August 30, 1997
Flushing Meadows, New York
Q. How easy was it, Pete?
PETE SAMPRAS: It was pretty smooth. You know, he's got a big game. I played him a
couple times. He comes out swinging away. He's got a huge serve. Just kind of goes for it.
He's always a pretty dangerous opponent. I thought I played pretty solid. The first week
for me, you know, I really have no complaints about the way I've been playing. Just hope I
can maintain this level or get better. But it was a good day.
Q. Pete, looking at your game overall, do you think it's improved from, say, a year
ago? If so, how?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think my conditioning has improved. I've gotten a little bit stronger
compared to last year. When you have that, it just helps you recover pretty well from
tough matches. And I'm confident. You know, obviously winning Wimbledon, having a pretty
good summer helps. I feel like I'm playing well, so we'll see.
Q. You can obviously raise your game to a certain level when you need to do it. At what
point in a tournament like this do you generally start meeting players that can do the
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, each round gets more difficult. I play Korda now who took me the
distance at Wimbledon. But each match, the first round or fourth round, you go out, it's
business. This is a Grand Slam. I don't care if he's ranked 300 or 30, you can't take any
match for granted out here. These guys I'm playing have nothing to lose, so you have to
stay on your toes. I've done that pretty well for the first week.
Q. Can you actually do that? Can you do that match after match? Obviously you would
want to do it, that's the right way to do it. Don't you find yourself out there, a break
and a set up?
PETE SAMPRAS: You're trying just as hard, but sometimes you just don't play as well. In
the course of a two-week event, three out of five, you're not going to play well every
set. You're going to go through your ups and downs. It's just those matches that you don't
play well you need to find a way to win. Each match I played this week, I played pretty
solid. It was a good start for me.
Q. Your mind doesn't wander out there ever?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. I mean, I put so much emphasis on this tournament, and all the
majors, that you try not to have your mind wander. You try to stay focused. It was nice
playing on the court today because I'm kind of used to the surroundings a little bit more.
It was nice to be out there. So I feel good. Things are looking good.
Q. There are a lot of great events out there on the tennis calendar during the year,
but you've always said that the Slams are really what it's all about. Could you explain
again why that's so important to you? Sort of talk about the craft of preparing for a
Slam, how you do that.
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, over the years, you try to put a schedule together that will
hopefully make you peak for the Grand Slams. You know, I always want to play a big event a
couple weeks before a major, take a week off before a major, get ready to play. The other
question, majors, this is our Super Bowl; this is our World Series. A lot of history here;
a lot of history at the other ones. This is what it's all about to me, are the major
tournaments. It probably will be for the rest of my career. This is our Super Bowl here.
Q. Pete, you worked with Mike Nishihara before Australia and the French, right?
PETE SAMPRAS: Uh-huh.
Q. Did you do anything with him after that? Have you worked with him during the summer
PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, yeah. After Wimbledon I had some time off. Made an effort to get used
to the heat and humidity down in Florida. I've had a problem with that in the past. I
really made an effort to get into the weights and get into the conditioning. It's been
Q. And you felt it's made a real difference?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah.
Q. Compared to, say, a year ago?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. Feel like I'm in better shape.
Q. Earlier today Greg Rusedski called you the most intelligent server in the game. How
important is placement and deception versus pure power?
PETE SAMPRAS: Placement is just as important as power. You can serve at 130 up the
middle. If the guy knows it's going there, doesn't really help that much. It's the
disguise. Trying to have the same ball toss on every serve. Trying to mix up the serve; go
to the body every now and then. Kind of like a pitcher out there, you always want to keep
your opponent guessing. It's something that I've learned over the years. I seem to do
Q. Second set, second game, he hit some nice returns on your first serve from Love-40
to deuce. Did this make you think in a way?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yes, absolutely. I was hitting a couple serves 120. I was hitting the
corners and he came up with some huge returns. I was taken back a little bit. That was
good tennis. If he was going to maintain that for a couple games, break me, that wasn't
going to be too good. He was guessing a certain way. I mean, he was leaning a certain way.
I think he had to because he really had no idea where I was going to go. Yeah, it was
definitely a big game to get through.
Q. Didn't irritate you in a way?
PETE SAMPRAS: No.
Q. Any comments on your next match, Korda?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, he's a very hot player -- I mean, dangerous player. He can get hot
at certain times. He took me the distance at Wimbledon. He's got a big game. Does
everything pretty well. Won his first three matches pretty handily. It will be a good
fight for me.
Q. Pete, you've talked about your love of the sport many times. Is there anything in
particular you don't like about your life as a tennis player?
PETE SAMPRAS: Probably the traveling. You know, travel 34, 35 weeks a year, jet lag.
That's not always that fun, you know. When I've been in Europe for two months, whatever,
you look forward to getting back and eating at McDonald's or whatever.
Q. There was an editorial in today's New York Times that indicated a kind of yearning
for the good old lively competitive days of Connors and McEnroe. Do you ever join in and
feel such a yearning? If so, with whom?
PETE SAMPRAS: As far as what?
Q. The kind of competitive days, they referred to the days of Connors and McEnroe, said
there was a kind of feeling and atmosphere, the public and all. Don't you care about any
PETE SAMPRAS: That's a long question. Well, sure, eight, ten years ago, when you had
the rivalries back then, you had the players you mentioned. But I feel like I'm doing my
part. I'm going out, I'm playing, I'm playing well. That's really all I can really do as
an athlete, is go out and try to win. As far as the rivalry, sure, what we had a couple
years ago with Agassi, that was great for the game. Now we don't seem to have a rivalry
that we've been talking about. And that's what the sport needs, especially in the United
States, is something that the people can really cling onto. McEnroe, Connors, Borg, Lendl,
those guys had it. But I can only do my part and go out and play.
