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August 6, 1997

Pete Sampras


JOE LYNCH: Pete Sampras, looked a little rusty tonight. Sarcasm for the transcript. Moves into the third round and will play Patrick Rafter tomorrow. First question for Pete.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: Busted a few balls?

Q. Yes.

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I think I busted a few balls. (laughter). For my first match in a month, I was pleasantly surprised the way I played. I got off to a good start, served quite well, kind of surprised myself. I wasn't really sure how I was going to play. I've been practicing pretty hard, but it's always a little bit different when you play your first match. I really have no complaints about the way I played. I played really solid.

Q. Courier said yesterday there's not a lot of difference between the (inaudible) ranked player and 30th.

PETE SAMPRAS: I feel like if I'm playing well, I feel like I'm pretty tough to beat. It's a big "if". My year, I mean, has been great winning two Grand Slams by this time of the year. I've had some tough losses. There really isn't much of a difference now from someone ranked in the Top 5 to someone ranked 15 to 20. These guys have nothing to lose. They go out, if they lose this week, boom, they're off to the next week. If you're not sharp, as good as those players are, you look at the results we've had over the years, I mean, a lot of upsets, Kuerten winning the French. Anything is possible out there in today's game, which makes it very exciting.

Q. How do you keep yourself sharp between points? How do you keep yourself motivated?

PETE SAMPRAS: For me, it's mental. It's mentally being fresh. And after Wimbledon, I took some time off, you know, to enjoy the victory. You know, but when it came to start working, I started working. Mentally I feel fresh. I'm not tired. I'm ready to play. I like my schedule for the upcoming, you know, here, Indy, week off, then the Open. I really like that schedule. For me it's all mental, I mean, staying fresh and being eager.

Q. When did you decide that that's the way to arrange your schedule? Was there a certain point in your career?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, over the years, I put so much emphasis on the major tournaments, that's how I schedule my tournaments, around those tournaments, the four we have. And so just over experience and, you know, I've made bad moves with my schedule playing too much, but just through the years, I know what I want to play and I know I want to peak at the majors. That's the major goal in my tennis right now, is do well at those tournaments, and to try to play every week, which really could lead into playing well at majors. So that's how I make my schedule.

Q. Did you also learn the best way to arrange your off time, I mean, how much practice you should take?

PETE SAMPRAS: There really is no off-season in the game, so you really have to put holes in your schedule that you have some time off to rest and recoup. Especially after the French and Wimbledon, pretty stressful time of the year, you know, it's nice to have a couple of weeks to enjoy the victory, but to really get back into shape and get used to the heat. So playing tournaments is just something over the years I've learned what I want to play and what I don't want to play. But it's all based around the majors.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I didn't pick up a racquet for a couple weeks and just went out to LA and saw my family and just hung out, played some golf. Came back, getting ready for Montreal, my arm gave me a little problem, so I felt it was too much tennis for me to play three straight weeks. Just try to enjoy it as much as you can. Unfortunately, as much as I'm playing, you don't really have a lot of time to enjoy it, to really enjoy a victory like I had there. So, you know, it's just try to rest and have some fun.

Q. Becker has talked about maybe skipping the Slams but still playing. You've kind of indicated the time when you can't win Slams, that would be it, nothing would drive you.

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, that's how I feel right now, 25, almost 26 now. I feel if I'm playing at 30, 31, I feel really like I can't contend for major tournaments will be the day that, you know, I'll stop, because that's what drives me right now is the major tournaments and trying to stay No. 1. I don't know if I'll play just to play. I mean, there's always got to be a goal. My goals have always been the majors.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: I've been living there for the past five, six years. It's good for my tennis and my taxes (laughter).

Q. Winning money is not a goal? That's not what's driving you?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't understand.

Q. Money would not be enough to drive you, beyond winning majors?

PETE SAMPRAS: It really hasn't been the issue for the past three, four years, ever since I started doing very well. I mean, the money just -- if you just concentrate on what you're trying to do and try to win majors, the money is going to take care of itself. It's never really been the driving force in my tennis. Sure, it's nice to make a lot, travel around, get paid good money. But, you know, the majors, that's what I'll be remembered for. You have all the money in the world, you have all the fame. When you look back at your career, you know, you always look back at the majors that you've won. That will always stand out in my career.

