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September 3, 1998

Pete Sampras

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

Q. Did you feel you were playing the Jewish Corretja -- like it was going to be a long match?

PETE SAMPRAS: I mean, New York, the crowd obviously is rooting for him obviously, being the young, up-and-coming college player. They always like to see the underdog do well. He certainly handled himself very well. I felt I wasn't really at my best, but it is one of those days that he is just going to find a way to get through it and I did. I certainly feel I can play better than I did today.

Q. Do you feel a little like you have escaped that?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think I was really in risk of losing the match. If anything it was making me work very hard and winning the second set, I got a little bit careless, but it wasn't like he has got a game that is going to serve me off the court. I kind of -- if I put my game together, start putting some good shots together that eventually I would break him and I did that in the third and fourth. But just one of those days where I wasn't playing that great and he just needed to find away. That you are not going to play well everyday, especially in a two-week tournament like we have here and I just, you know, trying to find a way and I did that.

Q. Is there a tendency for your level to drop down when you play a player like him?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I don't think you can afford to do that, but it might have happened a little bit today. I never really -- I practiced with him, but I have never played him, so wasn't really sure how he was going to play. But I think as the match went on, I started to feel a little bit more comfortable out there. He is a pretty crafty player. He was coming in at certain times, he was coming in on some weak serves, kind of caught me off guard a little bit. He has got a pretty good game, pretty good future.

Q. Did you practice with him recently?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, in the past after Wimbledon.

Q. Is it a strange experience for you to have them -- the crowd, rooting for him like that or can you totally shake off anything like that at this point?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it is kind of how the American crowds are, they love to see an underdog do well, but just have to shut it out and it wasn't like they were rooting against me, they were just pulling for him. But it wasn't really any big deal today.

Q. The last time they must have done that for you was '90, right? I am serious.

PETE SAMPRAS: That they were rooting for me?

Q. No, as underdog. Last time you understood what he was feeling --

PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, yeah. It is a nice feeling going out there with nothing to lose. I certainly felt that in '90. It has been different ever since. But you swing away and goes in great, if not no big deal. So it has been awhile since I have had that feeling. But maybe when I am 33, I will be the underdog.

Q. Speaking of the past, as you may know with the rain last night, they showed the Corretja match from a couple of years ago. It was incredible to see what you went through. Was that the strangest or the oddest match that you played and can you give us a little bit of your recollection?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure. It was, you know, obviously I wasn't in the best of shape. It took its toll. I remember feeling a little bit slow and tired in the third and fourth and it took its toll in the fifth. The only thing that saved me in that match was it was the tiebreaker. I just felt it was over soon and that was the only thing that saved me, was that it was going to be over soon that I was going to, you know, win or lose I just wanted to get it over with because I really felt physically I just wanted, you know, I don't -- everyone is probably experienced what you feel like when you throw up. You just want to die. Really I felt like I just wanted to just get off the court as soon as possible. The tiebreaker saved me if we would have played it out like we do at Wimbledon, I had no shot.

Q. Talk about your second serve ace deep in the tiebreak, was that one of the most incredible serves you scored at a big moment?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, throughout the career probably. I mean, after getting sick and the crowd getting behind me and I went for it because of the situation, because I had nothing left so I wanted -- I kind of just went for it. You just get a little bit lucky at times and I certainly did at that point.

Q. You have often talked this year about having a real off-season after this. Are you at all thinking of not playing even the ATP Championships if you qualify for that, ducking out before then?

PETE SAMPRAS: That is a good question. One of my main goals was try to end the year No. 1. In order for me to do that, I need to play over in Europe. So plan on doing that. The future, I mean, I am not sure where the motivation will be in a couple of years time if I want to go over to Europe and just play some indoor tournaments. But I plan on playing in Europe end of this year.

Q. Does that also include if you qualify in the ATP Championships?

PETE SAMPRAS: Hopefully I will qualify, yes.

Q. You had a lot of trouble breaking in the third set, were there moments when you thought this is tough?

PETE SAMPRAS: He caught me -- like I said, he caught me off guard a little bit. He was serve and volleying, at times he surprised me coming up to the net. I felt the points really weren't going the way I wanted to go. He was the one coming in, I was being a little bit passive. I knew it was just a matter of time before I was going to put a couple of shots to go -- he didn't really miss much for the first couple of sets. But I wasn't panicking by any means, it is a three out of five set match, so a lot of tennis was yet to be played. It wasn't like I was panicking out there.

Q. Do you believe if the players got together and said we want a shorter season, that they can actually make it happen?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, if all the top players said that and really got behind it, it could happen. But I don't see that happening. A lot of young guys that like to play a lot of tennis and to make good bread and so, but I am to the point where I am not sure how much I want to play over in Europe end of the year and in the fall. I mean, it is just for ranking and money, and there is going to come a point in time where that won't be the motivation, the motivation will always be the Grand Slams.

