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March 23, 1996

Pete Sampras


GREG SHARKO: With a win today, Pete has now won 18 of his 19 matches at the Lipton, now 24 and 4 career at the Lipton. First question.

Q. Your reaction to Muster's loss?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's a little bit surprising. I'd be more surprised if he lost on clay. Maybe the rankings is probably getting to him as far as any distraction. Seems like everyone has been talking about it. Maybe he's letting it affect his tennis. It's surprising, even though it's on hard court, he still plays well and other surfaces, but it's just the way it goes.

Q. Pete, a lot of you guys have been critical of Muster's ranking and all. It's hard enough to be No. 1 and go out there and have people going at you. Do you think it's kind of an unfair piece of baggage that he's got the No. 1 ranking and his peers are saying he doesn't really deserve to be No. 1?

PETE SAMPRAS: We have to understand how the ranking system works. You know, as far as the most important thing to me is who is No. 1 at the end of year, that's when you end up all the points. A lot of things can happen until the end of the year is over, obviously. You know, it just seems like week in, week out, it's been talked about so much. Just go out and play. That's the bottom line. The ranking will just take care of itself. He had a phenomenal year last year. He won 11 claycourt tournaments; plus the French. That's pretty awesome. You know, the only thing I've thought is maybe he's the best player in the world on clay, but I don't think players consider him the best player in the world on indoor, hard court or grass or anything like that. I mean, he kind of me reminds me of someone like Vilas - primarily won on clay. I have got a lot of respect for someone like Thomas because he works his butt off. He really does. In some way, he deserves to be No. 1 because of how hard he works and the fact that he had a great year, especially on clay last year.

Q. Pete, when you went out in the first round at the French last year, do you remember anyone saying, "He doesn't deserve to be No. 1 because he can't play on clay"? Pete Sampras doesn't deserve nobody No. 1 because he's not very good on clay?

PETE SAMPRAS: After the French I kind of went home and didn't read anything.

Q. The point is that people have been dinging Muster because he doesn't play well on hard court.

PETE SAMPRAS: I think he plays pretty well on hard court. It's not his best surface because he's played pretty well at the Open before. It's not his best surface. It's not like he can't play on it.

Q. The point of the question is: Is it fair to judge a player by his results on courts or is the bottom line the victories at the end of the year? Is that the most important thing?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think the bottom line is, I think, the ranking should be talked about in November versus March. You know, that's when you add them all up. You subtract and add up all the points, defending this and that; it comes down to the end of the year. I can't say it enough times. That's what really matters.

Q. How was your approach to the French going to be different this year, Pete?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm not going to play quite as much. On the clay, I was on it for a couple months before. This year I'm just playing in Rome, the World Team Cup is scheduled, and I played pretty well at the French. I tried something a little bit different last year; obviously, didn't work. I'm going to go back to trying something else. You know, the preparation, I certainly hope it works. Just go in there with the attitude that I need to be in great shape, I need to be able to be out there for three, four hours, whatever it takes. That's kind of the attitude I'm going to have to have. I really need to believe that I can win it.

Q. Does it still hang out there as something you feel like you need to win or is it not as much an obsession for you as, say, maybe a year ago?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's hard saying. Winning the French wasn't something realistically I wanted to win when I was a kid and growing up, but now it is. I've played well there. I've competed with some of the big boys. It's the one major I've not won. It's something that I've thought about, I've talked about. You know, it's not to the point of an obsession like, London was with the grass, when you change the whole schedule. I'm still going to have the same schedule and hopefully things fall into place at the French; get a little luck with the draw, the weather.

Q. You've seen enough of Michael Chang this year to judge whether he is a measurably better player than he was in 1995?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I think he's been a great player since I've known him when we were both eight. I think the things that he's worked on; especially his serve and coming in a little bit more, being aggressive, has definitely paid off. He is a better player than he was, say, three years ago. I don't see a huge difference from last year to this year, but he's worked hard on his game to improve some areas. His serve is certainly one of them.

Q. Do you see him as being a viable threat to being No. 1 at the end of the year?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's hard to say. It's hard to say. He's had a very consistent year; won a lot of matches. It's tough to try to be No. 1. You need to be consistent week in and week out. I'm to the point in my career where the Majors is the most important thing and to do well at those tournaments.

Q. Pete, how important is Wimbledon? Everyone talks about Roland Garros, but how important is it to win the fourth title at Wimbledon?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's the biggest, the biggest one on the Tour. To be in a position to win four in a row is a pretty good effort. You know, everyone has been talking about the French because it's the one that so many players, the way I've played, struggled, McEnroe, Connors, those types of players. You know, I always put Wimbledon maybe one notch above the rest because of the history and the one tournament I've always wanted to win. So they're both very important.

Q. Pete, after the Davis Cup on clay where you played so well, how tough is it -- how much would you want to have that closer to the French? You like to have that confidence going in. How do you take that experience with that much of a time span in between and use it at the French?

PETE SAMPRAS: The only thing I can really say is I hope it carries over to the claycourt season, especially to the French. You know, the way I played against Kafelnikov is the way I should play, come in, use my strengths, hope it gives me some confidence going in there. I hope it carries over, over six months, but we'll see. It's hard saying. You know, I've talked so much about the French and trying to play well on clay. You just have to stop talking about it and just play.

Q. Pete, there's been a lot of discussion this week with Karel Novacek and Mats Wilander about the drug tests which the ITF claims were positive. Do you think drugs are taken on this Tour, used on this Tour that much?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think so.

Q. What makes you say that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Because I know one hundred percent of the guys. I don't think it's something that's very common.

GREG SHARKO: Anything else for Pete?

Q. When you talk about Wimbledon, where do the Olympics figure in your mind? Is it really just gravy or has it gained any kind of status in your mind?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think when people think of the Olympics, they think of track and field; they think of swimming; people work for four years for this one opportunity to win a gold. In tennis, the Olympics doesn't have quite that history. It's an opportunity to win a gold medal is something that I'm looking forward to. I'm going to hopefully have a good time, see some other events. I don't quite put it in the same class as a Wimbledon because I don't.

Q. You think the players don't either? There are certain players that seem to really get up for it?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's right after Wimbledon, right before the Open. As soon as Wimbledon is over, I've always got the Open in the back of my mind. I'm going to go in there with the attitude like it is a major tournament and I want to try to win the gold.

GREG SHARKO: Anything else? Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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