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January 24, 2014
THE MODERATOR:¬† Questions, please.
Q.¬† Players sometimes bristle at comparisons of players and eras.¬† Tonight will be a historic game.¬† A lot of good players out there.¬† But how would you compare when you have Laver with you, Grand Slams, Roger with all his records, and Rafa?¬† How can you compare?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† I just got off an 18‑hour flight (laughter).¬† That's a tough question for me to answer, but I'll do the best I can.
I believe when you look at the history of the game, each decade has their player.¬† Obviously Rod was the best in his time.¬† I certainly had my moments in the '90s.¬† Rafa and Roger are having their moments now.
Is there one greatest player of all time?¬† I don't know.¬† I think if you look at the numbers, you have to look at Roger, what he's been able to do:¬† 17 majors, been No.1.¬† He's had a tough record against Rafa.
You can talk about it for 20 minutes on the different comparisons, what Rod did back in the '60s.¬† Five years he didn't play any majors when he was in his prime, so he could have had over 20 majors.
I feel like every decade there's the guy.¬† Certainly Roger has been the best player for the last 10 years.¬† Rafa is up there with him.¬† Djokovic is pushing.¬† So it's really hard to say.
I mean, there's not one greatest player.¬† When you look at the numbers, Roger has been so dominant.¬† He's won on all surfaces.¬† He's a phenomenal player.¬† It's nice that he's playing well.¬† Should be a good one tonight.
Q.¬† Still he has that losing record against Rafa.
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† Well, like I said, I mean, he lost some of those matches on clay, which is Rafa's best surface.¬† There is that argument.¬† Whereas Rafa has won all the majors, he's been No.1.¬† You could argue that he's well up there.¬† If he plays the next four or five years, he could have 17, 18 majors.¬† That's up to him.
Let's just appreciate what we're watching.¬† It's hard to compare the numbers and the eras where we all did our thing.¬† We're all great at what we did.¬† It's just hard to really talk about who is better.¬† Is it Peyton Manning or Tom Brady?¬† It's hard to compare.
Q.¬† As the rivalry goes, is it the greatest?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† One of them.¬† You have Borg and McEnroe, myself and Andre.¬† You have Rafa and Roger.¬† You have Connors and Lendl.¬† There's a lot of good rivalries.
I think these two guys, they're so good, so much fun to watch these guys compete, I might have to put on my suit and come watch tonight.
Q.¬† Last week we saw Pat Rafter do his thing with doubles with Lleyton Hewitt.¬† Would you entertain doing something like that?¬† Do you miss the brutal competition?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† No, no (laughter).¬† I'm very relaxed coming in here.¬† I miss the moment.¬† I miss the last weekend of a major.¬† I miss the excitement.
I don't miss the stress.¬† I don't miss the pressure, the expectations I put on myself.¬† I miss the game, but I don't miss the stress of it.¬† It's a tough sport.¬† I feel like I walked away at the right time.
But to come back and play doubles is fun for Pat.¬† Fun here obviously.¬† But it's not something I see myself doing.
Q.¬† How do you think age is going to affect how that rivalry plays out?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† Sure, it gets tougher as you get older.¬† Roger is 32.¬† Rafa is in his prime, 27, 28.¬† So, sure, it's not going to last forever.¬† You have to appreciate this match tonight, so much so that you just have to sit back and enjoy it.¬† These are two of the greatest players of all time playing in the same decade.¬† It's one for the ages.¬† Let's hope it lives up to the expectations.
Certainly it's not going to last forever.¬† Everybody gets older and we all retire at some stage.¬† It's nice to see Roger playing well.¬† He's got his confidence back.¬† I wish him all the best.
Q.¬† What do you think of seeing Stefan and Boris and Ivan back?¬† What do you think Edberg is going to do for Federer?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† I think it's a good match.¬† Stefan is a great guy, first of all.¬† He knows the game.¬† He's very relaxed.¬† He's not one of those personalities that is so upbeat.¬† He'll be good for Roger.¬† And he knows the game.¬† He's been in those situations like tonight.
Roger's obviously a great player, won 17 majors, doing pretty well with his coaches and stuff.¬† Sometimes you just get to a point where you need to hear a different voice.¬† Like I said, Stefan knows the game, he's a smart guy.¬† It's a good match.
Q.¬† Seeing all these guys come back make you think you could do this yourself?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† No, no, no.¬† It's not for me.¬† I've been asked by a couple guys.¬† But the travel, to go on the road, do all that they're doing is not something that I'm interested in.
Q.¬† You've spoken in the past about maybe regretting not tinkering with a different racquet in your career.¬† Have you watched Federer enough here to make any assessment whether that's helping him?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† I just know he's confident with it now.¬† I know he tried it last year.¬† You know, I'm not sure Roger needed to panic, like he needed to change something.¬† But he's confident in this racquet that maybe it's helping him, maybe a little more speed on the serve, maybe a little bit easier with the high backhand.¬† You'll see that tonight with Rafa.
