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Ericsson Open - Round 4
Post Match Interview

Pete SAMPRAS defeated Greg Rusedski
6-3, 6-3

March 28, 2000

ATP: Questions for Pete.

Q. That was fairly comprehensive. Looked from your reaction at the end, you thoroughly enjoyed it.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I did (laughter). It was enjoyable. When you play someone like Greg, he's got such a big game, you can't play any loose errors. I struggled really the last couple days. Today I got my game going, got my serve going. The conditions were very heavy tonight, so I felt I had a little more time to play against him. It was hard to hit through the court, hard to hit aces. Made him play, put such pressure on him early on, played about as well as I could. It was a good day.

Q. A match against him on a hard court, probably the closest it gets to like when you excel at Wimbledon, where there's very little difference in the match, just a few points here and there.

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, it was. Certainly grass is much quicker. Tonight, like I said, if we played this match during the day, I think it would have been a much closer battle. Like I said, it was heavy tonight. I think it had a lot to do with it was tough to serve, kind of tough playing conditions. Had a little bit of time to play against him. That's what you need against Greg.

I played about as well as I could tonight.

Q. Is there something about his kind of game or something about him that makes you want to play as sharply as you seem to?

PETE SAMPRAS: What's your point (laughter)?

Q. You seem to get up. You didn't get up for Vinciguerra, it wasn't a fluid performance. Tonight was extremely fluent from the word go.

PETE SAMPRAS: Like I said, you have to be against Greg. He's beaten me before. He's got a big game. You have to be on your toes. Playing the other day, I could afford to play some loose shots. Tonight, Greg has proven he's got a big game. You can't take any match for granted, especially against Greg. I was very focused, very key. It was nice to play in a good atmosphere tonight. It was an enjoyable match for me. I think certainly Greg felt he could have played a little bit better. He had a few chances in the second which might have turned out a little bit different.

But it was kind of the return of serve and the pressure that I kept on, I felt I was putting on him, making him work as much as I could, and eventually got the break.

Q. What happened with that spill? Are you okay?


Q. Catch your foot?

PETE SAMPRAS: Wrong foot. Fine.

Q. What do you think about Lapentti?

PETE SAMPRAS: I've played Nicolas only one time in Hannover last year. He's got a big game, got a big serve, he backs it up with some big forehands, good ground, moves well, competes well, has a good all-around game, comes in if he has to. I feel like I'm playing well. I'm where I want to be right now in the tournament. Won't be an easy match. He's going to come out very fresh. He hasn't played in a couple days. He'll be very keyed up to possibly beat me.

Q. Particularly in the first set, where was that in terms of how you've been playing this year?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's about the first set and how I was playing?

Q. Yes. Compared with how you've been playing this year so far. That first set, there was hardly an unforced error.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, this year it's been a strange year. I've played two events. Ironically I felt the conditions were too fast for me. Palm Springs and Australia.

Tonight I felt like I had some time to play, a bit more time to pass. I got into a great rhythm on my passing shots, moving well. I felt very focused tonight. It's about as well as I can play in that first set. Hard to maintain that for two sets. But I managed to squeak out a few breakpoints in the second and went from there.

Probably the best I've played throughout the year, the best I've felt on the court. Hopefully I'll maintain that.

Q. Physically, you mean?

PETE SAMPRAS: Just everything - hitting the ball fine, hitting the ball well, getting a good range on my shot, feeling like I'm in a good rhythm out will there.

Q. Do you prefer playing a big hitter like Rusedski rather than someone who mixes it up a bit more?

PETE SAMPRAS: When I'm playing well, I don't really mind playing any style of play. Certainly over the years, I do struggle against the guys that can serve me off the court, the Krajiceks, Greg has beaten me, guys that kind of serve me off the court give me problems. I'm not saying people like Andre and Chang can't give me problems. Those guys, it's a little unsettling playing a guy that serves that big. Tonight, it's kind of a different story. I played really well.

Q. Have you ever actually held back on a second serve?

PETE SAMPRAS: Held back on a second serve?

Q. "I'll dolly this one in, won't go for it a hundred percent." Some of your second serves were incredible.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, yeah. I mean, just to mix it up a little bit, you know. I feel like I'm a pitcher out there. You can't throw strikes, throw a hundred miles an hour every time. You have to mix it up.

Certainly tonight with Greg, he kind of leans forward. If you take a little bit off of it, he hit it in front of him, missed a few returns. Just try to mix it up as much as possible, just try to break up the pattern I might be serving in.

Tonight I did a good job of moving it around, not just going to his backhand, just kind of making him play as much as I can.

Q. You're back on the right medication?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I'm not on any medication (laughter). That's the safest thing.

Q. Are you going to stay that way?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, yeah.

Q. Looking ahead, what kind of coaching style do you expect from John McEnroe during the Davis Cup?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think there will be a lot of strategy. I think it's more mental. Certainly playing in LA, having a lot of family and friends there, it will be kind of an added pressure for me. I'll talk to him about it and try to figure out how to play under those circumstances.

Certainly from the week we have together, we'll feel each other out, talk about the match, the strategy. It's very new for both of us, since I've never played for him.

It should be fine. John knows my game, he knows my personality. I think he's bright enough to figure out, you know, what kind of person I am as far as what I want to hear on a court. I'm not much of a screamer, yeller. I just keep it simple and go out and play the kind of tennis I want to play.

Q. Is he the kind of guy that might make you feel less pressure, make you relax?

PETE SAMPRAS: You know, there's nothing anyone can say. It's something that you have to go through and play through. Sure, there are hints he could give me here and there, but it's something I'm going to have to deal with throughout the week. I'll deal with the ticket requests, all the stuff there.

It should be a smooth week and a fun week. I mean, that's what it's all about. Certainly from the start of it, it's been a little bit topsy-turvy. Now we've cleared the air and I think we're looking forward to playing in LA.

Q. A couple weeks ago he said he was going to back off from playing, not cause resentment. Do you think him playing doubles is a viable idea?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I mean, he's the captain. I mean, he's not the player. It's time for other guys to play. I mean, John has certainly been a great Davis Cup player. I don't think realistically he ever thought he would ever play. I think it's something he just likes saying.

I'm happy with the team he's picked. I think Jared and Alex will do fine. Who's to say I won't play in the doubles. We'll see.

Q. When Tom was captain, his modus operandi was usually to pick one good doubles player, have a third singles player. This is the first I can remember where they actually picked a doubles team. Do you think that was a good idea?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's obviously his decision and I support it. Certainly if someone gets hurt, myself or Andre, not to take anything away from Alex or Jared's singles play, it will be difficult. Certainly we hope we stay healthy.

You know, it's a decision that hopefully works out. I mean, I support it. I think we'll do just fine. But in case we get injured through the week, it could, you know, be a problem.

Q. Seems like we've been groping for years for that doubles point. We've tried so many different combinations over the years. Getting two guys who have already built up a chemistry, might that be an improvement?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think it should be interesting. I mean, like I said, depending how Friday goes, I'm open to play doubles. I'll play with anybody.

Jared and Alex have been playing well, they won Palm Springs. The chemistry's there. But Davis Cup is a completely different arena, pressure. Jared has never played Davis Cup. He'll kind of play through his nerves, and Alex has played. It's something that we'll feel out through the week.

I told John I was open to playing doubles if I pulled up okay on Saturday.

Q. Young Andy Roddick will be there. You'll be hitting with him for the first time. He'll probably be looking for coaching tips. Are you the kind of veteran player who really coaches while hitting with a guy? Do you feel comfortable sitting down with somebody imparting wisdom in a mental way?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, if it's asked. I'm not one to give advice when it's not asked. I mean, more than happy to talk to him about tennis or what to look for in his game, life on the road.

But I'm not one to sit down and say, "You know, this is what you should be doing." That's just not my MO.

You know, through the week - he's obviously the practice partner - it should be a good experience for him. When I was a young guy, being the practice partner, it was an eye-opener seeing what these guys go through.

Certainly he'll learn and kind of be at the dinner table eavesdropping on the conversation. It should be a fun week for him.

Q. What years were you a practice partner?

PETE SAMPRAS: Like '89, '88.

Q. Who were the players?

PETE SAMPRAS: It was Fort Myers.

Q. Who were the players?

PETE SAMPRAS: Andre and Mike.

Q. Who gave you your first piece of advice as a practice partner?

PETE SAMPRAS: No one really. Just hit with the guys, pick up the balls, get the towels, squeeze some oranges (laughter). Do a little laundry, cook the food. It was a tough week. It was like $2500. That was a lot of money for me back then.

Who was that against?

Q. Paraguay.


Q. Any predictions on the final?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know. No prediction.

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