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March 23, 1998

Pete Sampras


MIKI SINGH: First question for Pete.

Q. Pete, everybody has theories, but what is your version of what's going on this year with you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Nothing really, you know. Just playing. Obviously I'm lacking a little bit of confidence these past couple weeks. But I feel I'm hitting the ball pretty well. Had the match in my hands today. I let it slip away. Just couldn't seem to recover after that match point. The tiebreaker, two match points. This year has been a little bit up-and-down, but I feel like I'm playing well. Today was a match I should have won, obviously. I mean, I had it in my hands, I just let it slip away. But, you know, the year is very young. There's a lot of tennis yet to be played, a lot of big tournaments coming up. But this is not really the start I wanted. I feel like I had a good chance of winning here. But just let it slip away.

Q. Is there something about him? He's beaten you three straight now.

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I mean, Wayne's an up-and-down player. You saw the way he played in the first set. I mean, he was in another zip code. You know, he started playing a little bit better in the second. A couple things happened here and there in the tiebreaker, and all of a sudden we're one set all. Didn't seem to really recover from the second set loss, and it showed. Got off to a bad break. I just kind of lost a little confidence as the match went on. But, you know, I had the match in my hands. 6-5 in the breaker, double-faulted. Got a little bit tight. Just some bad luck, you know, bad luck.

Q. Pete, I suppose two-out-of-three set matches, do you feel more confident in the three-out-of-five, to be able to pull yourself back together if you're down a set?

PETE SAMPRAS: Unfortunately we're playing two out of three. I can say that sitting here losing. You know, sure, you'd like to have another chance. But it's over now. Nothing we can do about it.

Q. Did you feel good at the beginning? It looked like you were upset over a few line calls.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, we both felt a couple line calls were a little bit questionable. Some went my way, some went his way. You hope, hopefully, it evens out. Really had no outcome in the match. You know, just kind of played through it, whatever. But I'm just kind of sitting in the locker room, sitting here just in shock that I lost this match.

Q. Why do you think your game did slip after the first set?

PETE SAMPRAS: You know, like I said, I've never really liked winning sets 6-Love. It's a weird -- I'd rather win it 6-4, 7-6. I knew he was going to start playing better. Some strange things can happen in this game. It obviously showed today. He started picking up his game, all of a sudden winning the tiebreaker. I had my chances. That's all you can ask for. I didn't quite convert. Maybe if I would have tried something different on the match point. You know, as far as my decision, that was what I felt best to do, to serve into the body. I missed it, double-faulted. I just never seemed to recover from that.

Q. Obviously, you're not having the start to your year that you used to and would like. Is there anything you can pinpoint in your game that you think is letting you down this year, anything particular, or just in general?

PETE SAMPRAS: There's nothing in particular. I mean, like I said, I think I've been hitting the ball pretty well in practice. You know, at this point last year, I had won a Grand Slam title, so I was coming in pretty confident. But, you know, just need to get my game back together. I'm not panicking here. I'm not playing all that well at the moment, but, you know, I got a couple big tournaments coming up, the French and Wimbledon, that I can look forward to, get ready for the clay court season. This is not the way I wanted to end, these two Super 9 tournaments, playing the way I did against Muster and then playing here. You know, it's not like I feel like I'm getting beat out there; I feel like I'm just not playing well. You know, that's the way it goes.

Q. Tennis greats have favorite tournaments and non-favorite tournaments, not because of what happened today, but is this one of the tournaments that you don't like that much?

PETE SAMPRAS: I love it. This is a great tournament. This is one of the best events we have on tour. Stadium is great. I've won here a couple times. Played pretty well here in the past. I think all the players look forward to coming back. Certainly I intend to do so for as long as this tournament is around. It's well-run, so I plan on coming back.

Q. Pete, do you remember the last time you lost your backhand for such an extended period of time, couldn't seem to find where -- what you wanted to do with it, where you wanted to put it?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, that was obviously giving me problems. Hitting some pretty heavy shots to my backhand. I just played some silly errors. Love-30, missed an easy backhand. Just made some careless errors. You just can't afford to do that at this level. At that time, I needed to kind of raise my level. I didn't. But, you know, I just felt on the changeovers in the third set, I felt this match should have been over. I didn't seem to recover from that second set loss. I think it was just kind of a snowball effect. I think I got a little bit more down on myself as the third set went on - showed in some errors I put in there.