He's confident.¬† Once you get to that that confident stage with the racquet and get through tough matches, you're at peace.¬† I think Roger is at peace with his technology and is well on his way.
Q.¬† What are you doing nowadays?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† Well, I got married, 13 years.¬† Two kids, 11 and 8.¬† They keep my energy up.¬† I play a little bit occasionally, a couple exhibitions here and there.¬† I still get in the gym.¬† I work out a touch.¬† I play a lot of golf.¬† Just enjoy my life at home.¬† Don't really travel too much.
But I'm happy to be back in Melbourne.¬† I want to thank Tennis Australia for inviting me back.¬† As you know, I don't make too many appearances at majors.¬† I'm excited to watch a little tennis this weekend.¬† This place brings back some memories.¬† It definitely is a place I've enjoyed playing.¬† I won a couple times.¬† Felt I could have done better, but it's good to be back.
Q.¬† What are some of the memories?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† Won here a couple times.¬† It was a tough major for me.¬† The Rebound Ace court they had at that time was tough on my body, tough to serve and volley on, a surface that was tough when it got hot.
At times when I played Davis Cup, was No.1, it was over in December.¬† Three weeks later I had to hop on a plane to come down here.¬† At times I felt like I was a little flat coming down here.¬† It was just a tough major for me to win.¬† I feel like I struggled a little bit.
That being said, I always enjoyed my time here.¬† The fans are great.¬† The media has always been great.¬† But it was a tough major for me.
Q.¬† You're sometimes dismissed as a ho‑hum guy, but you've had so many emotional moments on court.¬† Take a moment and talk about what happened here 19 years ago in the quarterfinal.¬† Have you reflected on that?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† Sure.¬† When I signed up to come here, immediately knew I was coming, you go back to some of these moments I had with Jim back in the '90s, with my coach taking ill, seeing him struggle a little bit.¬† The emotion in that match was very awkward, revealing for me to show that emotion.
You know, I think of that.¬† I think of the two wins I had.¬† I think of some tough losses I had.¬† Just a grinding major for me.¬† It was a tough major for me to win.¬† Never felt that comfortable on the Rebound Ace court.¬† It was just a struggle for me.
It was just one of those majors that I did well, but I felt like I could have done a little better.
Q.¬† Sports evolve as the years go by.¬† Wouldn't it be nice for you to sit back on Sunday and watch two single‑handed backhands go at each other?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† You might have one with Roger.¬† Maybe two.¬† The game certainly has changed the last 10 years.¬† The serve‑and‑volley tennis is a lost art.¬† No one is really doing it.¬† Everyone is staying back and hitting the crap out of the ball, which is fun to watch.
You look at Wimbledon these days.¬† It is one‑dimensional.¬† It's just the nature of technology, maybe the nature of how everyone is growing up with technology.¬† They're used to not having to volley, serve and volley.¬† It takes time.¬† It doesn't happen overnight.
Seeing Stefan, he was a great serve and volleyer.¬† Boris, Goran Ivanisevic.¬† Now everyone plays the same way; there's just four or five guys that are a lot better than the rest.
Roger has a little more variety, to come in, you know, slice it, chip‑and‑charge occasionally, show a little bit of that.¬† For the most part it's just everyone staying back and throwing rocks.
Q.¬† If you were out there today yourself, would you still be serving and volleying?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† Yeah, why wouldn't I (smiling)?¬† Serve and volley on both serves.¬† That's the only way I know how to play.¬† People say it's harder to do it, the technology.¬† But I think technology would have helped me out.¬† If I used these racquets that Rafa is using, it's easier to serve, easier to volley.¬† I could serve harder, longer.¬† It would have been easier.
So it all evens out.¬† But I think serve‑and‑volley tennis, it would have been just fine today.¬† I just think you need to know how to do it.
Q.¬† It could come back if somebody learns how to do it?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† You have to start about 13 years old.¬† You can't start at 18 or 19.¬† I started at 13.¬† That's when I changed to the one‑handed backhand.¬† It takes a feel.¬† It just takes a certain intuition out there that you have to figure out.¬† It doesn't happen overnight.
Q.¬† How important is it, in your opinion, to have a coach in an individual sport like tennis?¬† In team sports they say 25%.¬† It's difficult to give a percentage.¬† In an individual sport like tennis, what do you think?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† Well, you are out there alone.¬† You really are.¬† It's the ultimate one‑on‑one sport.¬† You can't hide.¬† There's certain things that a coach can say before you walk out there that you can think about.¬† I remember Paul used to tell me before I walked out about my ball toss.¬† Sometimes it gets a little low.¬† When I'm not serving well, I think about that.
It's those moments when you get a little nervous, you draw on these things that he might say.¬† There are things that Stefan might say to Roger tonight that in the match just clicks.¬† You don't know.
It's certainly up to Roger and Rafa to figure it out.¬† But a coach can give you little tips here and there that can influence your decision, whatever that may be.
