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August 28, 1997

Pete Sampras

U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Flushing Meadows, New York

Q. He was kind of scrappy there, especially in the first set?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I mean, I came out firing. He was serving huge. Anyone that's qualified, won a match, came out with nothing to lose. You know, his game wasn't, you know, all that soft in the back court. But he served real big, moved well, especially at net. And, you know, I thought I played pretty well, returned well. The first set was the key. Once I won the first, kind of relaxed, went from there. All these guys come out, nothing to lose, anything's possible.

Q. Because of the history you have in that stadium, was it almost nice to get moved there for the match today, because of the history? You said you had strong feelings.

PETE SAMPRAS: Good memories, won a lot of big matches out there. It was nice to get back there. So I'm used to the surroundings, the court is a little more intimate than the court here. But playing the other night here, I really liked it. I won a lot of big matches out there, so it was nice to be out.

Q. The shoes, Pete, are you just going to wear those at this tournament or are you planning to wear those indefinitely?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, as long as it stays pretty cool, I'll continue to wear them. If it gets hot, it doesn't make much sense. I don't know what I'll do after this tournament, if I'll continue to wear the black ones. I don't know if they're going to make a lot of them. It's definitely making a statement (laughter).

Q. What kind of statement is that?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know. You tell me.

Q. What's the statement?

PETE SAMPRAS: The statement is they're black, red and white, and people are noticing them, so that's what it's all about.

Q. Pete, you've had a very classist --

PETE SAMPRAS: It's not classy what I'm wearing?

Q. You've had a very classic look in terms of what you're wearing. Is it odd for you to put on a pair of black sneakers?

PETE SAMPRAS: Once I saw them, I liked them. This is New York City, why not? It was first match. Nike is always trying to put out new things. With me wearing something so radical, definitely got a lot of attention. Same shoe I've been wearing, it's just black. You know, it's getting attention. You know, I'm sure once it gets hot, I'm not going to wear these shoes for the rest of my career, that's for sure.

Q. Pink shirt next?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm going to stay away from the pink.

Q. What did you do to kill some time while it was raining and everything was sort of off?

PETE SAMPRAS: Nothing you can do. I mean, you just hang out, wait for the rain to stop, get something to eat, hang out in the locker room, just kill time.

Q. Did you play monopoly or tic-tac-toe?

PETE SAMPRAS: Tic-tac-toe (laughter)? Wimbledon, usually you come prepared. You bring some cards and backgammon board. But here, it could rain. It was supposed to clear up today. I didn't come prepared.

Q. You're not thinking about a tatoo next, are you?

PETE SAMPRAS: We're just talking shoes here, you know. We're not talking body piercing or anything like that.

Q. Pete, going back to the beginning of your career, let's say you're in the shoes of like a Baur, going out and playing your first big match against the top player or a top player, can you think back to this point and just describe what your feelings were? Were you scared?

PETE SAMPRAS: When I was someone coming up?

Q. Yes, when you were in like Baur's shoes.

PETE SAMPRAS: I remember when I played Wilander here in '88 or '89, I had nothing to lose, he was the defending champion, he was still ranked pretty high at the time. I was on Stadium Court, a night match. I remember I had nothing to lose, but I didn't want to embarrass myself out there because at that point I wasn't that good of a player. Then once you kind of get into the match, he had all the pressure, it was a lot of fun. I ended up winning the match. That match always stands out as, you know, kind of an underdog coming through, nothing to lose. It's a lot of fun if you're playing well and the crowd's behind you like that.

Q. Have you ever considered going over to Europe for the claycourt season and just trying to come in constantly, serve and volley, chip and charge to see if that would work?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know. I mean, a lot of people have been saying serve and volley on both serves, chip and charge. It's easier said than done. To be able to do that with all these guys with good groundies and good passing shots, not easy to do for five sets. I'm going to try some new things next year. Maybe I will come in a little bit more. I feel like the clay at Roland Garros is quick enough to do that. You know, it's going to take some time. I'm still trying to figure it out.

Q. Don't you think if you come in more, they won't get grooved with their passing shots?

PETE SAMPRAS: The problem for me on clay is the movement, you know. It's not the fact that the court's that slow, it's movement, being up net, knowing my footing. It's tough to react to passing shots and overheads. So it's just a question of movement for me. These guys have a little bit more time to pass and return my serve on clay, so it makes it a little more difficult.

Q. Did Rafter's success there this year surprise you?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. Because the conditions were playing quick. He has a big, quick serve, gets it up to these guys' backhand, coming in. He's a good athlete, fights hard. Wasn't that surprising. He's not really raised on the claycourt surface. Goes to show that a serve and volleyer can win at Roland Garros. It's still going to be an ongoing quest for me to win there one year.

Q. Pete, you always talked about the Grand Slams building up toward the big matches in the second week. Are you where you want to be in your progression toward that second week after a couple of days of practice and two rounds?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I feel I'm playing well and I'm moving well. The key for the first week is just to get through these matches as easily as possible. Today's match was a good test because it was, you know, he was playing well. I feel like my preparation has been ideal. The first couple matches, playing pretty solid. That's all I can really ask for at this point.

Q. How does where you are in your game right now compare with at Wimbledon and other times during this year?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, Wimbledon's totally different because of the grass. But I feel like I'm serving well and if I'm serving well I'm going to be pretty tough to beat. It just opens up the rest of my game with my groundies and returns, if I'm serving like I have the first couple of matches. Wimbledon was a completely different ball game. Grass court tennis is so much different than playing here. First two matches were pretty solid. Looking forward to my next match.

