March 28, 1997
Key Biscayne, FL
Q. Pete, is that the way you feel?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, very disappointed.
Q. How would you evaluate the level you played at?
PETE SAMPRAS: Give myself a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Q. Why do you think it was that you ended up at a 4?
PETE SAMPRAS: That's a good question. I just played a bad match, even though I was playing well, I had chances to beat him. Had some breakpoint chances to get the break in the second; didn't play a good tiebreaker. I mean, he served well and didn't make many mistakes. I kind of let him. I really didn't do much. It's disappointing. I didn't really hit the ball the way I wanted to today.
Q. Do you think not having been challenged since Becker, actually you've been challenged some, but seems that was the last real intense challenge, that that made it harder to play a match like this?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. I knew Sergi had been playing well all week, he was going to be ready to go. I had a couple days off, felt pretty fresh. It was pretty humid conditions, but I felt pretty strong. It's a match I should win, I really believe that. Sergi is a good player, but on hardcourt, it's a match I should win nine times out of ten.
Q. Was he unexpectedly aggressive, did you feel? He came up an awful lot.
PETE SAMPRAS: You know, he was coming in on shots that he would have to come in on. He was pretty much in the middle of the court, coming in. He played pretty aggressive. You know, I'm the one that should be setting the tone. I'm the one that should be dictating play. He hit the ball pretty heavy and strong to my backhand, but I just didn't have my game today, and that's unfortunate.
Q. One of the key points was the breakpoint in game seven of the third set. Got that very high lob. Can you go over what you were trying to do with that ball, what happened?
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't remember the point. What was the score?
Q. It was breakpoint. He was -- everybody serving at breakpoint, got a real high lob on the service line.
PETE SAMPRAS: It was pretty windy up there. The way the wind was going, if I would have let it bounce, I would have been back about the baseline. I decided to hit it in the air. He guessed right and I hit down the middle. Again, I played a good point, just didn't do much with the overhead.
Q. Pete, there were a couple of times when it looked as if you were having a small pain in the wrist. Is that a problem at all?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's something I'm going to get checked out this weekend, but it's not a problem, no. I didn't feel it playing today.
Q. You're free next week, are you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yes.
Q. Probably relieved to have a week off with rest?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I would much rather be playing on Sunday.
Q. I meant, having been out of the competition.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I'm glad I'm not playing next week.
Q. Would you have changed your style of play if you had to do it over again?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think I might stay back a little bit more. Really, I felt -- I chipped and charged some, played aggressive. I think if I could have set up the points a little better and not missed as much. I was just missing some easy shots. He doesn't do a lot. He's not like Andre Agassi who is going to be hitting winners left and right. He keeps the ball deep with a lot of spin. If I had to do it over again, I might stay back a little bit more.
Q. What about approaching on topspin instead of slice? Too hard to keep the ball in the court?
PETE SAMPRAS: It doesn't really matter at this point. I wanted to be aggressive on his second serve. It worked at the French last year. I figured it could work out here. It did for a little bit, but he hit some good passing shots.
Q. Was the fact that he played so much better than normal, he took you a little by surprise?
PETE SAMPRAS: I got off to a good start. I knew he's been playing well, beat Chang pretty convincingly. When you do that, I knew he was going to be ready to play. He's pretty confident, but I still felt the way I've been playing all week, breezed through the tournament, had a couple days off, I felt ready to go. You know, I had my chances. That's all I could ask for. I didn't convert. The disappointing part is that I've converted for the most part in my career, and today I didn't.
Q. Comment on the second set tiebreaker where he won six of the last seven points.
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the crowd kind of got into it. I thought we were playing in Spain there for a second, unfortunately. I played a bad tiebreaker. I didn't do much. He hit some great shots, give him credit, but I didn't do much out there.
Q. Some uncharacteristic volley errors today, Pete. What's your explanation on that?
PETE SAMPRAS: Just floating them long, not sticking them, you know, just getting a little bit careless, not hitting them firm like I usually do. They were just flying on me a little bit.
Q. Pete, any explanation for why the first serves were on the slower side today?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, from the umpire's right was the sun, I was tossing all around the sun. It was tough to get the toss where I wanted to serve hard. I just started kicking them. That's really the only thing I can do when the sun is right there.
Q. Do you think that hurt your game a little bit?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. It didn't help. But he had to deal with it, too, so.
Q. He had a number of calls he thought were bad. Do you think that gave him a little incentive?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the crowd got behind him. That probably pushed him along. You know, I was getting some good calls, but that's tennis. They're going to make some mistakes. You know, probably did spur him on a little bit.
Q. Do you feel your mistakes were more mental than physical?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I don't think it's much physical. I felt pretty good out there. Mentally, I just didn't have it today. I'm pretty tough on myself, feel like I should make every shot. How aggressive I play, I'm going to miss some shots. Throughout a match I'm going to make them eventually. Today I just had some chances that I didn't convert.
Q. Having trouble getting a read on his serve today, Pete?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. He served much better than I thought. That was the key to the match. He picked up his serve in the second and third set. Seemed like I was always down 30-Love. When I got to 30-All or something, he came up with a big serve. That was a difference in the match, I felt his serve picked up in the second and third set.
JOE LYNCH: Anything else for Pete?
Q. Do you consider this the fifth most important tournament?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think probably. I think this tournament has grown each year with the men and the ladies here, the field is very, very strong, Grand Slam field. In a lot of ways, the players do consider this our fifth major.
Q. Does that make it almost as disappointing as losing in a major?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's disappointing, but if this were Wimbledon or the Open and I played like I did and lost, I would be more disappointed than I already feel. I take those pretty hard.
Q. How do you compare this defeat with the one you had in Indian Wells against Ulihrach?
PETE SAMPRAS: I didn't really have my game there. Never felt like I played well in Palm Springs. I just have to figure out the conditions, how to play in those conditions with my racquet and strings. Here I played strong; just played a poor match.
Q. Is it possible not having been pushed hard through your first three matches and a walkover that you just weren't as sharp as you normally would be at this stage of a tournament?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. I was fine. I had a couple good days of practice. That can work to your advantage. I had a couple days off to let the body rest a little bit. It's hard saying right now. I don't think it was a disadvantage at all playing today.
Q. How hot or humid was it out there?
PETE SAMPRAS: It was pretty warm, especially in the second set when there wasn't much breeze. I felt pretty good. I mean, I was drinking a lot. It was all right. It wasn't too bad.
JOE LYNCH: One or two more questions. Or perhaps zero more questions.
End of FastScripts....