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August 27, 1996

Pete Sampras


Q. Are you happy with your game, Pete.

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, pretty happy. It was weird. It was about 20 minutes before I went off to play Voinea. The referee came in and said, "You're not playing him; he sprained his ankle." Weird to play someone I've never heard of or seen play. I thought I got off to a good start. I played and hit the ball well. A good match to get through because the first match of the Majors, always a little unsettling sometimes, not sure where your form is.

Q. Is the idea, Pete, to jump on him right away and give him no hold in the match?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, try to set the tone early, get off to an early break. That's what I did. Really didn't give him a chance to get into his game. That was my main concern, to kind of set the tone. I did that pretty well.

Q. You talked on television about an odor, smell to this tournament. Can you be more precise about that.

PETE SAMPRAS: It was one of the practice courts. It's right next to a dumpster, and you can smell it. This Major is so much different than all the rest. You have the crowd that is always moving around, always pretty noisy. You just come in here and try to block it out, play your tennis. This place has been very good to me over the years. I hope it still is. A special place, where my life changed in 1990. When I walk back on this court, when I got here earlier this week, brought back a lot of good memories. It's been very good to me.

Q. Do you ever think of that as a weapon, you know, how to deal with people moving around and the dumpster and everything, maybe your opponent won't be so prepared for that?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know. I mean, I think that's probably his first time on the center court. I've been on it many times. I kind of know what to expect with the crowd, the court, how it plays. It's a little bit of an advantage.

Q. Not having won a Grand Slam this year, how much more eager does that make you?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm always eager to walk into a Major. This here hasn't been a bad year. I've always measured my year on how I do at the Majors. I have yet to do one. It's not like I have to score them, not like this is my last US Open. I'm 25. It would be great to win this again, like last year. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. I'll try my best and hopefully I can do it.

Q. Did you know anything about today's opponent?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I just knew he was from South America, stayed back, played with a lot of spin, pretty good all-around court player. Didn't have a big serve, but I thought he played pretty well. Paul just told me a couple things to expect. It's always nice to kind of go out there knowing.

Q. When did you find out who -

PETE SAMPRAS: I found out about 20 minutes before I walked on.

Q. Didn't give you a leap in your heart?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. It was, "Wow." I was prepared to play Voinea. I heard he sprained his ankle last week. I was expecting him to be ready to play here. The referee walked in and said, "You're playing this guy, lucky loser." You just have to prepare and do it.

Q. Do you remember the day when you were in his shoes, when you were playing somebody -

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know, in the late '80s, '88, '89, when I played a top guy, maybe Lendl. A match doesn't really stick out in my mind. I can't think of one.

Q. Don't remember being scared that you're going to look silly out there?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know. I'm trying to think. I don't know. A match I played against Chang when he won the French Open, I was embarrassed losing 1, 1 and 1. That was a bit embarrassing. That kind of sticks out like a sore thumb.

Q. Pete, did you hear Andre's comments last night about the seeding controversy?


Q. He said, "I was a little disappointed with the ATP choosing this as their platform or choosing this as their fight to fight. The Grand Slams have been doing this for years. The ATP has used the US Open for a platform to announce many things, including the start of their Tour. Then for them, the USTA, to make an admitted mistake and for the ATP to prey upon it, to somehow take advantage of the situation in their backyard is disappointing and I can't be a part of that."

PETE SAMPRAS: As far as the seeding and all that stuff, I was shocked, I was surprised. I mean, I can accept Wimbledon changing seeds because of the surface, very unique, very fast. When I heard about the seed change, it just opened up a whole can of warms. It's their right, their tournament, they can do what they want. I was surprised. I think at this point in time, we just have to go out and play. What happened with the draw and the seeds is over now.

Q. But you, as much as anyone else, have been critical of Best 14. The ATP rankings are based on Best 14. Why have a problem with a tournament like this going off of the Best 14 and seeding it the way they want to seed it?

PETE SAMPRAS: For me it's really the surface. It's hardcourt, it's a fair surface. The guy that plays in Europe on clay can play well on hardcourt. I can accept Wimbledon changing their seeds because of the surface. To change it here is something that I really didn't agree with. If there's a surface that's changed, it should be grass or etch clay. A hardcourt surface is a fair surface. Guys from Europe can play well on it, so I was surprised.

Q. Pete, to play against a player --

PETE SAMPRAS: I can't hear you.

Q. How much of an advantage is it for a player to play against a player that never played on center court?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's a little bit. I've been out there a little bit more than he has. A little bit of an advantage. I don't think he was that intimidated by the situation, maybe a little bit. It's not a big deal.

Q. Do you think the timing of the announcement was a major factor? For example, had they said they were going to change the seedings around six months ago instead of waiting till the last minute?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think it's maybe something the players could have accepted a little better than basically the day of the draw. If they could have forewarned us, maybe we could have swallowed it a little bit better. The way they did it was basically surprising.

Q. How long did it take you to get over losing to Krajicek at Wimbledon? Was it any tougher than some of the other tough losses you had?

PETE SAMPRAS: It was hard. The way I was playing that week, leading up to the Krajicek match I felt pretty good. I felt like I was in shape to do it four in a row. I just ran into a player that was very hot, playing very well, went out to win the tournament. It was hard to accept. A couple points here and there, I could have won it. You can't kill yourself over it, you just have to move on. Fortunately in this game, there's always a big tournament around the corner. Here we are at the Open.

Q. Edberg is playing today, leading in the first set. Who knows, this could be his last match. Do you have any thoughts?

PETE SAMPRAS: If you're looking for a role model for kids, I think he's your guy. He's one of the nicest guys we have on the Tour. He just goes out and plays. I've always looked up to him when I turned pro, the way he presented himself, just a class act on and off the court. You think of him, the way he played in the year he defended his title, won four straight five-setters, beat me in the final, that was a great effort. He'll be missed when he leaves.

Q. Did he surprise you in that Open? He always sort of had an image of being a cool customer, and he really showed a lot of heart.

PETE SAMPRAS: It didn't surprise me with Stefan. I think he was about 1 or 2 in the world at the time. Didn't surprise me. He's someone that's pretty quiet and not emotional, but deep down I think he's got it. He's won five, six majors, has had a great career.

End of FastScripts...

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