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September 1, 1992

Pete Sampras


Q. Were you happy with your game?

PETE SAMPRAS: I was pretty happy. My return of serve was a little bit erratic today, but all and all I thought I served pretty well; hit my second one very well. It is just a whole new different surrounding now. I played Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Coming here, you are not able to expect what to do with the courts. You can practice all you want in order to play a match. I was pretty happy with the way I played. I played pretty solid. I don't think I played great.

Q. Hottest player in the draw?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think, with my results the last month or so, I am playing well, you know, whole new different tournament; anything can happen here. There are six, eight guys capable of winning this tournament. As of right now, I think I'm playing pretty well. I thought I played pretty well today, but I hate to say I am the hottest player.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about your serve, what it feels to come in this year given your results and the kind of work you have been doing over the last six, eight months, versus last year when it seemed to be just so much pressure?

PETE SAMPRAS: Maybe I put a little too much pressure on myself as the defending champion. I thought I played pretty well. I got to the quarter-finals; lost to Courier. I played a lot on clay, six, seven events this year. That is more than I played all my life, seems like. I think that helped me out as far as doing well since Cincinnati and Indianapolis, and it's maybe a little more solid off the ground. That was one surface which I really struggled on last year; was a disaster, the way I played at the French, and a surface that I wanted to improve on. I think the fact that I did pretty well on it, the result is me playing better on hard court.

Q. Do you find that fundamentally you are also more confident and a versatile player?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think in 1990, versus this year, I think, yes. I mean what happened in 1990 was I had really no control over what happened. It happened really fast. This year I am solid with my results, my game. I basically handled the pressure much better than a couple of years ago. Something you have to get used to. So I just am more of an all around better player, I think, you know, very inexperienced, a couple of years ago, and I had a lot of holes in my game. I think I filled those holes, for the most part.

Q. Becker talked earlier about how it is difficult for a top player who can reasonably expect to win a Grand Slam to play the first round match, that you, you know, you have got a chance to win, that you got to take care of things now. How do you handle that and is that a lot different?

PETE SAMPRAS: I agree with him, playing DiLucia, person I have played, all my life, basically in the juniors he had nothing to lose. First couple of rounds basically trying to get a field of the surroundings. First couple of rounds is definitely tough. That is when you are most vulnerable; at least I am, sometimes, but it was a good match under my belt. It is over. I am more or less used to the conditions. He is right; the first couple of rounds, it takes sometime to get used to the surroundings. Every tournament is different. Every court is a little bit different. The stands are different. Just little things like that can make a big difference.

Q. What do you do to prepare yourself for the first round match, second round match? Is that different? Obviously the adrenaline helps kick in?

PETE SAMPRAS: Once you start getting into the tournament, I think the adrenaline starts going, but coming in today, you wake up, and I haven't played a match in over a week now, and coming in here, I wasn't-- I was playing well. I was confident. You are not really sure what is going to happen; maybe the guy is zoning or getting lucky, and a couple of things here and there can happen, but I managed to get through this match playing pretty well. It is a good match to get under my belt.

Q. Do you actually even feel a little nervous coming back here?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure, you know, I think every player, especially in the first, you know, round or two is a little bit nervous, the butterflies are still there, like today, I got the first set under my belt; started feeling pretty good, first round is definitely a round that you are not scared, but you are definitely on edge a little bit, I believe. It was good to get it away.

Q. What did he do better against you today than when he played in Philadelphia?

PETE SAMPRAS: Philadelphia, I think he was very nervous when I played him there. He didn't play very well, he played much more solid today, served pretty well and he played 3 good matches in qualifying; came in here feeling pretty good; had nothing no lose. He played pretty well; but you know, he just played a little bit better than he did in Philadelphia. Philadelphia he was a bit nervous, and this time around he was a little bit more at ease on the court.

