August 30, 1996
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
Q. Did you at any time feel you might lose?
PETE SAMPRAS: Not really. I mean, you know, I felt pretty good going into the fifth. I wasn't playing great tennis today. I was a little bit up and down. I went through spells where I was making a lot of errors. I thought I hit the ball, you know, pretty well. I really think the experience might have come through in the end. He played a bad service game in the fifth set. I just won the important points today. I never really thought like I was going to lose. I felt the closer it got, not letting it get away.
Q. The final point of the match, a couple questions. Number one, could you run down the point the way you saw it? Second, were you surprised by the topspin on the backhand of that lob? Looked like you had to lunge a little bit to get it?
PETE SAMPRAS: He was going with the wind. Once he got over my head, I knew it was going to take a pretty good bounce. I just kind of hit it. I didn't know where it was going to go because the wind was swirling around. Could have went over the stadium. It managed to drop in.
Q. Can you go over the rest of it?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think his second serve, hit a forehand volley, pretty good backhand volley. The way he's been lobbing all day, I thought I was going to lose the point. Run it down, hit a pretty good lob back, went from there. He's a strong player. I've never played him before. Didn't really know what to expect, get a feel of what he was going to do. He's strong, served well, got a good backhand. I definitely was pushing the limit.
Q. Is it fair to say that you didn't really hit the forehand the way you wanted to hit it until the last few games?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I was missing. I was missing a lot of errors. Periods where I was pressing too much. That's the way I play. I always feel like if you keep on going for it, eventually you're going to connect on a few. That's the way I was taught, that's the way I'll continue to play. I just feel like I can get better. It's one of those matches where I didn't play great, but I have to give him credit, he definitely made me work. If I can get better in my next match, that's --
Q. Were you surprised how well he played?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. I mean, all these guys are rough. Anyone in the draw is capable of beating 1, 2, 3 in the world. These guys have nothing to lose, they go out swinging away. It was difficult because I'd never seen him play. I couldn't really figure him out for a couple sets there. Strong player.
Q. You never lose your confidence, or did you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I mean, after I lost the fourth, this is the fifth set of the US Open, and the crowd really got behind me. I felt the adrenaline help me out. This is it. Either you go home tomorrow or you stick around. I decided to stick around.
Q. Pete, another key point was the breakpoint in the fifth set where you hit about six or seven straight backhands in that long rally. Seemed to be an emotional point for you. Can you talk a little bit about the lift you got out of winning that point and the break?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, completely changed the whole perspective of the match because it could have gone into a tiebreaker, would have been 5-All. I played a very conservative point, just waiting for a short ball to my forehand. I wasn't going to miss, I was just going to keep it in play. Maybe he would have pressed and missed. I just hit a good forehand off the line and went from there.
Q. Is there a fear factor of the guys you don't know a lot about, guys who are way back in the rankings, maybe have some secret weapon you're not ready for?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, each player you play in the draw is so different. Like I said, I've never seen him play so it did take me a while to kind of figure out the shots he likes and doesn't like, realize that his backhand was a lot better than his forehand. These guys have nothing to lose. They go out and swing away. These guys can beat, I don't care what you're ranked. Look what happened to Andre yesterday. The guy is playing out of his mind. He managed to win. You would hope the longer the match goes, you hope that the better player will win. That's what happened.
Q. How much did you have to lose today? I mean, if you had lost today, would that have put an end to the season?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, yeah.
Q. Completely for you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. If I would have lost, the year is over for me, more or less. Even though there's some tournaments in Europe I like to play. As far as the majors were concerned, it would have been a disappointment if I would have lost. Those thoughts don't really cross your mind when you're playing. You have to go out and try your best and try to win the last point. It would have been a disappointment, sure.
Q. When you play players like that that you don't know really much about, in three of five you'll have enough to get to know them. In other tournaments when it's two of three, are you worried about that, have your coach out scouting them?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's always nice to have played someone before a major, as far as throughout the year it would have been nice to have played him so you know what he likes and doesn't like. Paul scouts them out to see what type of player he is. Two out of three, three out of five, it's still difficult to get used to his style of play. He's very deceptive. Didn't seem like he had a big serve, but it was coming in pretty good. He moved pretty well. It's definitely nice to go out knowing what's to be expected. It was all right.
