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August 31, 1998

Pete Sampras

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

Q. How hard is it taking one match at a time while going for the record?

PETE SAMPRAS: That is a good question. Best question I have heard in ten years probably. You want me to answer that seriously? Well, in order to get to the point of a possibility of winning a Grand Slam you need to get through your early rounds and you can't take any match for granted especially in today's game. You can't afford to -- you can't afford to play your matches kind of going through the motions. You need to stay focused and today was a good example. Things were going pretty well in the first two sets, and it is not easy to have that same intensity each game, but you just have to force yourself to do that and I did that pretty well.

Q. Pete, do you feel more motivated this year to win the US Open than in years past? I say that for several reasons, by some peoples' standards this year hasn't been that great for you. You have been fighting Marcelo Rios for the No. 1 spot and the extra incentive of reaching those 21 Grand Slam titles and tying the record with Emerson?

PETE SAMPRAS: Like I said this whole summer I am not treating this US Open any different than the previous U.S. Opens. I am very motivated, very eager to play here. It is a last major of the year. Sure this, year hasn't been -- I mean, any time you win Wimbledon it is a great year. That is the way I look at it. It hasn't been the most consistent year, but any time you win a Grand Slam, especially the biggest one in the world, I can't complain about my year. But, I feel like I am going to do whatever I can over the next couple of weeks hopefully to play my best tennis here to hopefully do this.

Q. You are Mr. Confidence going into Wimbledon. How much how much confidence do you have at the US Open?

PETE SAMPRAS: Mr. Confidence?

Q. Yeah.

PETE SAMPRAS: That is one I haven't heard. Well, going into Wimbledon, my year wasn't that great. I didn't do too well at Queens or whatever, so Wimbledon definitely brings out the best in me and certainly playing here at Flushing since I have won here before I come in here pretty confident and even though --

Q. The four Majors are obviously very different in character. Can you say what you feel is the atmosphere and nature of the US Open --

PETE SAMPRAS: Understand that this Slam compared to all the rest I think is the most hectic. You have tons of people. It is a huge stadium. You walk out, Center Court Wimbledon, you feel kind of the charm of the place. Here at Flushing you just -- you know, you kind of feel a certain electricity, the people are into the tennis here. It is New York City. It is a lot of hoopla when you play here in New York, so each Slam has its different ingredients and this one certainly is difficult to win. They are all difficult. But, this one there is a lot of distractions, a lot of, you know, things going on and certainly I have been playing here enough to kind of figure it out.

Q. What is the speed of the court? Goran said it was real fast.

PETE SAMPRAS: This is the quickest court I have played at the US Open. I don't know if they did it on purpose or whatever, but the conditions are very quick. I was serve and volleying on both sides and doing some chipping and charging because the ball is hitting the court and it is going pretty good, playing pretty quick.

Q. Any advantage to anybody, you, or disadvantage to anybody?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure, it is going to help out someone that serves and volleys like I do, or Krajicek, but in order to win out here you need to return and it is not easy to return. Kind of helps out everyone else's serve like Goellner was serving pretty well and that is not easy to return. It -- I don't really see an advantage or disadvantage.

Q. You know a little bit about the history of the game and all the talk about Emerson's record, everybody knows Laver was -- (inaudible) Borg and Laver who you are tied with maybe legitimate as guys to be proud of, how do you feel about that without saying something nasty about --

PETE SAMPRAS: You look at it a lot of different ways. There were a number of years Laver didn't play some Slams. Emerson won his Slams when Laver wasn't playing. The way I look at the record is it is pretty much a number. I try to compare what I have done in my tennis over the past ten or fifteen years, that is when the modern game was around and the rackets have changed and to compare the game today to 30 years ago, it is just too tough. It is just too difficult. I mean, all these guys can play. And I am not taking anything away from Emerson and what he did, but the competition is probably tougher today than it was 30 years ago so, but yet again you look at Laver, he could have had 15 or 20. It is just a different time we are playing. I feel like, you know, hopefully I can do it; hopefully I can break this thing.

Q. A lot of players will say anybody can win this tournament. Realistically how many guys out there do you think have a realistic shot at winning?

PETE SAMPRAS: 7, 8 guys.

Q. Like who other than yourself?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, obviously one's Rafter, Agassi, Krajicek, Ivanisevic, Chang who hasn't -- he seems to be playing pretty well now. Kafelnikov. Am I missing anyone?

Q. Rios maybe?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, you can't discount Rios. He hasn't played a great summer, but he is definitely a threat. Korda.