Q. When did you first realize that you had a shot at winning maybe the most majors ever, and made it a goal?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, in the past, you know, years. I mean, after I won the Open last year, then the Australian, people started asking me about it. Then after winning Wimbledon, it's something that's realistic. Yeah, I think if I play well and stay healthy, anything's possible. I feel like I'm playing well. I have another chance in a couple weeks at the Open. That's really it.

Q. How did this Wimbledon win compare with the others in terms of feeling?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you never forget the first one. I mean, the first one is obviously very special. This Wimbledon, I've never played as well at Wimbledon in my career. I mean, I only lost my serve twice. The only match I struggled in was against Korda. To play at that level for seven straight matches, it's not easy to do on grass, in a stressful time of the year. That was the best I've ever played.

Q. You talk about playing at that level during Wimbledon. Michael Chang earlier this afternoon said he felt that's what separated you from the other players, that you've played at a high level for several years now. Is that more of a mental strength than a physical?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's both. I mean, mentally you have to -- it's not easy to deal with situations when everyone is gunning after you, dealing with things on the road. I think the way I am with my personality and being pretty laid back, I think I handled it practically well. It's not easy, but I feel like, you know, my career I've just gotten better and better as the years have gone on, with experience, knowing what I want to do in the game. I put so much pressure on myself, probably too much pressure at my on myself at the majors. That's made me what I am, what I have today. You know, that's the one thing that will probably keep me in the game when I'm 29, 30, 31, at the major tournaments.

Q. Do you track the young guys on the Tour (inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: He's improved. I mean, he's still learning, he'll learn each week, he'll learn from tonight's match. He's got a good game. He's kind of the up-and-coming American that we have. He's got a good game. One more experience, you know, just playing a little bit better. I think he's got a good future. So I think, you know, tennis has got a lot of young guys coming up. You have Philippoussis and Henman and Haas. Just go down the list, I think the future of the game is very healthy.

Q. You talked about No. 1 meaning more to you. Do you find the longer you've held that ranking the more it's meant to you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's important. Winning majors is much more important. At least when I look back on my career, look back on my year this year, I'll look back at how I did at the majors. The ranking is something that's pretty much secondary. So the majors are much more important to me than the ranking. If you do well at the majors, you're going to have a good ranking. It all goes hand-in-hand.

Q. When you're playing a guy like Justin who is really animated, talking, you're kind of the opposite, does it faze you at all? Are you aware of that?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I know Justin. I've practiced with Justin a little bit over the past couple years. I know he's animated, kind of pretty intense up there. You know, everyone is different. I'm a lot more laid back. I just play. That's really it. There's not a whole lot there to talk about.

Q. Do you think in your generation of players that you were the guy who was always a little bit more with the history of the game, what your place would be? Has that driven you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's kind of how I was raised as a kid. Looking up to the Lavers and Rosewalls, everyone telling me how great I was as a kid, that I could win a lot of majors. You know, as a kid, you don't really think it's going to come true. The people that were around me, my family, believed in me that I could possibly do it one day. It has become realistic that, you know, sure, it's possible that one day I could break the record. That's just an indication of how I was raised. So it's something I was pretty lucky with.

Q. Do you mind looking ahead to next weekend, Indianapolis? You won that tournament three times.

PETE SAMPRAS: I love this summer circuit here. Especially you have a great field, great event next week. What can I say? I played real well there. You always look forward to coming back to a place that you've had good results. I won there last year. I'm looking forward to it. You can basically drive from Cincy to Indy, very convenient. I'm looking forward to this week and also next week.

Q. Can you tell us how focused you were tonight? Eager to get back?

PETE SAMPRAS: I was a little surprised. As much as you can practice, it's always a little bit different when you get into a match environment, a little more pressure. I thought I saw the ball very well, was very confident. Played my first match in quite awhile. It was just a good start, good start for the summer.

Q. What do you think about Gustavo Kuerten, how far do you think he can go? Do you think he's here to stay?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think he's someone that's going to be here for a while. Not only can he play on the claycourt winning the French Open, but he got to the final of Montreal, playing Michael Chang, who is a great hardcourt player. He's got a good game, young and eager. The future is very bright for him. The Brazilian fans should be happy to have someone like him.

Q. Do you think he's dangerous for you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure. Anyone in the Top 10 is dangerous. He's very confident, playing well, has proved that he can win on other surfaces than clay. I have yet to play him. I've seen him play quite a bit.

Q. Have you met him?


Q. What do you think about hit?

PETE SAMPRAS: Seemed like a very nice guy (laughter).

End of FastScripts….

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