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March 18, 1994

Pete Sampras


Q. Pete, can we call you Petey or you don't like that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Petey, Peter. Just Pete.

Q. Courier said you hate it when he calls you Petey. He said you hate --

PETE SAMPRAS: I won't answer your question if you call me Peter or Petey.

Q. Pete, Jim didn't think it was a high-quality match. What was your assessment?

PETE SAMPRAS: I didn't think either of us really played that great today. You know, it was tough to get a rhythm out there because - I don't know what it looked like out there - but it was a bit breezy, and the balls after about five games were getting really big. It was just we both really didn't play that well. But I just managed to win the important points today and obviously the tiebreaker could have gone either way, and I just came out a little lucky.

Q. Do you think that in addition to the conditions, the wind, that there was a bit more about the match that made it difficult to bring out the best for the both of you?

PETE SAMPRAS: When I played Jim in the past, seems like I play some of the best tennis of my career. Today, I just started off well, and I think my game matches up pretty well to Jim, and I felt pretty good when I played him, but I feel like if I am a little off with my game, Jim is the type of player that is just not going to give me an inch. We were both just real tight, I felt especially in the tiebreaker. We knew what was at stake, and if he could have gotten that second set, the outcome probably would have been different. But, you know, we both just, you know, didn't really play that great, so hopefully I can play better on Sunday.

Q. Being a little off, does that relate also to your serve?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I don't know what my first serve percentage was, but it wasn't that high. I really didn't feel like I had much rhythm on it, and I was missing a lot of them by inches, hitting the tape and it kind of forced me to stay back, and Jim - obviously a tough groundstroke player - doesn't miss much, and wasn't really my plan. I was hoping to serve better and get to the net a little bit more often, but I managed to hit the right shots at the right time.

Q. Seemed like some of the aces came at really great times, though, for you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, 30-All points, 15-30 points; 7 or 8-All in the tiebreaker, hit a big ace up the middle. That was kind of live and die by the serve. If it goes in, it is a good chance I will win the point.

Q. I noticed after a couple of points, like, for instance, the point you won the first set on, and from then there was another one later in the tiebreaker, you looked really fatigued. If you lost that second set, maybe it might have been trouble?

PETE SAMPRAS: Just like at Wimbledon, if I lost the fourth? It is tough to say. Obviously, Jim is very fit, and I feel like I am pretty fit. We both work with the same trainer, Pat Etcheberry, and those points are tough points; I mean, you know, running corner to corner. I felt it was pretty warm today; probably the hottest day of the tournament, and maybe took me a point to recover, but I felt even if I would have lost that second, I still had a little bit left.

Q. Pete, would you like to comment on the pace of that court and compare the stadium at Flushing Meadow?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it is a different ball. The ball really can change the speed of a court. The court seemed like it has got a lot of sand in it, and the balls get really big; whereas, at the U.S. Open, using a Wilson ball, just a little bit lighter, and seemed like - like I said before - after five games, the balls are getting like the size of a water balloon, really heavy. It is pretty similar, but I think the court here is just maybe a tad slower, because the balls are just different.

Q. Some of the Legends had a press conference here yesterday. They said that when they have been watching, you play - even on hard courts - they can feel you are preparing and coming in towards the French and the style you play, is it something that they are seeing, or something that you are really doing?

PETE SAMPRAS: I am not really doing it. I am playing the way I am playing -- to get ready for the French, that is a long way away. Just the last couple of years working with Tim Gullie; trying to hit the ball with a bit more topspin for more control. But the French is going to be a tough challenge, and put things in perspective. I am not really going to be a strong favorite there. I can play well, but to realize to win there, I got to get a bit lucky. It is a whole new ballgame for me. I know that. I am not changing my hardcourt to get ready for the French at all.

Q. You would think that once you guys would get into a rally, that would be a baseline rally, that would be area maybe Courier would have somewhat of an edge. It didn't seem like that today.

PETE SAMPRAS: Against Jim - like I said a couple of days ago - I feel like if I can rally with Jim and hit the ball deep, especially on his backhand side, I can eventually get a short ball and come in from there. Just hit the ball, just stay patient, obviously, I am not going to win a lot of the points the longer the point goes, but I feel like if I can hit some deep shots and get a short ball, I think I like my chances. I am not going to win that way, but I can do it for a while.

Q. Pete, being the only Australian in the room, I reckon you are going to play Rafter in the final?

PETE SAMPRAS: So you think.

Q. Let us say if it is Pat, what are your thoughts?

PETE SAMPRAS: I have seen him play. He really improved a lot. He beat me in Indianapolis in a tough three-set match. He's got a good all around court game; volleys really well; serves well and competes well. That is good, but I think he has got a pretty tough customer, Andre, I think Andre, the way he is playing and returning, Rafter is going to have a pretty tough day. I expect and Andre to win.

Q. Pete, Jim wouldn't tell us about what he needs to do to beat you. He said it was a secret. Wouldn't share it with us. What do you think? You have beaten him now, last few times you have played. What do you think he has to do that he doesn't do?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think he has probably got to return a little better; a number of times you know, I just-- I feel like if I get my first serve in, that if Jim could return a little better, he'd make me play some more shots. That would maybe be something he could do better against me, but I don't know, I just seem -- I know Jim's game so well and vice versa, I am prepared to know it is going to be a tough match and I have to be on top of my game. We both were really not at the top of our games today, but you know, I got lucky. That is the bottom line. Kind of make your own luck, I guess.