Q. Second set, overhand into the net, sorry to bring it up, have you ever done that often? I don't think we can recall seeing you do that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it wasn't my fault. It was the wind's fault.

Q. Really, can you remember a time?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I am sure I have done that in the past. Good question.

Q. Woodforde was in here before. He said Ivanisevic plays the kind of game that if he paid to buy a ticket to the Open he wouldn't pull up next to his court. Do you enjoy watching that kind --

PETE SAMPRAS: Ivanisevic?

Q. Yes.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I mean, you have to appreciate the way this guy serves. You wouldn't see a better serve in the game than Goran's, maybe of all-time. Sure, you put Goran against another big server, you are not going to see a lot of rallies. That is just plain and simple. But I kind of like watching Goran, you don't know what you are going to get. So he definitely brings a lot to the game. With his serve, I mean, that is the most devastating serve I have ever seen or had to play against.

Q. Watching you practice on Friday, watching you with Henman, you seemed to be getting down on yourself. Was that because you are a perfectionist or were you worried about how you are playing?

PETE SAMPRAS: Can't get away from you guys. Well, I think it was the competition I was playing against in Tim. (laughter).

Q. I know you are following the Sosa/McGuire race. I am sure, considering the pressure you are facing chasing history, can you appreciate the pressure that they are facing? Talk a little bit about what you see in those two guys as athletes.

PETE SAMPRAS: I think it is much greater than what I am going through. They are doing something that is -- they are playing a sport that is much more popular than I am playing at the moment. So it is huge. The homerun record is one of the biggest records ever. I am not saying what I am doing isn't hard or difficult, but it just obviously gets a lot more attention, the media, those guys are -- are facing each time they go into a game is unbelievable. For me, it hasn't been bad.

Q. Is Emerson's record the most important record in tennis for you or are there other records that you'd rather break?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you can't do much more in the game. Winning the French. Winning the Slam. Being No. 1 for 6 straight years, which I am trying to do this year. That is pretty much it. It is so hard to do. It really is hard to win Grand Slams year after year. I thought it interesting after I won Wimbledon this year, I was reading something in the paper that said: It has been a year that Pete Sampras won a Grand Slam. And, you know, I have created this standard that if I don't win a major for a year, like, something is wrong. It is not easy to do in today's game and so, you know, but this is what I play for, so I am going to do whatever I can.

Q. Having to hit - you were talking about Goran's serve - having to return a serve like that, is that one of the more difficult things to do for you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, it is the most difficult did -- playing him on grass is probably the match that I probably most fear, you know, I am not sure what I am going to get. I feel like I am not in control of the situation and I don't like that. I mean, that is -- it is just tough. It is tough playing Goran on grass or playing any big server on grass, but especially Goran because when he gets his serve going, nothing you can do.

Q. What will it take for you to win the French Open?

PETE SAMPRAS: I am going to enter the ladies event maybe next year. (laughter). Maybe I will get lucky and win that. I haven't thought much about the French. It is too early to really talk about it. We will see.

Q. How much does the loss last year linger with you as you prepared for this Open? And as you took the court today, were you at all thinking about the way you exited last year?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, sure, when I first got here and I got to hit on the court, sure, you remember what happened last year. But that is it. It has happened a year ago. It is in the history books. Nothing I can do about it now. You can't really dwell on it. It happened. It was a tough loss, tough loss to get over. But it is a new year and new tournament so -- just got to move on. I have taken my losses extremely hard at the slams and so last year was difficult, but, you know, you just got to get over it.

Q. Coming into this tournament everyone seems to be talking about the women's side as having more interesting story lines and perhaps the men's side not having that many interesting players, no matches, duels like, say, between Venus Williams and other players, does that bother you at all?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. It doesn't really phase me.

Q. Do you think there could be some more intense rivalries in tennis right now? That is just not happening on the men's side?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the game today is -- it is too strong for a consistent rivalry. Borg, McEnroe, Lendl, Connors they were so much better than everyone else ten years ago, 15 years ago. Now, anybody can win on any given week and so, it is hard to have two guys, three guys playing each other in the semis and finals of the Slams. It is up in the air.

Q. Is your draw, perhaps, too easy for you, maybe if this match was Agassi you wouldn't be really prepared or not?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know.

Q. Would you watch a women's tennis match -- if you could pick any marquis matchup to be played in front of you, anything, Hingis, Graf, the Williams playing each other?

PETE SAMPRAS: You guys are so desperate, huh? Some of these questions are just unbelievable. Is there a -- I don't know. You tell me. Who would you want to watch?

Q. Out of the women?


Q. Hingis/Graf would be a good match.

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure, that would be exciting.

End of FastScripts….

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