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October 23, 1997

Pete Sampras

Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle Stuttgart, Germany

Q. What went more wrong than you expected?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it is very simple this match. I got off to a pretty good start and I really think if I would have converted on one of those three breakpoints I had, I think, you know, I kind of liked my chances. But, he came up with some big serves. The court is playing very quick. He served and volleyed very well. Tough to break him. I played a couple of careless points on two service games. He hit a couple of good passing shots. That is really it. That pretty much sums it up. I could have returned a little bit better off the second serve, but he was hitting huge second serves. Like I said, the court is playing quick, so, it is tough to return. So, he played some big tennis. I mean, he serves huge. He volleys pretty well. I just got a little careless on a couple of shots and that is it.

Q. The stats show about 11 or 12 unforced errors on your side. Is that a little bit unusual for your game?

PETE SAMPRAS: That is not a lot of errors.

Q. Unforced errors.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I mean, that is not a lot of errors for a match for me. But, you know, the court is so quick you are not going to hit a lot of errors. It is all serving - pretty much like playing grass court tennis. --

Q. The surface was okay?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, the surface, I can't complain about. I played well here last year, but it is playing quick. The balls are pretty hard and you get two big servers like me and Richard, and you are not going to have a lot of rallies that can slow it down a little bit like playing grass court tennis. That is really, as far as my mindset, that is kind of where it was - a couple of returns, a couple of shots here and there, and it is really the difference. Hit-and-miss tennis. Not a lot of strategy out there. He played well. I mean, I give him credit. He really played some good tennis.

Q. Are you a little bit sick?

PETE SAMPRAS: Just a little head cold, but I feel fine.

Q. Lack of competition, can it play into this at all; match toughness?

PETE SAMPRAS: Not really. I felt I have had a pretty good break and I felt I played okay my first match and I felt fine. I thought I hit the ball fine, served all right. I just have to be a little bit sharper on the points. I just missed easy backhands there to get my serve broken. And maybe I could have returned a little bit better. Maybe I wasn't used to his speed because I haven't played a big server like that in a while. I can only be so hard on myself. I got to kind of accept defeat sometimes. I can learn from some of the things I did out there and, hopefully, I will have a chance to play him again, you know, whenever, so....

Q. There are not many players that have a good record in head-to-head against you. He has it 4 out of 6. Does it mean anything to you? Do you think there is a reason for it?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, his game is the main reason. Nothing mentally I have with Richard. He serves big and he seems to play with nothing to lose and that is the case when I play him. He plays real loose and he just kind of lets his shots go. Where if you play someone lower ranked, he may be -- doesn't play quite as well sometimes. He seems to rise for the occasion when he plays me like all the guys do. And he believes he can beat me. He beat me at Wimbledon, a huge event. He came out here today beating Boris yesterday and playing well, and, you know, a couple of swings of the racket and that is all it took.

Q. I don't know if you talked about it in the first press conference, but how did you prepare to come here and, you know, how much practice did you have the last couple of weeks?

PETE SAMPRAS: After I pulled out of Basel, I took two weeks off, I didn't pick up a racket. I started hitting last week and got here on Saturday. I have just been practicing since Saturday against the guys and that has really been my preparation. So, I had a little time off which I needed to kind of let my arm rest after hurting it a little bit in Munich. But I felt fresh and ready to go this week. At this point, I go to Paris tomorrow and prepare for that event and try to finish these last three events as strong as I can.

Q. What frame of mind are you in? Are you eager to play?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I am eager to play.

Q. A few big weeks coming up.

PETE SAMPRAS: Some huge weeks, especially couple of weeks in Hannover where I won there last year and Paris is a Super 9, so, I am very motivated. It doesn't mean I am going to win every match. You are going to play matches like this today and you just get a little bit unlucky and, you know, I can't get down on myself. Fortunately, there is always another chance next week and that is kind of where I am at right now.

Q. Once in the major or even in the Super 9 most of the best players were going 'til the end. Now there are 7 seeds out of the top 8 who are out already. Are you surprised by that? How can you explain it? Is there some kind of explanation or not?

PETE SAMPRAS: There is not as much difference, I think, in today's game from someone ranked, you know, in the top 2 in the world to someone ranked 10 to 20 in the world. These guys come up with nothing to lose. They swing away and you see a lot of upsets. So that is the only explanation I can give you, players are better, a lot more deep, the game is real deep right now and so you are going to have a lot of upsets.

Q. Would you say that this could confuse the people, the crowd, I mean, the public opinion that they cannot understand who is really the best player?

PETE SAMPRAS: I hope with the results this year that they look at me as the best player, but not this week. So, yeah, you don't -- so years ago you always had McEnroe, Connors, Borg and Lendl in the semifinals. Now, this week, or next week you could have four guys that - everyone has heard of - but you are not going to have the same four guys every week. It just tells you that the players are much better now. The difference between the top five and someone ranked 15 or 20 isn't really much - couple shots here or there. Guys ranked 20 believe they can beat the top couple of players in the world. That is a big start to believe that you can beat the top players. So it was kind of obvious what happened. I played Richard who is just, you know, serves huge and hit a couple of returns and that is it.

Q. Considering the way you are playing today in this period and last year, the last year, do you think you improved or the same, or what?

PETE SAMPRAS: Actually this time I was coming off the US Open, so I was very confident, whatever. I won Basel and I played well here. But, this year I played very well Davis Cup and played well in Munich, so the form is still there. It is just a matter of getting some more matches and, you know, playing a little bit better. I still feel like I am playing well. Mentally I am fresh and ready to play. It is just -- it is tough sometimes - you play a guy with such a big game and you don't convert on a couple of breakpoints and that is really it.

Q. In other words, do you still think you have a margin for improvement or you just got to that top level?

PETE SAMPRAS: Right now, for me, it is top level and I am trying to stay there. I mean, there is nothing in my game I am really going to change. It is trying to mentally stay fresh each week and being motivated and I feel like I am. That is important. My tennis, I feel like I am playing well. Just didn't win today. But, I feel like there is still a lot of good tennis left in me for this year and the years to come and there is no reason to panic. Just have to accept my defeat and move on. As much as I am playing through the year, if I took every loss like I did the US Open this year, I would be in a mental institution. So, just got to move on and get ready for next week.

Q. On that subject, you always tell us you judge the year on how many majors you win. After that, is the next most important thing finishing No. 1 at the end of the year?


Q. How close is that to winning a major?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I have always -- when I look back at my year, it has always been about the majors and the ranking pretty much always comes in second. It would be great to end the year No. 1, but if I, you know, go through a year not winning a major and at the end of the year No. 1, that is a disappointing year for me. It always has been and always will be about the major tournaments for the rest of my career. That is kind of the driving force of what keeps me motivated in playing are the majors and the ranking is the icing on the cake, if you play well at the majors. So after the US Open, my main goal was to try to maybe win a Davis Cup and try to end the year No. 1. And hopefully those things will happen.

End of FastScripts….

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