Q. You got lucky, really?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I felt. I was down a couple of set points. If he wins that second set, he has got the momentum and confidence and you know, could have gone -- could have been a different outcome.

Q. Set point in the first set didn't seem to be luck.

PETE SAMPRAS: Set point in the first.

Q. The long rally?

PETE SAMPRAS: I was very disappointed that I served-- I had three or four set points. The serve just wasn't there, the rhythm on my serve just wasn't there and then I just told myself to kind of-- I am working on if I get broken to kind of rebound; not get down on myself like I have been known to do, and that match-- that set point, I just was patient and came in on a good shot and hit a really good volley and that is, you know, that is good.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about playing Andre since you think you are going to play and he is obviously better than he has been in quite awhile?

PETE SAMPRAS: I am pretty amazed he is beating the players he is beating pretty handily; kind of shows you the talent that Andre has. He is one guy that can return my serve as well as anyone in the world, and so in order to beat Andre, I might have to serve better than I did today. We all know when he gets his game together, he is one of the best players in the world.

Q. Pete, how well do you remember your last match against Andre?

PETE SAMPRAS: I haven't played him in, let's see, here, I don't even remember. Wimbledon, sorry, Wimbledon. I remember that pretty -- that was an interesting match up two sets; lost the next two; ended up squeaking it out, and that was a big match, defending champion, he was maybe-- had a bit more pressure on himself than I did and I do remember that match.

Q. Depending on who wins that match tonight and who you play Sunday it is going to be a big swing as far as crowd support, I think, on Sunday. What does that mean to you?

PETE SAMPRAS: As far as what?

Q. I think if you play Andre, the crowd is really probably going to be behind him - up and coming back and everything. A lot of people don't know Patrick, so you probably will be the heavy favorite with the crowd.

PETE SAMPRAS: I think they are hoping for a good match. I mean, like today, I won the first set and the crowd wanted to get behind Jim so they can see more tennis, and Andre is obviously a crowd favorite, and it seemed like the players I have been playing recently, I am the favorite and the underdog usually gets the support.

Q. Does that change the way you play at all?


Q. Doesn't affect you at all?


Q. How important is winning the Lipton for you?

PETE SAMPRAS: It is important. Be nice to defend my title and it is one of the bigger events on the tour and it is important.

Q. Getting bigger each year?

PETE SAMPRAS: This tournament has made a lot of great gains with the new stadium and the facility, players seem like they are really happy with it and I am one of them. Butch and Cliff have done a great job and it is a tournament I will play for a lot of years to come.

Q. Pete, it is often said that the No. 1 ranked player in the world can gain a few free points, cheap points during the match. Do you think that you are?

PETE SAMPRAS: There are no free points against Jim.

Q. Well, yeah --


Q. Do you get any free points out of him?

PETE SAMPRAS: Out of him, no. There are no free points. He doesn't miss much. He doesn't have any mental let-downs. He is a fighter, and that is, you know, that is the way he plays.

Q. Pete, because you guys used to be really, really good friends; now I guess, you are still friends. You have beaten him now several times in a row now, is there a psychological thing you think when you play him, you feel, I am-- I know what it takes to beat him?

PETE SAMPRAS: I know what is coming and I know what to expect out of Jim and I know in order to play well I am going to have to be on and today was really first match that I wasn't really on and I seemed to mentally hang in there and get through it, which gives me some confidence that I could-- when things get tight against Jim, I feel like I can come through. There were times when I played him before in Australia, I was on top of him the whole time and I basically was in a zone, whereas today I didn't play that great and it feels good to get through it.

Q. Is it like beating him at what used to be his own best asset, I mean, he was to strong mentally?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, he is obviously not -- you know, he is having a pretty good year; not a great year. I am sure Jim is playing these tournaments to win them and he is the type of player, he is going to keep on working hard and eventually he is going to keep on winning tournaments again because he is one of the best players in the world.

Q. Any idea what he sort of been going through lately? He said something about getting all of the crap out of his head now, any idea what happens to a guy like that?

PETE SAMPRAS: I really don't know. Jim and I really don't talk about it. I mean, we don't talk about our results or about our tennis, just about things that are more important.

Q. Pete, I think you beat him four times in a row now. Do you expect him to try to change some tactics against you or do you think his game is limited the way he plays it, he really can't do much?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think it is pretty much set on what Jim is going to do; maybe something-- he might come in more next time. I really don't know, but Jim is going to have that big first serve; his backhands and smack forehands deep into my backhand and I know that coming into it. Pretty much sets the way he is going to play the rest of his career. Maybe he can come in more, but he is got the big serve and backhand with the big forehand.

Q. This is something I asked Jim the other night. He said we should ask you. Are you maybe playing now in the earlier part of this year as well as he was playing last year at this time?

PETE SAMPRAS: Jim-- you mean after he won Australia and won Palm Springs, am I playing --

Q. I mean, you seem so dominant early last year, to a point where I think most of us were just giving him the French. Are you feeling that dominant at this point this year?

PETE SAMPRAS: I feel-- do I feel dominant? Sometimes. I don't know. I mean, I am playing well and you know, if I am the dominant player right now, I really -- I am not-- I don't think of myself as the dominator, like Steffi. I just don't. I wish I could win my matches more 1,1 but that is impossible in this men's game. Last year -- my tennis is just getting better and I am winning a lot of matches; not playing that well like I did today; didn't play great, but I managed to hang in there and guts it out. That is maybe the difference with Pete Sampras now than a couple of years ago.

End of FastScripts....

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