Q. Do you remember now how you felt in the first round match in 1990?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I remember in the stands there were about 100 people watching; so you know, I was seeded 12 or 13, and the expectations weren't really that high for me to really do anything. I was hoping to get to the quarters, near the round of 16; give a good show; next thing I know I beat Lendl in the quarters. It was a whole new ball game. I was two matches from winning the U.S. Open. So that was a big difference, I mean--

Q. And did you feel that difference like walking in the grandstand today and it was full, I believe, as soon as you walked out there, did you actually feel that whole thing, and try and like say, okay, I am just here to play, or what do you think about all that stuff now?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it is something I have gotten used to because when you were top five, top ten in the world for a while, everyone is gunning after you; you got worse, and bonus points, something you have to get used to, I was not used to it after I won the Open. I was 5 in the world and I had some bad losses the next six, eight months. I kind of got through that little stage, something that you have to get used to, and it happens to every young player that wins a Grand Slam. It takes sometime to get used to your new lifestyle and new notoriety. It takes time.

Q. Are you concerned that you might have peaked too early?

PETE SAMPRAS: That was definitely in my mind, I played extremely well in Indianapolis beating Courier in the finals and played very well in Cincinnati, and coming in here, I was getting the breaks in those two weeks, and I was thinking maybe I peaked a little bit too early, but you know, I think it was important that I had a week off before here, and take a couple of days off and started practicing again, and I still have some room to improve, I played, like I said, pretty solid, but not great today. I was concerned that I peaked a little bit early. I feel like I am looking pretty good so far.

Q. Some of your peers have picked you to win this. Does that add to your confidence?

PETE SAMPRAS: If anything, it kind of adds, kind of extra pressure on myself, the fact that people are picking me and that is very flattering, but I am not putting any extra pressure on myself; go out there and try my best and only thing I can really do.

Q. After you lost last year I think you used the phrase that you had this great weight that had been lifted from your shoulders. Can you explain to us exactly what that pressure was like for you, how it showed itself, as you walked around this--

PETE SAMPRAS: I mean last year, 1991, you know, the early part of that year, I was struggling a little bit losing the first round of Lipton; was getting hurt a little bit. Everybody was talking about the Open. Basically I just wanted to get the Open kind of, you know, away and get it over with at that point, of the year, and then came in here and had won Indianapolis, and came in here; played a good match; beat at the round of 16. Then I said a couple of bad quotes after I lost. The truth of the matter is that the following day and the weekend, I was very upset. I could have defended -- if I would have beaten Courier, who knows what could have happened. I put a little bit too much pressure on myself to do well and I said some things that weren't really true, I thought that I would feel that way but I really didn't. The following day I was very upset, and whereas this year I am a little bit more calm; a little used to the situation.

Q. You mean that monkey being off your back?

PETE SAMPRAS: Like, I was some kind of happy to lose, I think that is the way people kind of felt, and that is the way I thought I might have felt, but the fact of the matter is that I didn't feel that way the day after. I was thinking to myself, God, I could have won it again, you know, could have looked at the overall picture, but unfortunately, didn't happen. It is over now, and it is nothing we can do about it now.

Q. A lot of players on the tour for years have found this to be kind of a goofy atmosphere and so forth. Do you think that you have a different impression than the players that find it goofey as--

PETE SAMPRAS: It is a little bit difficult to play here. I can't complain. I have always played well here in the past. I beat Wilander here kind of when I was starting to get up in the rankings; won it the next year; couldn't do any complaining about the noise factor and the place and the smell of the place. But it is something you have to get used to. Stefan Edberg struggled early in his career, and he won it last year. I think he kind of got through that. It takes time. Unfortunately, my third year here, I won the tournament. I was a bit lucky in that respect. A little bit. It is a little bit different with the crowd taking so long in between games, they are still walking around. It is something that really doesn't happen at any other tournament except the Open. It is just very unique type of setting.

Q. There is always a special feeling when a McEnroe or a Connors comes out here; when a Becker comes out at Wimbledon. Now that you have won this tournament, but there still doesn't seem to be that special feeling when you take the court, even though you can be unbeatable here. What do you think it takes to sort of get that ambiance in a match when you are playing?

