the year. I think they're pretty good at that. But I certainly have no interest of doing anything illegal. You know, I think tennis players, 99% of them I'm sure are very clean and don't do illegal substances. So that's really not much of a concern.

Q. But would you consider that like cheating in tennis and not in baseball?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, do I think it's cheating? I mean, it depends what you're taking. And if it's steroids or something, it could enhance your performance, sure, that's not fair. Look what happened to Ben Johnson a number of years ago. He got caught. It's something for me as an athlete, I don't want the help. I want to do it the way -- you know, you should do it without any help, if it's steroids or whatever. Eat the right foods, drink enough water, and hopefully that's enough.

Q. Sorry to go back to tennis for one question. How much do you see of Safin?

PETE SAMPRAS: I saw him play a little bit at the French. Saw him play a little bit through the summer. That's pretty much it.

Q. Do you think this is the kind of match that will get you a little extra fired up, somebody young, that promising, somewhat dangerous, that it will bring the best out of you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think I was fired up tonight, playing my first night match here. You have to be fired up in a Grand Slam. I put a lot of importance at these tournaments. I don't think like at the match with Safin any different than the match tonight. I'm pumped up, ready to go, hopefully playing well. I don't look at any match differently. You just need to get ready. Certainly in my last match against Goldstein, I probably wasn't where I was tonight. I was a little bit up-and-down. But I'm sure when I play Safin, I'll be ready.

End of FastScripts….

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