Q. What happened in the second set? You got only one game.
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I played a bad game, started pressing a little bit. Like I say, I knew I was down two breaks. He raised his level, and I kind of played a little careless. That was it, 6-1. At that point it was only one set all, I felt like I was still hitting the ball pretty well, it's just I was missing. Needed to tighten up my tennis.
Q. The down part of your game today was due to inconsistency on the first serve, do you think?
PETE SAMPRAS: I felt as far as the conditions, it was quite breezy. That court is always difficult when it's breezy, bounces off the stadium, swirls around. I never knew which way the wind was going. It's tough to hit groundies, tough to serve. My serve really wasn't there today. I was missing quite a bit of my percentage. I don't know what it was, but probably wasn't too high. I definitely need to serve better.
Q. Pete, how do you feel physically after the match?
PETE SAMPRAS: I feel okay. I just have a stretch and a little rub, have a day off tomorrow, be ready for Sunday.
Q. Pete, every time you got down, seemed like the crowd would get behind you. Do you feel like maybe your experience on the stadium court helped as well? The crowd, especially in the fifth set, seemed to be behind you?
PETE SAMPRAS: I really felt the crowd get behind me in the beginning of the fifth to spur me on. Once you feel that, you don't think about how tired you are or whatever. That helped me out. Maybe the experience, he's a younger guy, he's never played a lot of big matches, where I think that's what happened. He played a bad game, double-faulted a couple times, that was it.
Q. Pete, you're 4-Love in five-setters this year alone. Do you feel endurance-wise stronger than you have in previous years?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's hard to say. Five-set matches, I've always felt could go either way. I feel endurance-wise pretty good. It wasn't that hot today. My conditioning felt pretty strong. I don't think I'm in the greatest shape of my life; I feel I'm in good shape.
Q. They talk about you playing Philippoussis down the line. Would that be a satisfying match in light of Australia?
PETE SAMPRAS: Not worth talking about unless we both win our matches. Dangerous player, big game. Played him twice, once at Wimbledon, once in Australia; he's got big serves, serves real hard. It's really the last thing on my lined. I play Volkov who is a strong player. There's no reason to talk about it.
Q. Why did you see the trainer afterwards? Did you have any back --
PETE SAMPRAS: No. On a match like that, it's good to stretch down a little bit, get a little rub, work out the kinks. That's what I've always done.
Q. Pete, do you feel something is missing in your tennis life, for example, some Grand Slam title? What is your feeling, how does that affect? Does it make your ambitions stronger or maybe even your confidence a little bit shaken? How do you feel about that? A whole year can pass, what's your feeling on it?
PETE SAMPRAS: It would be very disappointing. I think one thing you have to understand, in order to win these majors, it takes a little bit of luck. That's one thing I haven't gotten this year at the French and Wimbledon. I think we all take it for granted that I should win a major every year. It's not easy out there. I've always measured my year on how I do at these tournaments. If I don't win one this year, I'll look back at '96 and will be disappointed. I'm 25, I have many more Grand Slams ahead of me. There's no reason to panic. I feel pretty good.
Q. So you're absolutely calm?
PETE SAMPRAS: Do I look uptight (laughter)?
Q. Pete, the race for No. 1 is so tight. Do you also see this tournament the one who is going to finish the year at No. 1, which has always been the factor for you, who is No. 1 at the end of the year?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yes, I think it's going to determine who finishes the year. That's not really on my mind right now. The ranking just takes care of itself. The one thing I'm concentrating on is trying to win here, that's it. I've always felt the majors are a lot more important than No. 1. It's a great way to end the year. Muster and Chang are in contention. We'll see what happens.
Q. Pete, how would you compare the game of Novak today to another up-and-comer like Philippoussis who seems more one dimensional?
PETE SAMPRAS: Different players. This guy stayed back, hit the ball very big off both sides. They're different. Philippoussis is a lot more aggressive, serve and volleys, served a lot bigger. This guy can return very well, much more of a counter-puncher. Philippoussis is much more of a serve and volleyer.
Q. On final game, 30-All -- excuse me, 30-15, he passed you with a backhand service return down the line. It was hard to see from where we were. Did you have a shot at that, pull back on it?
PETE SAMPRAS: No. I hit a good serve and he just -- I really didn't have a shot. He hit the line. It wasn't real playable.
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