Q. There are times when you can like relate to a player like what he was going through today, just even if you guys landed in the game in a different way, him staying in college and that, but can you relate to what it must have been like to step on to that court and play the No. 1 guy in the world?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, yeah, I mean, like Scott was saying, playing here in '90, when I played Lendl, the quarterfinals, I was -- it was a different situation. I didn't go to college. I was 12, 13 in the world. But I had nothing to lose. I was kind of a flashy young guy that had some potential and before I knew it I won the Open. So I can kind of relate a little bit. It is fun to go out and have the crowd behind you and you swing away. Certainly that is a good feeling.

Q. How come you were able to do it, make the jump right there and maybe a lot of other guys right now don't --

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it is the game. I mean, certainly with my game with my serve I was able to pull off a good upset. Paul has got a good game, but in today's game you need a certain weapon that stands out, and he has got good wheels and he competes well, but in order to break into the Top-20 or Top-10 which he wants to do, you need to develop a big shot.

Q. With your great Grand Slam record now, matching your idol, Rod Laver and Borg, now going after Emmo's, all the press like ourselves asking you questions and it is just out there it must be in your mind quite a bit, no escaping it. In any way, as a sports fan, do you relate to what McGuire is going through? And if you could talk to McGuire, what would you ask him?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I don't think it is anywhere near the same as what he going through and Sosa is going through. They are breaking an American past-time record. They are playing a sport that is obviously much more popular than I am playing unfortunately. But the media attention they are getting -- the whole country is following it. And I think people, the true tennis fans know what I am doing and people know what I am trying to do, but it is not anywhere near the same impact I find. I have been asked quite a bit about it, but the attention they are getting is phenomenal, I mean, it really is when they break it, which I hope they do, I mean, it is going to make news all-around the world, but I am sure if the day comes where I can do something, break the record, I mean, hopefully will have the same impact. But we will see.

Q. Maybe do you think any of your friends will groom a few serves to you just to hand it over?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't plan on that happening.

Q. When you don't play Davis Cup - when you decide not to do that, you do it mostly because it is not the top priority for you; now it is the Slams, right?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, that and schedule.

Q. Andre came in here and just teed off about Davis Cup politics, the fact that the players don't have any say in where matches are played, so on so forth. Do you have any problems with the Davis Cup aside from just your schedule or do you have any problems the way it is set up?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the problem -- the main problem I have with Davis Cup is the schedule. It is played such a long season and to play the final the last week of November you have a little bit of time off; then you get ready for Australia. That is my biggest gripe about Davis Cup. It is not really where it is played. It is the schedule. I mean, if Davis Cup final was two weeks after the Open, okay, I would be more inclined to play. But after what happened last year and the fact that I want to have some breaks in my schedule, that is my biggest complaint. If they had it, you know, earlier in the year or maybe played Davis Cup once every two years, you know, I will be more inclined to play. Davis Cup just needs -- less is more, that is my philosophy. If they just had it less, it would get more attention. You look at the Ryder Cup in golf, you know it is the biggest thing in the world right now. But I don't have a problem with Andre is saying problem I have is the schedule.

Q. You don't feel like you, as a player, don't have enough say or want more say?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I have never -- as far as where it is?

Q. Where it is.

PETE SAMPRAS: The schedule --

Q. He was saying that even the captaincy, the players should have a say in that as well.

PETE SAMPRAS: Absolutely. I mean, and we do. We wanted Gully and Gully is the captain. I am not sure what your first question was.

Q. Now that you and Jim Courier are more or less neighbors, have you had any conversations with Jim lately about -- give us some insight into what he is going to do. Do you hear a lot of different things? Some people think he is on the brink of announcing his retirement. Some people say he is going to get over it.

PETE SAMPRAS: What I know, Jim is -- he is hurt. He has got a bad arm and that is really all I am going to say.

Q. Any gut feelings what he is going to do?

PETE SAMPRAS: Not really. I mean, he is obviously not playing here. I mean, that is a big tournament, but Jim is going to figure things out and do what is best for him.

Q. You have had so many wonderful moments in Davis Cup, scenes of you with the flag and so forth. Just, personally, in your gut, do you feel sad about the situation that is unfolding here where we will have basically a secondary team in Milwaukee and there is a big question about even who will play for the final --

PETE SAMPRAS: With -- let me give you my feelings on Davis Cup. The way I feel about Davis Cup is what happened a couple of years ago in Moscow was one of the best efforts I have put in tennis. I guess I felt this country really didn't or got unnoticed, like I felt unless you follow tennis you knew about it. But it was one of the best efforts and I felt it went unnoticed in this country and, you know, if people in this country aren't crazy about Davis Cup and don't understand it, it is hard to really get behind it. But I want to be a part of it. But it is a lot of tennis to be played. It is a lot of tennis to play Davis Cup and I just wish it was, you know, maybe have three rounds a year or do it once every two years or something, just to minimize it a little bit. I mean, it just gets lost in the shuffle especially in the US.

Q. Do you think Americans are too preoccupied with team sports as opposed to, let us say, golf or tennis, media focuses too much on the traditional team sports and not enough on individual accomplishments?