So it is important.¬† It's not like football where the guy calls the play.¬† That's what I love about tennis:¬† it's the ultimate one‑on‑one.¬† You got to figure it out on your own.¬† They both have great coaches in Stefan and Toni.¬† It's all the same script; we'll just see how it plays out.
Q.¬† Did you see a difference when you were playing Davis Cup, if there was a captain telling you something or not?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† A little bit here and there.¬† I had Tom Gullikson and Tom Gorman.¬† They're not saying much.¬† Sometimes I'm not even listening, I'm so focused.¬† They're talking.¬† Sometimes I just shut it out.
But, you know, so trained to be on my own there, sometimes I don't hear the coaching.¬† But there are certain things that a coach can help with a player before they walk out.
Paul would say three things to me before I stepped out there.¬† Not a lot, but just enough to keep me thinking about something at a nervous time or whatever it may be.¬† So it's important.
Q.¬† Who will you be going for tonight?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† No comment (smiling).
I don't know Rafa well.¬† I met him.¬† I'm a huge fan of his whole thing.¬† I know Roger quite well.¬† We're friendly.¬† I'll let you draw conclusions.
It should be just a good battle with two heavyweights.¬† Let's just sit back and appreciate it.
Q.¬† What happened to American tennis, men's tennis?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† You tell me.¬† What happened?¬† I don't have the answers.
You know, I think the world just got better.¬† I think the game got more global.¬† You know, we're doing okay, but we're a couple levels behind the top guys.
Just I think the world got more exposed to tennis.¬† You know, you look at where Rafa is from, Roger, Novak.¬† This is maybe a sport they wouldn't have played 20 years ago.¬† Now all these great other athletes from other countries are playing tennis, not just soccer.¬† I think that's part of it.¬† I think maybe their satellite tour is stronger than our American college tour, where it's maybe not as strong.
There's a bunch of reasons.¬† I just think the world has gotten a little stronger.
Q.¬† When you first saw Nadal playing, did you see him becoming this good on this many surfaces instead of just clay?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† I knew he was going to be great because he's a great athlete.¬† You look at Borg who wasn't a great athlete, who wasn't suited to grass, but he did okay there.¬† Rafa, his game is not suited to grass, but he's done well there.
The great players adjust to different surfaces.¬† The fact that Rafa, you watch him play as a youngster, he's an incredible mover.¬† Once you see someone that moves great, they can adjust to playing on grass or here or wherever.
I think, you know, I just feel like he's such an incredible athlete, he figured it out.¬† He's a great player.
Q.¬† What are your thoughts on Stanislas Wawrinka?¬† Do you think he's got what it takes?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† He's been knocking on the door for a couple years now.¬† He has had some tough losses over the last couple years.¬† He's figured it out a little bit.¬† He's got more confidence.¬† He's been in this situation a few times.¬† He's stepping through that door.
I haven't seen a lot of tennis, quite honestly.¬† All the matches are in the middle of the night in the U.S.¬† But it seems like he's probably more confident, more sure of himself.¬† You know, you watch him hit the ball, he hits the ball great.¬† It's just a matter of his belief.¬† It seems like he's got that.
Q.¬† Your rivalry with Andre, meeting him in London in a showdown match next month, tell us your thoughts about that and what are your relation like off the court?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† We're good.¬† We battled many years. ¬†We're certainly very different in every way.¬† You know, I respect Andre.¬† He was my toughest opponent.¬† We're going to compete in London, have some fun, compete for the people there.
Our relationship's fine.¬† It's not like there's any bad blood.¬† We've had a few awkward moments here and there, but it is what it is.
Q.¬† A great champion wins for years and years, then sort of the grind of the tour gets to them, fatigue.¬† Talk about the aging process and how a champion deals with it.
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† Well, just from my experience, I felt as I hit 30, 31, that the grind of the tour, the travel, the international jetlag, all that just wore on me.¬† It tired me.¬† It affected my motivation.¬† That's why I've been so impressed with Roger, that he keeps going, he keeps going.¬† Seems like he wants to play for another four or five years.¬† I don't know how he does it.
For me, as you get older, it just gets tougher.¬† It gets tougher to play.¬† It gets tougher to travel.¬† Sometimes it gets a little stale.¬† The fact that he's able to keep it so fresh is impressive.
I just know from my perspective, I was fatigued the last couple years.¬† I was enjoying my tennis, but it was a tough job.¬† I feel like my last win there was my last fuel in my tank.¬† That's when I knew I was done.
Q.¬† When I ask you about Walt Landers, was he a huge part of you being successful?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† Walt was a good physical therapist, helped me recover with matches.¬† Good energy to have around.
That was random, that question (laughter).
He was a good therapist and certainly helped me in my career.
Q.¬† How many tennis matches have you seen last year on TV?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† Complete from beginning to end?¬† What have I seen?¬† Not a lot.
Q.¬† Wimbledon final?
PETE SAMPRAS:¬† Wimbledon finals, yeah.¬† Not a lot.¬† But tonight's going to be a good one.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports