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March 12, 1998

Pete Sampras


MIKI SINGH: First question for Pete.

Q. Just didn't have it tonight, Pete, or what was the problem?

PETE SAMPRAS: Obviously I didn't. That was awful. I mean, I really struggled throughout the whole match. I mean, I had some chances in the first, had a set point. Had some Love-30 points. Just struggled. I don't know what it is about playing here, but last three years I've really -- didn't really feel like the way I usually do out there. The ball seems to fly on me just a touch. I'm sitting here kind of I don't know what happened. I always have played well against Thomas, beaten him a number of times. You played all right. I just kind of just gave it to him, made a lot of errors. Just an off day, I mean, very bad day.

Q. In San Jose, Pete, you broke your strings about four or five times. Afterwards, you said you don't change your strings. Did you change your strings here to try to adapt to conditions?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I went to a thicker gauge string because last year I really struggled, even more than this year. Went to a thicker gauge to give me a little bit more control. I don't know what it is about the conditions here. The ball just seems to fly on me, I can't play the way I want to play, can't swing the way I want to swing, have control of the ball. I've tried some different things, different gauges. I played okay against Todd. I can't seem to get my rallying shot the way I want to play. It just seems to fly on me just a little bit. You know, just made a lot of errors tonight. Didn't serve particularly well. Just a tough place for me to play obviously the last couple years.

Q. Was there anything that he did to force you off course or anything?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. He served a little bit better than I thought. You know, usually I can control the points against him, dictate the play. You know, tonight I just felt like I was either too safe or too aggressive. You know, just made some errors. You know, I had some chances in the first set. I was playing all right. But as the match went on, I just kind of lost a little bit more confidence, and it showed. I mean, I was up a break. You know, just didn't have it here. I don't know why. I just don't seem to play well in Palm Springs.

Q. If this tournament remains here, because of your problems here, might you just decide to bag it as far as this tournament is concerned?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's not really what I'm about. I don't bag things. You know, I try to figure it out and learn from it. Hopefully, next year I can figure it out. I'm not someone that's just going to bag it. You know, this is a great tournament. I've played pretty well here in the past. I don't know why. Just recently, the last couple years, I've struggled. There's no reason to quit and go home. This is a good week-a Super 9 tournament. All the guys are here. I just can't seem to handle the conditions the way I want, and it obviously showed tonight.

Q. Pete, obviously nobody likes to lose. It's very disappointing and all that. You seem to be far more dejected and frustrated than after a normal loss, a loss on a regular basis. Would that be fair?

PETE SAMPRAS: Absolutely. Sure, I've lost plenty in the past. You know, when I play the way I did tonight, I can only feel dejected. If I go out and play well, got outplayed, I can live with that. Obviously, I'm very hard on myself. That's why I've achieved what I've achieved. I'm very hard on myself. I will always be like that. I'm kind of just sitting here right now, not really sure what just happened out there. Just felt completely like it wasn't me there. You know, I just didn't play well. If I play well and lose, okay, I can walk out of here okay. But to play like the way I did tonight was unacceptable.

Q. Any idea, Pete, of how you can solve this riddle, your poor play here in the future?

PETE SAMPRAS: I've tried everything. I mean, I've tried different tensions, different gut. I really don't know what to tried try. I've got a year to think about it.

Q. What was the gauge tonight?

PETE SAMPRAS: I usually use 122, which is the thinnest gauge. Tonight I used 125. I have since I've been here. It's so dry here, the strings were popping last year like flies, every five minutes. You know, I don't know. I'm not very confident here. I don't know why I'm just not that confident playing here like I am in all the other tournaments. Just got to figure it out. Just got to figure it out. It's not really a tennis issue; it's just trying to figure out how I'm going to play here, how I can get my racquets and tension the way I want to get it.

Q. Pete, you've been able to win here in the past. What's the big difference?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think a little bit has to do with the ball they've been using the last couple years. You know, four or five years ago, they used kind of a heavier ball, a little softer ball. Last three years they've been using the Tour ball. I've never really liked playing with that ball here. Never feel like I can really take a pretty good cut at it like I can normally. Just don't have much confidence here. That's really the main reason.

Q. The year is about a quarter over. How would you assess it for yourself, and how do you feel after the first stretch of the season?

PETE SAMPRAS: Mediocre, you know. Started off the year in Australia playing well. Ran into a hot player. That was disappointing. Played okay last week in Philadelphia, played okay in San Jose. This is a tournament I was really gearing for because I played so poorly here last year. A time to make up a lot of points. You know, the only thing can I try to do right now is get ready for Lipton. But this is not the way I want to play. I mean, this is not good, you know. Feel like I need a few beers or something, maybe half a dozen (laughter).

Q. How do you feel about the fact that if Petr Korda wins here, he will overtake you at the top of the rankings?

PETE SAMPRAS: How do I feel about that?

Q. Yes.

PETE SAMPRAS: How do you think I feel?

Q. Not too happy. Is it a challenge? Frustrating?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's a challenge. It's not frustrating. It's a long year. The way I look at it, maybe I'll lose this battle, but hopefully I'll win the war at the end of the year. That's when it really counts. Sure, a lot of things can happen over the course of the next couple months, but it comes down to December. That's when you add and subtract all the points, you'll have your final rankings. There's a lot of tennis yet to be played, a lot of Slams to be won. You know, it's much more important to be No. 1 in December, not March. Sure, I'm not going to be happy if it happens. But I'm looking forward to the challenge to get back on top. We'll see. I mean, I feel like I've got the game, I can turn it on. I felt I could have turned it on this week, but it didn't happen. Hopefully, Lipton.

MIKI SINGH: Any other questions for Pete? Thanks.

End of FastScripts....

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