Articles Comments

Samprasfanz » Featured, Headline, News, Pete Sampras » Pete Sampras Interview at the Australian Open

Pete Sampras Interview at the Australian Open

Pete Sampras has arrived in Melbourne and will be presenting the trophy to the winner in Sunday’s final. During the presscon, he was asked on the GOAT, tennis rivalries and if he is interested in coaching other players.

Transcript of the interview is also available below:

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.

Thank you.

Filed under: Featured, Headline, News, Pete Sampras

Leave a Reply