Q. Brad Gilbert was saying that since Andre won here, even just in the three years,
that the game has gotten much, much better.
PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, yeah.
Q. Have you noticed that? And how much better is it since you were 19, and those three
PETE SAMPRAS: It's tons better. Look at the results we've had in the last couple years
in majors. You have Kuerten winning the French. You have guys going through and winning
majors. Krajicek. There are just a lot of great players today.
Q. Why do you think that is?
PETE SAMPRAS: I just think athletes are better today, they're in better condition. It
just seems like there's a lot of depth in the game. Especially these young Spaniards
coming through. It just seems everywhere you turn, there's someone coming up. It's
exciting to see a lot of young guys coming up, but to have a rivalry, to have a couple
guys play each other in all the majors or whatever, is something that the sport needs
right now. In today's game, it's not like 10, 15 years ago where you can pretty much write
in the draw who was going to get to the semis, where now anything is possible. That's why
you see a lot of upsets.
Q. People have talked a lot about improved serves. Others say it's really the return
that has improved so much in recent years, or even the ability to step around your
backhand. Can you talk about that? Have you seen a real change in the return game in the
years you've been in the sport?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you have to return. I mean, but the serve I think is the key.
Everyone is serving big, I find. The guys I played in this tournament are acing me a
couple times a game. But in order to win out there, you have to return. That's the only
way that I was going to break through at Wimbledon, was to learn how to return. You're
going to hold serve most of the time, but in order to win these matches, you have to
return. That's a huge part of the game. I mean, that's what made Agassi the player he is
today, because of his return.
Q. Everybody talked about the racquet technology affecting the serve. Do you think it's
actually had a bigger impact on the return?
PETE SAMPRAS: Absolutely. I think it's had a much bigger impact for the guys that stay
back and return. I can still serve 120 with a wood racquet, maybe not as consistent, but
it helps the returners with the racquets. It helps those guys that don't serve that well
serve a little harder.
Q. Pete, regarding your serve, do you feel that the speed of the serve, like the 140
mile per hour serve of Philippoussis is a little overrated? As you were saying, are you
rather for placement?
PETE SAMPRAS: Serving at that speed, 135, 140, that's pretty overwhelming. But it's
hard to keep that up for three, four sets at that pace. Your arm is going to come off. I
hit a lot of my serves 95 out wide, just as long as it wins you the point. That's really
the bottom line. Sure, it's always intimidating when you hit a big serve 130, 135. That's
what makes someone like Philippoussis very dangerous.
Q. The speed of the serve is obviously much easier for the fans to focus on, especially
with the speed gun out there. Say by the turn of the century, year two thousand, we're up
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think it's going to happen.
PETE SAMPRAS: 142?
Q. The fastest speed in the tournament is 142. The question is, by the turn of the
century, how far --
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think it can go much harder, I really don't. I mean, that's
overwhelming. No, I don't see anything 145, 150.
Q. Rusedski hit 141 today.
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't see it going much farther than that.
Q. What do you think about Kuerten's shot and what about his game on hardcourts?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, he's beaten -- he beat Agassi on hard. He's capable of playing well
here. He serves pretty well. I haven't seen him play too much on hard. Saw him play quite
a bit at the French. He seems to want to come in. Got a pretty good all-around court game.
I really can't comment on it too much because I haven't seen him play that much. Good to
see not only can he play on clay, but he's improved his hardcourt game.
Q. Philippoussis has a reputation for just going out and bombing serves in. Was there
ever a time early on, maybe before you broke in here, that you fell in love with just
bombing serves in or did you always mix it up?
PETE SAMPRAS: I've always tried to mix it up. When I won here in '90, that will always
be the shot for me, my serve. But in order to win at this level, stay on top, you need
more than a serve. Serving 142, or whatever it is, is going to be very impressive, but
it's not going to win you every match. You need to back it up. You need to have some
volleys, you need to have some groundies; need to be able to return, the whole package,
not just the serve.
Q. (Inaudible) Justin Gimelstob before the match. What do you think his future is?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think he's got a good game. He's young, seems very eager to make a
break. He's got a good all-around court game. He's got to work on a few things. I think
the future looks pretty good for him.
Q. Do you see this as maybe his coming out, people start to get to know him now after
this tournament, started to make a little bit of waves, Gimelstob?
PETE SAMPRAS: What was your question?
Q. Do you see this as kind of his coming out, people starting to take notice of him
PETE SAMPRAS: Yes. This is a major tournament. A lot of the media is here. So, sure, if
he plays well and gets through the tournament or through his draw, sure he's going to get
a lot of attention. Everyone has been talking about American tennis. He's the next real
hope for American tennis. So he's going to get a lot of attention.
Q. Pete, can you ever allow yourself to examine your place in history as you're in the
midst of creating it?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I don't look at myself in terms of history. I feel like I'm in the
middle of my career; I'm trying to get better. I'm sure when all is said and done, I'll
look back at my career, I'll appreciate a lot more then what I'm doing. I feel like for
how old I am, 26 now, I've had a very good career. I just feel that I can get better.
Q. Do you have any mementos of past players? Do you have old tennis magazines? Do you
keep track of what others have done? I know you're in the middle of yours, so perhaps you
can't have the perspective. What are your most prized tennis mementos?
PETE SAMPRAS: I really don't have any. I mean, from the past, I just have my trophies
and that's it.
Q. What would Bill Tilden think of you, do you suppose?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think you have to ask him.
Q. I know you can't, but you can imagine what he might say.
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know what to say to that.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.