March 18, 2001
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
MODERATOR: Questions for Pete.
Q. Did you start to get weary physically and mentally towards the end?
PETE SAMPRAS: No, not too bad. Just one of those matches where I felt like I had some chances there in the beginning of the match, got a little bit frustrated. My level just dropped off a little bit in the end of the second, beginning of the third. He raised it a notch. But I felt fine physically. It was pretty warm, but it wasn't that hot. You know, you just have to convert when you have a chance against Andre. I feel like I played well enough to win that first set. Once he won that breaker, kind of changed the momentum. He kind of went from there. He's playing great. He's not missing much. He's playing the big points well. Definitely I can't help but feel like I had some chances to maybe win that first set. But it wasn't to be.
Q. Is he better than he's been?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, he's always been good, you know (laughter).
Q. Is he better, though?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think he's pretty much a at a level like he was a number of years ago when he was No. 1 in the world. You know, he always pretty much plays the same. Always seems to play me very tough. You look at his game five years ago to today, it's the same game. Maybe he's in a little bit better shape. He's not missing at all, serving a little bit better. You know, he's always been a great player in my mind.
Q. He seemed to be scrambling very well today in some of those exchanges at the net.
PETE SAMPRAS: He's always been a good mover. Came up with some good stuff. You know, we both move pretty well. But he definitely won the right point at the right time. I can't help but feel like I had a few chances, and he kind of weathered the storm a little bit. Just came up a little bit short.
Q. Did your serve let you down?
PETE SAMPRAS: In the tiebreaker, it did. I was 1 for 7. You can't continue to hit second serves against Andre, because he returns too well. The serve just kind of all week didn't feel like it was quite there. It was a little bit inconsistent. I don't know what my percentage was, but it needs to be in the 60s to beat Andre. If you gets a lot of second serves, he's going to wear you down because he doesn't miss many returns. The serve definitely left me at certain points in the match.
Q. A couple times you had some problem with line calls. Did that frustrate you? Do you feel the officiating wasn't (inaudible) as it should be at this type of tournament?
PETE SAMPRAS: It was fine. You think over the course of a match, there are going to be some mistakes. You hope it would even out over the course of a match. Some tough calls. You know, I'm not sitting here complaining that's why I lost.
Q. Did that frustrate you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it doesn't help, you know, when you're down two sets to love, a few tough breaks here and there. It's the way it went.
Q. You won a number of matches throughout your career being down two sets to love. Does it feel different having Andre on the other side of the net?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, because he doesn't give you many chances, and you have to work real hard to hold serve. He's the type of guy that once he gets a lead, he plays that much better. I feel like if I was on top of him, he might get a little bit tighter, miss a little bit more. Today, you know, he just kind of relaxed after he won the second set, didn't miss very much. Seemed like he hardly made any errors. He really was hitting the ball deep, keeping me on the back of my heels. But he played great.
Q. As you say, disappointing that the first set got away from you, particularly that set point. At the same time, were there bonuses for you this week?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, sure, it's nice to reach the final. But I play these weeks to win the tournament. Up until this part of the year, it's been a struggle. I feel like I've got some good matches under my belt and I can build on this and go to Miami with some confidence and play a little bit better. If you're going to get to the final, you might as well try to win it - and it didn't happen.
Q. Kafelnikov said he was very surprised by your enthusiasm on the court. Where is that leaving you now? What's the plan?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I don't understand what you mean. I mean, I'm out there trying to win, being intense, trying to win my matches just as much now at 29 as I was at 20. Still very competitive, still very enthusiastic about the rest of my career, trying to win these events, win Slams, finish it off in a positive way.
Q. That was the 30th match between you two. You lead 17-13. Does any one stand out as the greatest match you played in that series?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, for me the best match I ever played against Andre was the final a couple years ago in Wimbledon. Granted, it was grass, which helps out my game a little bit. I think it's the best display I've ever put together. So that one stands out for me.
Q. Would this be one of the most disappointing for you because of the fact that early on you had chances probably to get a grip on it?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's disappointing. It is. You know, felt like I had some chances. I had breakpoints. That's all it takes for me sometimes is to get that break, win that first set. I kind of just go from there and try to capitalize on it. Once I lost it, I just kind of was hanging on in the second. Then, boom, 6-5, he hit a couple good shots. That kind of just -- the balloon popped just a touch. You can't afford to do that against a great player. But I feel like I can walk out of here feeling pretty good about the way I played this week.
Q. Andre is 30 years old, seven majors under his belt. What do you think his chances are of reaching ten majors in his career?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think it's pretty good the way he's started out the year, the way he's playing. You know, he's going to be a threat at each major. But it's not easy on the mind and the body as you get older to win majors. He's definitely going to be a strong favorite each Slam he plays.
Q. Would you be so kind to comment on the intent to introduce larger balls in order to slow down the game?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think the game is fine just the way it is.
Q. As you get older, do losses -- is it easier to put up with a loss or is it just as hard as five or ten years ago when you were still young on the tour?
PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, it's still pretty difficult. I mean, I'm -- it's a good effort getting to the finals, but I play these weeks, like I said before, to win them. There's certain moments in a career where you lose the final of a Slam. That hurts more than anything in the game. This one has a Grand Slam feel. You definitely want to win these events. It's disappointing. I'm not sad; I'm disappointed I couldn't quite, you know, get it done today.
Q. Would it be fair to say that you haven't found your extra gear this year?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the gear game along pretty good this week. It's been a slow buildup. You know, Australia didn't go too well. You know, it's been a good week. I'm going to build on this, go into Miami feeling pretty good. I played at a pretty good level throughout the first set. I feel like I get that one point, I can just kind of go from there. You don't convert on those chances against Andre, you're going to have a long day. But the level is there. I feel like I'm playing pretty well. But there's definitely some room to improve.
Q. The fact that you haven't won since Wimbledon, has that become a pressure thing?
PETE SAMPRAS: I'm feeling like Tiger Woods right now. It's been six weeks since he's won (laughter). I haven't played many weeks. I'm going to play a little bit more over the next three to four months than I did last year on the clay, which is a struggle. You know, definitely when you raise the bar like I've raised the bar over the years, you're expected to win events. When you don't win one for six months, it's something that's going to be talked about. Just as long as I get going a little bit next week, I can definitely win it.
Q. Can you outline your European program?
PETE SAMPRAS: Looks like I'm going to play Monte-Carlo, Hamburg, Dusseldorf. I'll play a little bit more this year compared to last year just to give it a good shot there.
Q. How pleased are you with your move back to California?
PETE SAMPRAS: It's been the best thing for my life. I mean, I enjoyed my time in Florida, but it's nice to be back where my roots are, closer to my family. When you don't see them that much, you lose touch. Now it's good to get back to the LA area. I've been there a couple years now. I like being there. Get to spend time with my wife. Definitely been a great move in my life.
Q. Have you been in touch with Pete Fisher, by chance?
PETE SAMPRAS: No.
End of FastScripts....