1996 aTP World Championships
P. SAMPRAS/B. Becker
3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 6-7(11), 6-4
November 24, 1996
An interview with: PETE SAMPRAS
Q. How does it feel, Pete?
PETE SAMPRAS: I feel relieved. I really do. I felt he started off the match so well with the crowd. I mean, he was playing the best tennis I have played against anyone for the first set. If he would have maintained that level, I would have been more than happy to shake his hand. Then once I won the second set, as far as the crowd, they kind of calmed down a little bit. I felt the momentum changed. And, fifth set matchpoint, I got a little conservative, played some tight points, and I was a little bit flustered in the beginning of the fifth for the first 4 games. The match could have gone either way. Very little separating Boris and I out there. It was, this is what it is all about. I am sure if I would have lost today I would been very disappointed, but walking down those steps was an unbelievable feeling. I mean, the crowd -- even though they are not rooting against me, they are rooting for Boris. It was nice to be a part of that, and that is what the game is all about. It is not the money; it is not all that. It is the great matches, and this is one of the best matches I have ever been a part of.
Q. Do you think if this had been played anywhere else in the world, would it have been straight sets for you?
PETE SAMPRAS: It is hard -- no, no. Not on -- no. No, I mean, like I said, I mean, a set can turn on a couple of shots here and there. And, you know, Boris is very tough to beat on any surface anywhere in the world. Sure, he has a little bit - has an edge on this court with this crowd, but it was good tennis. I thought we played both played very well. It is just a couple of points separated us. And I converted. And that is really the difference.
Q. How difficult was it possibly to just keep the game and the momentum going after you lost that fourth set knowing it could have been over?
PETE SAMPRAS: I was very flustered. I was, you know, second-guessing myself a little bit on the g matchpoints; I went out wide to the backhand. Missed it. I just got conservative. Boris is not going to miss, especially on a very tight point. And I was just, you know, I could have been in the locker room. This match could have been over with the swing of a racket. But it is two sets. All you try to look at, some sort of positive outlook and, you know, just hang in there. Whatever happens, happens. I wasn't going to quit. I wasn't going to give up. Just keep on fighting. Hopefully convert on a breakpoint or something. And I did. I hit one of the best passing shots I have hit all week on the breakpoint, and I had a lot of emotion in me. I was kind of staying calm with the crowd and everything, and I just let it all out and it felt real nice.
Q. What does it mean to you emotionally at the end of this year when you have been through so much?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, this year, especially off the court has been very difficult. Like I said out there. I had lot of support from my family and Paul and Todd and everyone around me to get me through it. And Tom Gullikson, Tim's brother. And, you know, Tim would want me to keep on playing hard and playing well and continuing to be happy. And when you play matches like this, it reminds you have the things he told you. And told me and, you know, nothing really else I can say. It still hurts, but we have - just have to move on.
Q. Towards the end of the match when you were tied -- were you tired or was it frustration?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the matchpoint was a very tense moment. It was a long point. One of the best moments reminded me of a little bit of that point against Agassi in the finals a couple of years ago. Both of them side to side, and your pulse is moving, and I was feeling it, talking to Boris on the court, he was feeling it a little bit. I was just glad it is over. Glad I won the match and it really ends my year on a great note.
Q. Out there on court, match finished, you said that is probably the most dramatic match I have ever played in. Now you sort of had 40 minutes or so to calm down a bit. Is that still the case?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, sure, there are special matches. I have played U.S. Open, Wimbledon, but just the crowd all week, and especially today, it was - there weren't too many lulls; they are really into every point. They weren't rude; very, very respectful of the tennis we were playing. Like I said, walking down those steps it was like, wow, this doesn't happen very often on Tour. And 15,000 people into the match, it is a great atmosphere, and it raises your level of tennis, and it is fun to be a part of it.
Q. Would you say, Pete, Boris says that he respects you more than any other player in a lot of ways. How do you feel about Boris, would you say?
PETE SAMPRAS: The respect is very mutual. What can you say? His career has been phenomenal. 6 Grand Slams, been No. 1 in the world. 3 Wimbledons. He is so dangerous to play. I mean, he really is. He does everything very well. He doesn't really have any weaknesses in his game. I really can't point out one thing that he doesn't do well. And there is a lot of respect. I mean, he just goes out and plays, and there are no personal problems we have with each other. The better man wins and we shake hands, and that is really it. So it is real nice to be a part of that.
Q. What did he say to you immediately afterwards?
PETE SAMPRAS: The crowd was -- I don't think we really heard each other. The crowd was pretty loud. Talking a little bit in the ceremony, and he was saying fifth set I obviously - I was getting a little bit tired, and he felt the same way. Talking about the crowd. And this is the biggest tennis crowd in Germany, and very into it. So, just talking a little bit. Is that cool? Okay.