Q. Pete, when you play somebody who is 336 places below you, does your level of play tend to go down?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. Because you can't take anything for granted, especially in the men's game. You know, he came out with nothing to lose, he's got a pretty good game. Like I said, anything I possible, a couple points here and there. You just think over the course of a five-set match or four sets, that eventually you're going to have your chances. I definitely got my chances today and converted. But I don't care if he's 300 or 500, he qualified, he won a match. I'm sure he was ready to go today.

Q. On that great point in the second set when you won it with a backhand cross-court, he gets it down the line. Did you see him moving, did you make a lucky guess?

PETE SAMPRAS: I just got a little lucky. Just reacted and hit the shot that I thought was best at the point, at that time. But he guessed the wrong way.

Q. Got pretty excited on that point?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I mean, there's always a time and a place for that. This is the time and this is the place to show some emotion. This is our last major of the year, so this is it.

Q. Pete, on the TV there have been some Jimmy Connors stuff doing exactly the same thing. Did you see that then?

PETE SAMPRAS: I try not to see it. They're showing it every ten minutes (laughter).

Q. Was it a mimic or something straight out of your own?

PETE SAMPRAS: Like I say, there's a time and place to show some emotion. Set point in the second set. Once I knew I won that point, that was pretty much the match. So I'm not going to do that first game of the match. There's just times in the match that, you know, you just release some emotion. That was it.

Q. Pete, obviously you don't look ahead past your next match, but do you think an Alex Corretja rematch is something tennis fans could sink their teeth into?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know whose side of the draw he's on to be honest with you.

Q. On yours.

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure. That got a lot of attention last year. People that didn't maybe follow tennis would follow that match if we would play each other. I'm sure it's the last thing on his mind, last thing on my mind. For the game, I'm sure it would be pretty exciting because people know the history of our match last year. But it's really the last thing on my mind.

Q. Have you been paying close attention to how Agassi has been playing here so far? Obviously he's only played one match. Have you kept an eye perhaps on his practices? Is it something that you want to see him doing well?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, for the game I think he brings a lot of attention. The game definitely needs him, especially at this point. A lot of guys, Becker and Stich, kind of coming out of the game. We need Andre to definitely stick around and play at the level he should be playing at, like he was a couple years ago. So, you know, I feel like that rivalry we had a couple years ago was something that was memorable, something the game really needs right now.

Q. How do you feel about the first round of Davis Cup being moved now down to April?

PETE SAMPRAS: When is that, after Lipton?

Q. Yes.

PETE SAMPRAS: What do I think of it? I don't know. I haven't given it much thought.

Q. Just on Davis Cup, how do you feel about the prospect of playing doubles against the Woodies if you're asked?

PETE SAMPRAS: That's a good possibility.

Q. Something you look forward to?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure. I don't mind playing doubles. I mean, I do, but I don't (laughter). If it's Davis Cup, something that is as important as Davis Cup, yeah, I will play if I'm asked.

Q. What do you think of your next opponent? You played him twice, beaten him twice.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, he's taken me the distance a couple times. He has a big serve, good all-around court game. Pretty straightforward match. I mean, you know, again, he's coming to come out swinging away. I feel like I'm playing well, just go out and play.

Q. Pete, we've seen you on MTV with Kennedy. Does that stress you out to do that or are we going to be seeing more of that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Where you from?

Q. Sarasota. Not the Howard Stern show.

PETE SAMPRAS: Thank God for that (laughter). What was your question?

Q. You were really great on those. Are we going to be seeing you more, doing more of that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Doing MTV stuff?

Q. Yes.

PETE SAMPRAS: Like what kind of stuff (laughter)? I don't know. It was something that was easy. Somehow they got my number and they called me at seven in the morning to wake me up, and they did. But I don't plan on doing a lot of extra things. I just want to play, do some other things that I want to do. I like to try to keep things, you know, pretty simple in my life, especially off the court, enjoy my time off. So there's not a good chance I'll be hitting the MTV Music Awards or whatever is coming up here.

Q. USTA announced, all of tennis announced $30 million over five year grass-roots plan this morning do you think that will solve whatever ails supposedly are hitting American tennis?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it will help, but I don't know if it will solve the problem. I really don't know how to solve the problem because there's not really a young American coming up today that I see that will have the impact this I've had or Michael or Andre or Jim or Todd. Like I've said before when I've been asked, this game goes in cycles. Now the Spaniards are coming up. They're doing very well. American tennis is still very strong. We still have the top two players, Andre is coming back. It all goes in cycles. The Swedes were dominating ten years ago. The Americans are still very strong. The future, ten years from now, it's hard to say where we're going to be.

Q. You obviously didn't come through any program?


Q. Do you think it's a game that lends itself to --

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I wasn't really part of the USTA program. I was on the JDC team for one year in LA playing against Michael Chang. Courier and Agassi were down at Bollettieri's. I wasn't involved with USTA development. I had my competition where I was and went from there.

Q. I guess my question is, do you feel like this is a game that lends itself to a big grass-roots level? Are we going to see the next champion doing what you did, coming out of an individual situation?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, it's possible. You know, I was fortunate, I had competition. I had Michael Chang, Courier, Agassi. We pushed each other to be good players. It just goes in cycles, it really does. We could talk about it all night, but it's really hard to say what's going to happen with American tennis. But we have a couple of good, young players, but it's hard to say how good they're really going to be, so we'll see.

End of FastScripts….

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