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April 23, 1998

Pete Sampras


Q. Pete, is there some explanation that we don't know? Are you as stunned by that as we are?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm pretty stunned. I really just - really dug myself a big hole today. Every aspect of my game was just not there, my serve was off, my forehand was off. You just can't afford not to play well against someone like Santoro who really doesn't miss much. I kind of felt myself digging a hole as the match went on. Kind of just sitting here kind of like, "What happened?" Just a bad day, and it showed. I had a few chances here and there to break him back. Just didn't play well, plain and simple. Just didn't play well.

Q. When is the last time you felt like you were playing that poorly on a court?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's been a while. Obviously, I played him a couple years ago at Rome. The match went pretty similar. Beat me 3 and 2. I don't know what year it was, this was --

Q. '95.

PETE SAMPRAS: ''95. Then I played him last year at the French. I played the way I should play. The balls are a little bit quicker there. Today just seemed like I was a little bit lost out there. Just showed. He's a tough guy to put the ball away on. He gets a lot of balls back. I found myself pressing as the match went on. Clay is just a tough surface. Very lonely out there. You try to come in, and it's just not happening. You can't afford yourself to get off to a bad start. You can't afford to start pressing. That's what I tend to do on clay, when I get myself in trouble, especially if I'm not serving well. If I'm not serving well, which I didn't today, my whole game just suffers a little bit more. That's what happened today.

Q. The fact that Santoro maybe is the only player with a winning record with you, is just a coincidence?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I played him on clay. That's his best chance to beat me. I don't even know what my record is with him.

Q. 3-2.

PETE SAMPRAS: I mean, he's beaten me on the clay. Hopefully that -- whatever, you know.

Q. Even if the score is 6-1, 6-1, it seemed there was more of a struggle in the first set than in the second. Do you feel the same feeling, or did you struggle the same in the first and second set?

PETE SAMPRAS: It was pretty much a struggle all the way around (laughter). You know, each set was pretty similar. Lost them both pretty easily. You know, I really don't know what happened. I mean, there's a time I could have used a little coaching after the first set. I felt I had some chances. You know, I felt I had a couple breakpoints. Maybe could have came out a little differently. But, you know, I don't know if it's a combination, might have been a little bit of a letdown from yesterday. But I was really aware of not having a letdown. I enjoyed my victory yesterday for about five minutes, and I had to get ready for tomorrow, which was today. Just a bad day. Hopefully this bad day won't happen again, especially with Roland Garros coming up. It's not great for the confidence. I mean, it's definitely not great for the confidence. You know, there's still a lot of room for improvement. All I can try to do is move on and learn from this and go from there.

Q. Pete, we sensed just today actually, listening to you and having watched you, that you weren't wholly satisfied with your performance against Andre. You were delighted with the results, but you obviously felt there was a lot that you weren't happy with. That's fair to say?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I was extremely happy with the result, you know, playing Andre my first match up, you know, was a very, very tough draw. And I felt playing out there, you know, I didn't feel like I honestly hit the ball all that great. I served well. I kind of, you know, hit some good shots at the right time. But I never really felt entirely like I had a really good rhythm, partly because it was pretty gusty. Kind of like a hard court match playing Andre. So that's a very good observation you just made. So today I actually felt like I didn't hit the ball that bad. I felt the ball was coming off my racquet pretty good. Like I said, just kind of dug myself a hole.

Q. How were you feeling this morning when you were hitting the ball?

PETE SAMPRAS: Actually, I felt a little bit sore. My first match in a while. I can train and practice all you want, but it's a bit different when you played; your body extends a little bit more. I felt okay. Warming up I felt okay. Going out I felt pretty good, you know. I felt fine, I really did. You know, there's some days you wake up, you know, you don't feel like you're hitting the ball that well, you go out and hit the ball great. Some days you feel you're hitting the ball poorly. Kind of depends on the day. Today was just an off day, as I've said pretty much for the past 20 minutes. That's really it.

Q. Would you say you are mentally frightened by the clay?

PETE SAMPRAS: I won't say I'm mentally frightened. I just feel like I have to struggle a little bit more. That's a fact. I feel like I've beaten enough good players on clay over the course of my career that I can do well. It's just there's a lot of really good clay court players. You can't afford to have bad days. You know, you can't afford to have days like this. But the key thing for me is that, you know, I've been there, I've done pretty well at the French. I feel like I got a game that I can play well on clay. Days like this, something I can't afford to do, especially in big matches.

Q. Pete, you said it wouldn't be great for the confidence. Are you someone who worries, frets, about a result like this? Can you quickly dismiss them?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, this match will sit with me for a little bit. I mean, I'm going to obviously reflect on what happened. But I've always prided myself on learning and moving on. That's what I'm going to have to do. You really have no choice. Sure, it's not great for the confidence, but you try to look at some sort of positive out of all this. There's not really much that. I'm playing an event in Atlanta, coming back for Rome, then the French comes around. There's always next week, you know. Obviously room for improvement. That's kind of really my frame of mind.

Q. This could be the week where you became No. 1 again. We don't know yet because Korda won his match. If that's happen, how would you look at it, considering you lost year 6-1, 6-1 to Santoro?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the ranking system, the way it works, it really comes down to end of the year. That's something I've always said, and will continue to say. It's just a matter of timing. I could gain it back, I could lose it. It just varies week to week. At this point, sure, it would be nice to get back up there. But I know, and deep down that it comes down to the end of the year. That's when you add and subtract all the points, and you'll have your final ranking. We have three big majors coming up over the next four months. The way the ranking system works, you lose points at this time of the year, someone else gains points. You have, for instance, what happened with Rios. It's kind of a flaw in the system, I believe.

Q. Do you think people will understand that?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. People don't understand the ranking system. Took me a couple years to figure it out myself (laughter). The way it works, it should be more of a standings more than a ranking. Ranking should come down to November, that's when Hannover comes around, last big tournament of the year. That's when you should really be talking about the ranking system. The way it works now, it could be four guys No. 1 by the end of the year. Hopefully I'll be the last one standing come December.

Q. Couldn't you consider to hire maybe a good Spanish player, even Santoro for a month, before Roland Garros, to get used to the clay?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the beginning.

Q. Couldn't you consider to hire --

PETE SAMPRAS: Everyone's very expensive (laughter).

Q. -- a good Spanish player or Santoro as a sparring partner for a month before Roland Garros to get used to it?

PETE SAMPRAS: Haven't thought of that. You know, this year is actually one of the first years I'm actually going to take the week off before Paris and be in Paris at Roland Garros. Santoro probably won't want to play with me anymore, because probably will be no practice for him. So I'll be in Paris. I'm sure there will be a lot of guys around to practice with. I do practice with a lot of the Spanish guys, whoever. I'm making an effort not to play Dusseldorf, to get to Paris a little bit earlier, to get used to the courts. I'm sure there will be a lot of guys to practice with.

End of FastScripts....

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