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Samprasfanz » Archives 2003 to 2011 » [Dec 3, 2007] Sampras on Sampras

[Dec 3, 2007] Sampras on Sampras

Excerpts from the tennis channel interview on Dec 3, 2007

How did Pete prepared for the Asian exhibitions?

“I definitely stepped it up. I hit every other day for two weeks with Sam Querrey, and we were playing a lot of sets. Sam hits a very big ball and has a big serve and I wanted to play at that pace so I could find my range and find my game while getting my body used to serving-and-volleying and the change of directions and explosive movements you need for that. I stretched a lot more before and after I played and warmed up with jogging and stretching. It was as close as I have been to back in the day [during my career] when I used to prepare and focus so hard. I wanted to play well against Roger but also wanted my body to hold up to play three matches in five days. I was pleasantly surprised that my body held up quite well.”

What were his expectations from the exos?

“I didn’t know where my game was going to be. I didn’t want to be embarrassed out there and I didn’t think I would be. I wouldn’t have signed up for these matches against Roger if I didn’t feel I could be competitive. I felt if I could pull of a set [in one of the matches] that would be a big bonus for me. I didn’t think I would beat Roger. Going into these exhibitions some people expected him to beat me 2 and 2. I just wanted to compete well against him.”

On the Seoul match:

“I lacked confidence. Not only was I battling my game having not played, but I was a little uneasy with where I was at and then I was dealing with the great things Roger brings to the table. That combination made me uncomfortable. I also didn’t feel great physically because of my jet lag. I pretty much got over there the day before. So I was a little bit out of sorts and didn’t feel I got into a rhythm. I felt like I hit the ball o.k. but I felt a little overanxious and I was going for too much because I was playing Roger.”

On the Kuala Lumpur match:

“I just felt a lot less nervous. I got off to a good start. It was fast conditions and he was having a hard time returning my serve. I was having a hard time getting into a rhythm from the back court but I felt a lot better out there. The anxiety went away. Seoul just broke the ice for me and in Kuala Lumpur I hardly missed a volley and served pretty well. I had a few chances here and there. I could have pulled off a set there which would have been great, but even though I didn’t I felt I was right there with him, while in Seoul I was kind of a deer in the headlights. In Kuala Lumpur I lost 6 and 6 without losing my serve, so that made me feel really good going into the match in Macau.”

On the Macau match:

“I remember warming up for that match with Roger and saying, ‘Wow, this court is fast!’ You would hit a slice on that court and it would just keep on slicing. It was one of those courts where you could hit a three quarter speed serve and still pull off an ace. I think we both wished maybe the court would have been a bit slower which would have added some creativity.

“I started off serving well [he released 7 aces in his first three service games] and so did Roger, and I was thinking, ‘If we keep this up we are going into a breaker and anything could happen.’ When I went for a forehand return and made it at set point in the tie-break, I felt really happy. I was thinking, ‘I can leave this court having achieved my goal.’ It went to 4-4 in the second set and he missed a forehand and I played a good break point, and then I served it out. It all happened pretty quickly at the end. I just popped an ace and a few service winners when I served for the match and the next thing I knew I had won it. The crowd was electric. That match was all about confidence for me. I didn’t feel any anxiety out there. It was a good feeling walking off that court.”

His serve-and-volley tactic against Roger:

“Serving-and-volleying at this stage of my life takes its toll. So in the other events I don’t serve-and-volley quite as much on both serves in other events. I like to hit a few balls and find my timing, whereas when I played Roger I knew I needed to come in constantly and bring in the gas. The serve-and-volley is a bit of an art. It takes time to get into that timing and rhythm but I finally found it against Roger in the Kuala Lumpur match and it came pretty naturally from then through the match in Macau.”

On the crowds at Kuala Lumpur and Macau:

“In Kuala Lumpur they had 11,000 people and it was loud. They gave us great ovations, some good tennis was played and they were into it. In Macau the crowd was about the same size and they said the toughest ticket to get was for our match. It was a big deal over there. In Macau it was packed with great energy and I felt like they were rooting for the old guy a little bit. That felt good. I almost felt a little sheepish at times. I didn’t feel bad for Roger but I have been in those shoes where you are the heavy favorite and everyone is kind of rooting for the other guy. And Roger didn’t need to do this. He really didn’t. I told him that a bunch of times.”

How competitive were the matches?

“I got a great kick out of it. It was fun and I enjoyed preparing for it. It was just like old times. The amount of coverage in Asia was incredible. I said to my wife a bit sarcastically when I got home, ‘Where do I go from here?’ It was very exciting. It was competitive and we had some light hearted moments but we were taking it seriously. We were playing hard and Roger and I were going a hundred percent. My wife put the matches on TiVo and when they did the close ups I could see Roger had the same look that he has all the time. Maybe we were not quite as intense but I felt good about the whole experience and to pull off a couple of sets was a thrill for me. It was a tricky situation for both of us in a weird way and I thought we both handled it well. I had not played in five years and Roger is the best player in the world. Roger could have done this with anybody but he was nice enough to throw an old man a bone by giving me a chance to play against him over there.”

On spending time with Roger Federer:

“I was having a great time hanging out with Roger. He is a great guy who is fun to be around and we kind of connected in a way of just like two kids acting like two kids. I hope we can maybe do it again next year in Asia, but that is up to him. I took away a lot of great memories, took a lot of pictures and liked getting to know Roger better.”

Plans for more tennis exhibitions?

“I still enjoy playing. Playing those matches against Roger was very satisfying. I still believe that I can be competitive with anyone in the game today. I am not saying I can beat anyone. I am saying I could at least go up against whomever on a hard court or another fast court and still hold my serve pretty handily and still pop some winners here and there. For the past year or so I have felt I could be competitive. I would love to play some more exhibitions next year against some of the younger guys, if it is a Blake or a Roddick or someone else, just to go out and test myself to see where I am at. I am not sure these guys would want to do this but it would be fun for me while I still can be competitive because that window is getting more closed as I get a little older. For the next year or two I think I can do it.”

Full interview available at

Source: The Tennis Channel

Filed under: Archives 2003 to 2011

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