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April 22, 1998

Pete Sampras


Q. Is it one of your best matches on clay?

PETE SAMPRAS: I mean, it's probably one of my better wins. I don't know how well Andre and I played. We both played a little bit in patches. You know, for my first match on clay, in just about a year, I'm very pleased with the way the outcome came. I believe I can play a little better. Sure, it's always a little bit difficult for me on clay with the movement and everything. I served pretty well. You know, like I said, I didn't feel like we both played that great. We both played a little bit up-and-down.

Q. The tide turned a couple times in a hurry. How did it feel to you out there? Did you have a sense of why it was happening that way?

PETE SAMPRAS: It was weird. I got off to a kind of slow start. He broke me early. I broke him back. It was a little bit awkward for Andre and I to play each other the second round. I'm used to playing him later on in the tournament, where I'm playing a little bit better. We were both a little bit nervous out there. It's always a pretty intense match whenever we play. I think it showed a little bit in our tennis. He got off to a really good start; I broke him back. I played pretty well. Just a little bit up-and-down tennis. I can't complain with the result. I played well. You know, I think Andre probably missed a little bit more than he usually does. Clay court tennis, sometimes you just have to find a way. It wasn't easy conditions out there today. I don't know if you could tell, but it was pretty breezy out there. Whenever Andre and I hook up against each other, on clay or hard court or grass, it's always a good match-up.

Q. You certainly seemed to lift your game up to another level when you broke back in the second set.


Q. Probably as good a game as you played on clay in a long time?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, it was a good game. I think the combination of that and I think Andre pressed a little bit. He missed some forehands there. You know, you're right, I did raise my level just enough to break him. Then once it was -- I was thinking it was going to go three sets, I really thought. I think he thought that. He, like I said, pressed. I kind of tightened up my game just enough to break him, then broke him again. It was a good comeback in that second. I thought the way he was playing, the way I was playing, we were going to go into the third, we were just going to guts it out. You know, I got the right point at the right time and managed to break him back, and that was it.

Q. Pete, can you talk a little bit about the frame of mind you had coming into here? You were not supposed to play, then you had to withdraw from Hong Kong. Did you say, "Good, I'm going to Monte-Carlo"?

PETE SAMPRAS: I felt after Lipton, I was having some arm trouble. It really -- I could kind of take a step back from the year, kind of get remotivated. Started doing some training, started getting in pretty good shape. I decided to take a wildcard here. I feel like the clay here at this tournament is very similar to the French Open. I mean, I played in Rome where it's quite different. Here it's pretty similar. Unfortunately, the balls they're using are different here. The competition is very, very strong here, so it's great preparation for the French. The French is still a ways away. You know, it was nice to finally win a match here (laughter). It's been 0 for 3 or 0 for 2. Very, very difficult first round match for me to play Andre. Obviously, it all worked out.

Q. If my memory serves me right, some of the previous matches you played here, the weather has been pretty cold, dark on one occasion. How much does that change today, the way you approach a match?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's huge. The weather conditions, I remember playing Larsson;, it was very cold, a little bit rainy. It makes it that much more difficult for me today. Today, it was nice and warm, dry. The ball just goes through the air a little bit quicker. It just helps out my serve, helps out my groundstrokes. The conditions can really tell how I'm going to play, how I'm going to fare that day. Today, if I would have played Andre, it was cold and wet, it would have given me a much more difficult time. The conditions are a huge key to see how I play here.

Q. When you had your time off, did you get a sense of looking back at the first part of the year what was really not quite right? Do you have a better sense now than you did before?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think what happened to me the first couple months was a result of what happened last year, the end of last year. I felt getting hurt at the Davis Cup, dealing with the injury, I really feel like my off-season, I didn't really have one. I went to Australia really not in the best of shape. I felt for the first couple months here, I've been kind of running on fumes a little bit. I think it showed in my tennis. You know, I just felt like I didn't get a chance to get away from the game in the last year. Just kind of playing week by week over the past month, you know, not really with a purpose. But now that I've had a pretty good break, kind of get recharged up, you know, motivated to play again. I started doing some training, started putting a little more time off the court with my conditioning. You work a little bit harder, it pays off for you. I'm not saying that's why I won today, but this is obviously something I'm looking towards, obviously the French Open in about four or five weeks' time. It was a very, very long year last year. Getting hurt didn't help. I promised myself I'm going to have an off-season this year.

Q. Pete, when the middle of April comes around each year, do you think, "Oh, good, time for clay"? Or do you think, "Here it comes again"?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know what month we're in. I look at clay as a challenge, obviously. I mean, you look -- everyone thinks I can't play on clay. I know deep down that I can play on this stuff. It's just more of a struggle. I mean, it's more of a struggle to play out here; the movement is a little bit different. Guys feel like they have a pretty good chance against me. It's true, clay was not the surface I was raised on. But it is a challenge. A challenge is something that I like and I need at this point in my career. Each day is a new day and it's a struggle. I play either Santoro or Bruguera, two guys that are very experienced on clay. This part of the year is definitely the most challenging part. It's kind of up to me and what's deep down inside of me to see if I can come through. Today was obviously a pretty good start.

Q. So it's more than just a necessary evil?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. The way I look at it, has always been one surface that has troubled all the great players in the game. For Lendl, it was Wimbledon. Connors and McEnroe it was the clay. I look at this as a huge challenge for my tennis, what I've achieved so far. Obviously, clay has been the missing title, and that's the French Open. I'm going to do whatever it takes over the course of my career, this year, you know. I'm going to try to get in the best shape possible for the French, do whatever I can and prepare the best I can. That's all I can really try to do. You know, when I look back at my tennis, I don't want to have any regrets of things I could have done differently for the French. I'm sure there are times where Lendl has regretted not playing Wimbledon for a number of years. I'm going to do whatever I can over the course of my career to try to win there.

Q. Does that mean you're going to give Europe more of a chance, or are you going to be across the Atlantic for most of this spring? Are you going to stick it out and work on the clay and stay here?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I'm playing at a tournament next week in Atlanta, coming back for Rome, taking a week off before the French. This is a time of the year that I'm in Europe pretty much for the next two or three months. Depends how I do at the French. I'll most likely play Queen's and play through Wimbledon. I've done this pretty much for my whole career. It's something I'm planning on doing this year. I'll be spending quite a bit of time in Europe.

Q. They have more baseball on the TV?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm missing the NBA playoffs. NHL playoffs are starting up.

Q. You probably get those on Sky now?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, right.

Q. Where does the No. 1 ranking figure in your planning of playing Rome?

PETE SAMPRAS: At this point, the way I look at the ranking system, it comes down to the end of the year. I mean, that's when it really matters. Sure, I was disappointed I lost it. I know that it's a long year, and the year has just started. Sure, Marcelo has had a great start to the year, but in order to maintain No. 1, you have to be consistent. I haven't been that consistent for the first couple months. We have three of the four majors coming up over the next four months. That's what it all boils down to for me. It's December time, that's when we should be talking about the ranking system. I'm going to do whatever I can to hopefully do it six years in a row.

End of FastScripts....

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