PETE SAMPRAS: If you look at it, I am 21 years old, Boris is 25. He has been playing for a long time. Conners and McEnroe, you know, he is almost 40 and I am still a very young player, and you know, I kind of-- you know, the way Boris' stadium court at Wimbledon is his backyard, I would like to think the U.S. Open will be my backyard. It is going to take some time. I have to prove myself a little bit more, but I am still very young. I am 21 years old, just turned 21. So, I mean, as far as the ambiance, you know, it is going to have to take some time.

Q. Pete, tomorrow tonight Jimmy plays in the stadium and it is his 40th birthday. Is it mind boggling to you that he is still playing?

PETE SAMPRAS: Very impressive. He keeps on saying he is going to retire, for the last couple of years, but he hasn't done it yet, so, yeah, I mean at 40, I don't know what I will be doing. I don't think I will be playing this game. He is a very unique individual and loves to play and loves to compete, and loves to play here especially here at the Open, I am sure, he will put on a good show.

Q. How about a birthday message?

PETE SAMPRAS: Happy birthday.

Q. A lot of people have felt that you have the talent and the natural skills to be a number one player. How much does that look to you, as something long range that you would like to achieve in the responsibility that goes with being a number one player as opposed to being number 3 in the ladder?

PETE SAMPRAS: It is something that I thought about.

Q. How seriously?

PETE SAMPRAS: I mean, pretty seriously. You know, Courier has a pretty good lead on everyone right now, having won the French Open, but you know, three in the world. I am two spots from one. I am going to give it my best shot; not going to put any extra pressure on myself to have to do it by the end of this year or next year. It is something that I want to do by the end of my career, to be number one in the world. There is nothing really you can do more in tennis than that. Kind of ultimate goal for everyone; that is something I am going to give my best shot to do.

Q. Do you feel mentally that the responsibility that others have seen as a number one player, that you are ready to handle that now more than, let us say, perhaps a year or two ago?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I mean, I am much older. You know when I won the Open here at 19, and now I am 21, you know, it is still a very young age to be number one in the world I mean Courier has a lot of pressure on him every time he goes out on the court. He is the number one player in the world and everyone is gunning after him. It takes a responsibility. There is only one number one, but it is something I would like to achieve, you know, maybe not this career but maybe next year. It is just a matter of being a little more consistent with my result and staying injury free, those two things you really need to do. I am just going to go out and try my best in every match and whatever happens, happens.

Q. In saying this feels like your backyard, does that mean you automatically feel more comfortable playing here than anywhere else?

PETE SAMPRAS: I have always played well here. Like I said, I beat Wilander; won it here; got to the quarters. Basically, my life kind of changed after I won this tournament, and it is going to take sometime. Like I said, I have to perhaps win this tournament, again the next couple of years, and give it my best shot, but you know, it is on hard court which is a surface I really like playing on, so, it is going to take some time for me to have that mystique like you were saying.

Q. No, I mean, for your own current -- do you feel comfortable like no other tournament?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I feel comfortable playing here. It is hardcourt. I like playing on hardcourt, the noise factor and the crowd is something that you have to get used to, and that is the only thing you can really do. I have had a good summer. I am going to give it my best shot here. It's not very complicated. You know, can't really think too much about what is going on; just go out there and play tennis. It is only a game really.

Q. In 1990, at what stage in the tournament did you feel confident of winning?

PETE SAMPRAS: After I beat Lendl here in the quarters, I played McEnroe. I beat him earlier about a month before in Montreal; that is when I knew I kind -- I said, geez, I am two matches from winning the tournament I have a good chance of beating McEnroe in the finals; anything can happen and it kind of clicked altogether. Next thing I knew I won. That is when I knew I had a chance.

Q. How do you feel now?

PETE SAMPRAS: I feel fine. What do you guys want me to say? I have had a good summer, and what do you want me to say?

Q. That you feel lousy; your life is terrible.

PETE SAMPRAS: I mean, it is not that complicated. It is just go out there and play your tennis and hope for the best, and I feel fine.

Q. Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts....

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