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September 7, 2002

Sjeng Schalken


THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. What was the difference in serve between Sampras and Gonzalez?

SJENG SCHALKEN: The biggest difference between them was that with Gonzalez, even in his service game, I could manage to hit a couple balls. But today he was just serving so good that I just couldn't get them on my racquet, because he was placing the ball so good with 120 miles an hour serves. Yeah, I couldn't touch the ball. So I was only actually playing in my own games. But he can play from the baseline also, so I was under pressure actually whole match.

Q. When you return from the backhand side against Gonzalez, he could get the ball back. Sampras, many times he returned the ball and it was difficult to put another ball in.

SJENG SCHALKEN: Well, it was just going too quick. Gonzalez is a very good player, but Sampras, in the shape he is now, is, again, one step higher. Everything goes one step faster. Well, he comes to the net all the time, puts the pressure on me. So it was a very good match for him, I suppose.

Q. That slice serve of yours into the deuce court, that really, really bothered Pete for a long time today. Do you think you surprised him with it?

SJENG SCHALKEN: Maybe. I was just happy that also I could get a couple free points from his return. He was missing it. And many players this tournament had troubles with my slice serve right, because the court is pretty quick so it doesn't bounce up. Yeah, with his -- I just felt like if I played to his backhand all the time, he just slices it back. But then I have to win the rally all the time. And I cannot lose one service game, because then the set is over. I just told myself, "Okay, he makes a little bit more mistakes off the forehand return." I went there all the time and I got more and more confident. He started even -- at one stage he hit a slice forehand return. So there I saw that, well, he really doesn't like it.

Q. He started blocking some of those backhands in the second set. Did that help him deal with the serve?

SJENG SCHALKEN: I think it helped me to be convinced that it is a good serve. Because if he's not hitting it, if he hits his forehand, it's one of the best shots in the world. When he starts slicing it at that point, I feel like, "Okay, I'm having a good tactic right now."

Q. How do you think he finally broke you down?

SJENG SCHALKEN: He broke me down because the pressure got -- all match, he put pressure on me. Because I have to play for my games. He just rolled over me. I couldn't get the ball back, because he was serving so big. And then the pressure's building up during the match all the time. But I was happy to get to the tiebreaker in the first and second set. Then you have a chance. But after the tiebreak, you could see that I didn't have a chance because I didn't have it again on my racquet. He was hitting his first serve and second serve so big, and then he hits a double-fault or he hits an ace second serve, I couldn't do anything.

Q. What kind of feeling do you have about tiebreakers? Do you generally welcome them, or do you have some feeling of dread about tiebreakers?

SJENG SCHALKEN: Well, today actually I welcomed them because I couldn't return balls. It was tough for me. Actually, from the middle of the second set to third set, I could get to 30 a couple times or maybe to deuce. I felt like if I get to a tiebreak, I only have to make one or two points, maybe I can get away with the set there. But, no, it was a very fair tiebreak. He was the better man also in the first and second set. He won the tiebreaks.

Q. You consider yourself good in tiebreaks?

SJENG SCHALKEN: I don't know. I just go in every tiebreak and try to win it.

Q. At 4-2 in the third set when the match is right on the line to be taken, was it deflating for you to see Pete hitting huge second serves even if he was double-faulting? His confidence was so high, he was just unloading on his second serve.

SJENG SCHALKEN: At 4-2, advantage for me, breakpoint, one of the few I had, this is the first shot where I had a chance and where I actually had the ball in my racquet. I was very disappointed that I hit it against the tape. Yeah, I wanted him to make that volley on that breakpoint and I could get right in the match maybe. But he gave me a chance because he was overhitting a little bit of his second serve. But that's his game. He just doesn't want me to get in a rhythm. He stays on top of me then.

Q. What does that say about his confidence when he's hitting the second serve that big?

SJENG SCHALKEN: He goes for it and many times it goes good. Especially on the big points it goes good. So his confidence level is, I think, very high, but you have to ask him. But it felt like when I played against him, that his confidence level was really high.

Q. Is that a forehand or backhand return?

SJENG SCHALKEN: It was a forehand return. I guessed good and I hit it against tape.

Q. Your backhand is a beauty to watch. Is it nature, or do you work hard to achieve it? When you start to play tennis, did you start with a two-hand backhand or one-hand?

SJENG SCHALKEN: No, that's my gift. I wish I had the gift of Pete's serve. That would be nice.

Q. The last two years Pete, of course, has had to play back-to-back Saturday and Sunday to win the tournament. He played well both times on Saturday, sort of ran out of gas on Sunday. What do you think he's like going into tomorrow?

SJENG SCHALKEN: I think he's happy that he won both two sets in the first sets. I told myself, "I'm gonna try to keep Pete as long as possible on the court." If we go to the long one, then I'm very fit. But he took away the first two sets. That's why I think also because of that he was very fit also in the third set.

Q. Would you possibly be rooting for Pete tomorrow so you could say that at least to the kids, the grandkids years from now, you lost to the winner here and the winner at Wimbledon?

SJENG SCHALKEN: Well... Well... I hope just for the fans that it's gonna be a nice match tomorrow. Yeah, I can say that already at Wimbledon, so... I don't care. I'm gonna watch the match and I think either player, Hewitt or Agassi who's going to play Pete, is, well, they're gonna have a tough time because he's serving very well.

Q. You've already been on the tour for quite a while. In the latter stages of your career how would it feel to be performing at Pete's level?

SJENG SCHALKEN: If I would like to be like him or...

Q. To be able to sustain that level through the end part of your career.

SJENG SCHALKEN: Like I play now?

Q. Yeah.

SJENG SCHALKEN: Yeah, that would be great. I'm playing very well since Roland Garros. And before Roland Garros I had many things in my head with changing my coach and I wasn't finding my rhythm. And actually four months, I was very off. And in a couple months, I picked up my game and I had a new basis around me with coaches and some people. It's settling in and I'm having very good results also. If I keep this up, then, yeah, hopefully... But the problem is I don't have that big game. I have to think a lot on the court. I have to play a lot of shots to get my service game. I don't have that killer serve, so that's a big disadvantage. But the way I play on these quick courts, I can use the speed of the court a little bit and it suits me. Hopefully I can get many of these results.

Q. How do you explain Pete Sampras going two years without a title, coming to this tournament with 17 losses and 20 wins, not playing very well at times, and suddenly looking unbeatable here at the US Open?

SJENG SCHALKEN: Well, it's the US Open. He fires himself up for the US Open. The courts suit him - it's pretty quick. If his service motion is there and the balls are a little bit light, it's perfect for his game.

Q. He fires himself up for Wimbledon, too. He wasn't successful there.

SJENG SCHALKEN: Yeah. Yeah... He could do better than the second round, I think.

End of FastScripts….

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