March 25, 1997
Key Biscayne, FL
JOE LYNCH: Pete Sampras moves into the quarterfinals, will play the winner of Mikael Tillstrom and Hendrik Dreekmann. Is 20-1 for the year with three titles. First question for Pete.
Q. I know you consider Rod Laver your idol. How would you compare your style of play to his style of play?
PETE SAMPRAS: Different. He was playing with the wood racquets, so the power isn't like what it is today. I'm using a graphite racquet. Our games, we serve and volley and whatever, pretty good all-around court game. In that way it's similar. Over the last 30 years, there's been so much added power, guys are bigger and stronger today, the game has changed quite a bit.
Q. Have you hit with him much, Laver?
PETE SAMPRAS: A couple times.
Q. What was that like?
PETE SAMPRAS: I was 12 or 13, taking some lessons from Robert Lansdorf at the West End Club. He was playing a senior event, just hit some balls with him. It was obviously a wonderful experience.
Q. He would have been in his 40s?
PETE SAMPRAS: He was still hitting the ball pretty good.
Q. How tough was the match, Pete?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, all things considered, having played last night, getting done pretty late, pretty humid conditions, it went a lot easier than I thought. Magnus has always played me pretty tough. He's coming back from a pretty serious injury. He's maybe not quite what he was when he was 10 in the world. You know, I really played unbelievable tennis for the most part. I served well, got off to a good start. He got a little down on himself. It was a smooth day, real good day.
Q. It was a little bit windy, was it?
PETE SAMPRAS: A little bit, yeah.
Q. It was windy in the desert. Explain the difference. You play well here. You're very wary of playing in Indian Wells. Explain the difference.
PETE SAMPRAS: It's so dry in Palm Springs, feels likes I'm playing in altitude. I never felt for the past couple of years I could take a pretty good cut at the ball and have an idea where it was going. I don't like that. I like heavier conditions where I can take a pretty good swing at it. Here at the Lipton, humid conditions, balls are pretty soft. Two different tournaments, even though they're outdoor hardcourt. I haven't played well in Palm Springs. Next year I'm going to have to figure out what I have to do with my racquets to figure out how to play in those conditions.
Q. Pete, say you went on to win the French and go on to complete the Grand Slam. I know this is looking ahead. Could you see yourself getting bored in the near future?
PETE SAMPRAS: Bored? That's a good question. I don't know.
Q. Like Jordan, taking a year out, pursuing outside ambitions outside of tennis.
PETE SAMPRAS: No.
Q. You don't have anything?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. No. I'm too short for the NBA (laughter). My golf game is atrocious. I think tennis is the only sport I'll be playing.
Q. Are you getting anxious for any other rivalries, like Agassi in '95? Is that something you enjoy more than the present situation?
PETE SAMPRAS: I feel like I'm to the point in my career where I like, you know, getting out and playing in huge matches. As far as the two matches of my career I've always thought of so far at age 25 is playing Boris last year in Hannover and playing Agassi in the '95 Open. Just walking out, you felt kind of like a heavyweight fighter, this is what it's all about. I really haven't had that feeling many times in my career. I'm to the point, in order for me to keep working hard and enjoying the game, you want to be involved in a rivalry. Agassi is certainly the guy that brings it out in the game. I'm kind of looking forward to something like that.
Q. You mentioned the other sports. What is your second best sport?
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know. I don't play good golf. I'm like a 12, 13. I play decent basketball.
Q. Have you ever played with McEnroe, basketball?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah.
Q. How did you guys do?
PETE SAMPRAS: We don't really compete.
Q. He's pretty good.
PETE SAMPRAS: He's all right. He's all right (laughter).
Q. Does it surprise you, Pete, that over a year later that Thomas Muster is still hanging in there, No. 2 ranking, and claycourt season has yet to begin?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's not surprising. Thomas has improved his game other than clay, playing well indoor, playing well on hardcourt. He's a great player. He fights really hard, he's in tremendous shape. It's not surprising. The main part of his year is obviously the claycourt season and the French. You know, there's no saying he can't win here or wherever. He's a great player.