PETE SAMPRAS: I am a little confused.

Q. Like baseball, football, we have never broken from that, seems to be what the American media -- American sport fan seems to concentrate on and tennis and except maybe golf really isn't -- with Tiger Woods always been the -- ran on the back pages more for the horsey club. That has always been the -- I am curious do you feel that with Davis Cup that you are being ignored?

PETE SAMPRAS: It is hard to follow. I mean, Davis Cup is hard to follow for a sports fan in the US. You are playing in all certain parts of the year in different countries, you know, and for instance, after we beat Australia last year people thought we won it. It was like we have one more match to go. It feels like it gets lost in the shuffle I find. Baseball, football, you have the season, that is it. Tennis, there are so many tournaments and so much going on that I think it hurts the game. But when Grand Slams come around, everything stops. People know when Wimbledon is at and US Open, but Davis Cup, it is a no-win situation for me. I get criticized for not playing, whatever, but it has taken its toll on me - I definitely felt that the end of last year.

Q. You basically felt it is basically not worth the effort really that is what it gets down to? What you have to put into it, what comes back from it doesn't really --

PETE SAMPRAS: I have experienced that, yeah, in Russia putting in one of the -- you know, it was one of my best efforts of my career and I felt, you know, it is not like I wanted a parade or something. But just some sort of appreciation which I just felt it really wasn't there. But --

Q. Did the USTA do anything special to thank you for winning it for the country?

PETE SAMPRAS: Got us into Augusta. We were able to play Augusta National. (laughter). That was it, I swear to God. That was my reward.

Q. That is not worth it?

PETE SAMPRAS: It is close, but --

Q. Venus Williams, Reebok designed seven different outfits for her which strongly implies that she expects to play seven matches here. As a multiple Grand Slam titleist, can you tell us how many different outfits do you bring to a Grand Slam?

PETE SAMPRAS: I just bring one. But a lot of it. I am not that confident.

Q. How far along in your progression during this two weeks are you? Are you where you want to be with your game? You have spoken about all these Slams as progress toward that final point. Are you with your game, where you want to be right now?

PETE SAMPRAS: I feel pretty good about my game. Certainly I got off to a great start against Goellner. Today I felt I really didn't play that well. Like I said, it is one of those matches you have to just try find a way to win. But I feel like I am hitting the ball pretty well. It is going to be nice to get back on the stadium court, playing on grandstand is a little bit different, but I am more -- I am still in the tournament, I can't complain. But I feel like I can play a little bit better.

Q. In this tournament there has been almost no upsets. Is there anything in your mind that -- to guess why this is happening like this?

PETE SAMPRAS: You know, I can't give you a good reason. I mean, Korda going down is a substantial upset. It is just each Slam has its different matches. Some Slams you see a lot of upsets. Some Slams you don't. This one, it has been pretty much according to ranking. I really don't have a real good explanation.

Q. Speaking of Korda, when you see a player that has given you problems in the past, even though I don't think he was even in your half, but a little bit of a sigh of relief when you see him out of the tournament or --

PETE SAMPRAS: No. No, I mean, you know, you don't think that far ahead. These guys are good. He came out -- Petr goes up and down in his game at times. If he is a little off, he is going to lose. It wasn't like I had any sort of relief or anything.

Q. Did you request the ATP Tour not allows Lars Graff to do any more of your matches?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, I didn't request it. But I certainly made my point on the court. We just haven't hit it off, you know, we have -- he is -- just bad karma. He probably won't be doing many of my matches in the future.

Q. What does it feel like to play in the Louie Armstrong Stadium?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, obviously I have had a lot of good matches and memories playing on that court. The people, you know, little bit more of an intimate setting. The people are a little bit more into the tennis. On this court over here, it is so big you can kind of get a little bit lost there. But it is nice to get back out there. It is different without the top tier, but it is what all happened for me in 1990.

Q. Monica was saying the other day that the Ashe Stadium has a swirling wind going unlike any other place. Do you agree with that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, totally. I think there is always a certain breeze in there and it is always going one direction and it is a little uncomfortable. It is. I always found that court and Australia always has a nice little downwind going one direction. You know, it is just the way it goes. Nothing you can do about it.

Q. Which direction, Pete?

PETE SAMPRAS: It varies.

Q. Not same direction?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, it just bounces off the stadium and goes down to the court and one day it is going this way; other day it is going the other way. You just have to figure it out during the warmup.

Q. We mentioned Jim Courier's possible retirement; not that anybody is expecting you to retire any time soon, any passion you like to follow once you hang the racket up?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't have any idea, to be honest with you. It is a good -- I need to be active and busy. I have been like that since I was born, always playing tennis, so it is an adjustment when you retire. I am sure you need to find something that interests you and keep yourself busy and you can only play so much golf. But I am sure in the next number of years I will find something.

Q. What are the chances that you become a tennis correspondent?

PETE SAMPRAS: Slim to none. And, Slim just left town.

End of FastScripts....

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