Q. The forehand on set point in the second set, you had an open court, slapped it into the net. Did that shake you a little bit?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, sure. You're up 6-4, you know, you feel like you're going to go on to victory. All of a sudden he comes in on a fluke forehand, miss the backhand, all of a sudden it's a different ballgame. Tiebreakers are kind of like a roll of the dice. Those are moments that I've come through. Had the easy forehand. Missed it into the net for no reason. Maybe a little bit of tension involved. But, you know, I just didn't recover as well as I would have liked after that miss.

Q. Are you surprised that you got down on yourself at this stage of your career, after all you've been through?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's kind of a weird feeling out there. You know, I kind of felt like Rhode Island yesterday, being up six with a minute left, all of a sudden they're down. I kind of felt like that today. I was up, had the match in my hands. All of a sudden you're in the third set. You feel like in your mind this match should be over. That's the time you need to recover. I just didn't do that. You know, I just got down on myself and it showed in my tennis.

Q. Pete, you've talked about lacking some confidence along the way. When things like this happen, does it become harder to regain it, do you think?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I mean, it's just matches, you know, going out there and playing well. I was confident coming in here, played pretty well my first match. I just lost a little bit of confidence as the match went on. I felt I had it in my hands, I just let it slip away. You know, I just missed some shots here and there, and there you have it. But these are matches, you know, that I shouldn't lose. I mean, I felt I was playing well, getting off to a 6-Love lead in about 20 minutes. But strange things happen out there.

Q. How front of mind is it that the No. 1 position is under threat again now?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's going to be like this for pretty much the whole year, I'm sure, with a lot of guys stepping up. But you just hope when it comes to the end of the year, at December time, that I can, you know, be No. 1. A lot of things can happen over the next couple months. But, you know, the end of the year ranking is a true indication of who had the best year. But this is not the way I wanted to start. But there's a lot of tennis yet to be played.

Q. Does this early defeat cause you to rethink your schedule?

PETE SAMPRAS: Not really. You know, obviously have the claycourt season coming up, get ready for the French. There's nothing I'm going to do differently.

Q. Why do you think it was so tough to recover from the second set?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, like I said, you feel like you have the match in your hands. You know, you should -- you know, up 6-Love, you know. It's like, "This match is mine." I've been playing well. Then all of a sudden it was one set all. I just seemed a little flustered. Kind of affected me for about four games. By the fourth game, I got broken. All of a sudden, he's got the momentum. He went on to serve it out. You know, the only person I can blame here is myself for letting it slip away.

Q. Do you remember ever having double-faulted on match point before? And when was it?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't remember.

Q. You think this was the first time?

PETE SAMPRAS: Could be. I'm sure I've done it throughout my career in tennis, but I can't remember.

Q. Pete, Mark Miles said again this morning that he would like to see this tournament switch to clay in 2000. Do I understand correctly that you're opposed to that idea?


Q. And why is that?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't understand the reason. I mean, this tournament has been played on hardcourt for many years; got a lot of tradition here. To change surfaces, that makes no sense at all. You know, I can understand 30 years ago you had U.S. Open on grass court, everything was on grass. Then you had it on claycourt, then everything was on clay. Now the U.S. Open is on hardcourt. It's our national surface. There's no reason to screw around with that. I'm obviously not in favor. Not because -- obviously clay is not my best surface. I just think for the tournament and for the fans and the media, I think hardcourt tennis would be better.

MIKI SINGH: Anything else for Pete?

Q. Pete, do you think after two years, a hundred and some weeks, is there any motivational problem?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, there's no motivational problem. I'm very motivated, hungry, still working hard. Trying to break Connors' record, trying to do the best I can at the Slams. You know, sure, each week you've got to find that motivation. But with the field here, the fact that it's a huge tournament, if you're not motivated for this, you shouldn't be playing. I'm very motivated. Sometimes you just don't play that well. That's what happened today.

Q. Where are you off to next?

PETE SAMPRAS: Home, home for a little bit.

Q. And your next tournament?


MIKI SINGH: Anything else? Thanks.

End of FastScripts....

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