Q. Of the younger crop, who would you put your money onto come up to challenge you next?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's not an American. I don't see any young Americans coming up. I think Henman has got a game that will be consistent for a lot of years. I mean, Philippoussis is the type of player that can play unbelievable tennis, but consistency I think he's looking for. Henman is the one guy that I find is going to be a threat, I really do, not only for me, but for all the guys.
Q. You can see him Top 5?
PETE SAMPRAS: Maybe not now, but over time. I think he's still reasonably young. In the next couple years, it's obvious there's a lot of variables to deal with, the media, being a hero. It's not easy to deal with that. I went through that. There's a couple of levels in your career that you go through. Now he's up and coming, got nothing to lose. It will come a point where he's expected to win. It's an added pressure that I think with knowing him a little bit I think he'll handle pretty well.
Q. You realize that now Agassi is going to drop beyond the Top 20 and there's a chance you might meet him in the first round at tournaments.
PETE SAMPRAS: Nothing will be as tough as what I went through last year at the French, playing Bruguera the second round. That was rough. It shouldn't be like that. He should be in the Top 10, with his game and his talent. I don't know really what's going on. It's dangerous. You could play him at any time in a Grand Slam, won't be seeded. It's definitely a floater that you hope is not in your draw, your side of the draw.
Q. Did you enjoy playing McEnroe with wood in New York?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I enjoyed it. I've always stated that the wood racquet, sure, it's added a lot of power, but I can still serve 120, 122 with that racquet. I think the racquets today really help out the baseliners, help out the guys that can return. I can still serve hard with the wood racquet. I think it's misleading. Everyone thinks that there's so much power in the game. You put a wood racquet in Goran's hand, he's still going to hit a lot of aces; really doesn't matter. I kind of like the wood racquet. You feel you can take a pretty good cut at it. With the racquets today, a little more tentative, the ball flies a little bit more. It's a dead issue because I don't see it coming back.
Q. Did your volleys feel clean when you hit with the wood?
PETE SAMPRAS: I hit for about 20 minutes. I think it would take me honestly a couple days, because I played with it until I was 14, I grew up playing with the wood racquet. I think that's why I hit the ball the way I do. I learned at a young age the fundamentals, hit through the balls. You got kids picking up Profiles and not really learning how to hit the ball. It's all power.
Q. Have you noticed any difference in Michael Chang's game, and others, who are using the longer frames?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, Michael is serving a lot better than he has. In the past couple years, he's serving better. That's really it. I mean, I don't know who else uses the longer racquet.
JOE LYNCH: He's not. Using a regular racquet.
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think the longer racquet is any future of the game. Michael feels like he needs a little more height and he gets it with the longer racquet. It's something I won't try.
Q. Do you miss seeing Stefan out here?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, sure. He's one of the classier guys on the Tour. I've always played great matches against him. He adds a lot to the tournament, to the game. To not have him around, you're missing Edberg and Becker and Agassi at the tournament. Seems like a lot of the top guys have fallen. Edberg was great for the game. I'm sure he's laying on the beach right now while I'm still working.
Q. With Edberg gone, as a serve and volley model, do you think there will be less and less serve and volleyers with the game?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yes. He's the last true serve and volleyer we have. I serve and volley some, Boris serves and volleys some, Goran is more of a server. There really aren't any more serve and volleyers today. It's pretty much baseliners, hitting big forehands.
JOE LYNCH: One or two more questions.
Q. Is the death of serve and volley a function a little bit of the extra power in the racquets or not as far as like passing shots and stuff like that?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think the serve and volley game, I know from experience, is a little bit difficult to play. As a youngster it's so much easier as a junior to hit from the baseline, hit groundies all day. It's just an easier game to play. A serve and volleyer takes a longer time to develop. You go through your bumps in the road. It's easier to play a baseline game.
Q. Do you think Bollettieri has anything to do with the fact that people are volleying less?
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think he personally. I just think the game has changed with guys all staying back. Everyone talks about the power of the game. Look at the guys in the Top 10. Majority of them are baseliners. I think we all have to be a little bit honest here.
Q. We know that you never have been in Columbia. Why did you give a racquet for a cancer foundation?
PETE SAMPRAS: Alvero Betancour is a friend of mine. He asked for a racquet. I always try to help out with charities and stuff. So there you have it.
JOE LYNCH: Anything else for Pete? Thanks.
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