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Ericsson Open - finals
Post Match Interview

Pete SAMPRAS defeated Gustavo Kuerten
6-1, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (8)

April 2, 2000

An interview with PETE SAMPRAS

ATP: Questions.

Q. All those emotions throughout that match, the way it fluctuated --

PETE SAMPRAS: Big part of the match was 6-1, 5-4 serving with new balls, I was on the changeover and I was, you know, debating I was going to a new racket, little tighter, and I stuck with my old frame and a couple shots flew on him. I got broken, it changed the whole shape of the match. If I would have held on and put the clamps on there in that second set, I think it would have been a little bit smoother, but he made me work, the crowd got involved. Obviously I let him in the second, and from there it was a dog fight. But the second I was just a little disappointed that I didn't serve it out the way I usually do. But it is just as a result how well he has been playing.

Q. How tired were you toward the end of the match? Do you think a fifth set would be possible?

PETE SAMPRAS: It would have been possible. I don't know how effective I would have been. I haven't played a match this tough in many, many months. You can do all the training, all the practicing, but it is always different when you go out and compete. A lot of nerves and certainly I played a lot coming in here, over the past week, and, you know, if need be, I would have just sucked it up somehow and one more set and try to do whatever you can to win. But I put myself in that position. I felt the way the first two sets were going I was playing about as well as I could. I was doing everything I wanted to do and I let it slip away and, you know, before I knew it he started playing better, serving better the whole match changed in a matter of five minutes. But I can definitely walk out of this tournament feeling real confident and real good about the way things went. Everybody was playing -- everybody was playing here so it had a Grand Slam atmosphere. The crowd was huge today. I got chills up my spine a number of times, so I am certainly looking forward to having a day off and getting ready for L.A.

Q. You said it was the toughest match you played for some time. It is tougher than Andre in Melbourne?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, because it was -- the conditions were so much quicker, points were much quicker; just physically it was more demanding, I felt. Just the points in Australia were very short and going into that match, you know, the conditioning wasn't much of a factor because it hasn't been that hot at that point. But it was -- it was three hours out there, but it was a lot of running, a lot of serve and volleying and it is not easy to do for such a long time. Just much more demanding than it was in Australia.

Q. How did the back hold up?

PETE SAMPRAS: It is fine. Certainly going to get a good massage tonight and -- but it feels fine.

Q. When Guga beat Andre there was a bit of a feeling, oh, well, Andre was injured which sort of took a bit of the gloss off the victory. But he proved today, didn't he, what a battle and what a player he is?

PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, yeah, everyone might look at Guga as someone that just plays on clay, but he transformed his game, worked on his game to be more aggressive and to serve well and has played well at Wimbledon last year, so he is not just a one-surface player. He can play well everywhere, and, you know, he is going to be around the top of the game for many, many years and he proved it today. He came up with some great passes, served big, and not just a clay court player. He is just as effective out there playing on hard court as he is anywhere.

Q. Key towards winning in the end?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I was choking there. There is no question that --

Q. Did you say choke?

PETE SAMPRAS: I was choking, yeah. Did you see that second serve I hit? Serving for the -- were you there? Did you see that second serve I hit on the matchpoint?

Q. 7-6, wasn't it 6-5?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, it was a choke. No, I was -- the nerves were definitely getting the best of me. I was a little tentative on some of those matchpoints, you know, got a little lucky at the end, he hit a net cord, it went long. That net is tight, it burned me a couple of times through the match. I remember breakpoint I had a forehand, hit the net, went wide, so finally came around in my favor. So it was a hard fought match. It was definitely -- sometimes the quality was very high at point; it wasn't very high, just a tough emotional win.

Q. You are known for obviously winning in finals. Is this one of the few times where you actually could say that you choked?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, yeah, I mean, I -- yeah that one point I definitely got tight.

Q. There are many other times where you can say you have done that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I can't think of one right now, but -- (Laughs) but I was tight. There is no question. I wanted to -- I had a 6-3 in the breaker, you know, felt like my chances were there; all of a sudden if you go into that fifth set I don't know how I would have recovered. But a little tight and nerves and it happens to everybody. Myself or anyone that has played sports, to say they didn't choke, they are lying to you. But I got through it and that is obviously the main goal.

Q. Good preparation for Davis Cup?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I have plenty of match practice, so, yeah, just going to enjoy this victory for a little while. Have a day off and start hitting Tuesday or Wednesday, and get ready to deal with the L.A.

Q. You spoke of conditioning and everything like that. How weary did you feel towards the end of that fourth set? I mean, were you still plenty in store?

PETE SAMPRAS: I was feeling it. I think he was feeling it too. I hit a couple of volleys that he didn't go for, but again I was feeling it in my legs a little bit. Like I said, I haven't played a match at this tough in many, many months. I am going to take this match and I just got in good shape just playing it and in order for me to play well on the clay I need to step it up and train even harder to do well there. It is six matches and it definitely takes its toll on everybody. So it was a good heart fought match. I felt I made it pretty difficult and pretty interesting for my family and friends watching at home. Kind of I tortured everybody.

Q. When was the last time you felt encouraged from the way you played throughout --

PETE SAMPRAS: I am encouraged. It's been okay, it hasn't been dreadful, but to win a title of this magnitude with everyone playing in it and you know it is a Grand Slam field and once you can leave the stadium without a loss, I mean, you got to feel good about it. I am going to enjoy this victory obviously feel confident going into Davis Cup. But it is a big win. I think a lot of the players look at this event as the fifth major. Certainly the prestige just got greater and greater over the years; crowd was tremendous today. It was a great atmosphere and certainly I enjoyed my week.

Q. The best you felt since perhaps SW15?

Q. He means Wimbledon, Pete.

PETE SAMPRAS: I was like --

Q. People might think it's a very odd code --

PETE SAMPRAS: I know that story. Built it.

Q. He was there when they built it.

PETE SAMPRAS: (Laughs) Ever since Wimbledon and through the summer I mean, I was playing at an unbelievably high level and then Hannover it came back. But the way I played in the final certainly against Andre was the best I could ever play. Throughout this week I played in patches, but I didn't play at that level. It is hard to do that every week, but just gives you confidence. There is no question that I feel like this is a big win, that will hopefully help me out over the next couple of months especially on the clay and -- but my game came back at Hannover to answer your question, but, certainly Wimbledon is a moment I will never forget.

Q. Are you worried that by the fact that you often seem to have stamina problems after an hour and a half of play; is that something you can do against that and what?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, just need to play more matches. I need to play, you know, the fact that I haven't played in many matches over the past six months I think probably showed today. Obviously took three, four weeks couldn't do anything after Australia, so you lose a little bit of that match shape. Then you go out there, you have nerves that adds to it. You feel it. You just -- you suck it up and you just do whatever you can do; hopefully come through at the end. But I obviously got in shape playing out there and just kind of maintained what I have been doing and hopefully by the French I will be in the best shape of my career.

Q. Pete, you had that blip with the doublefault tiebreak. You had that bad game in the second set. But your first serve percentage for this match was 64%, way up there, it's been up through the 11 days. Does this rank right up there with the best week and a half or two week period where you have served this kind of first serve consistency on hard court?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, yeah, I mean, this is -- I didn't serve that hard -- I served smart today. I took a little bit off of it, get it in, and I didn't serve -- I didn't overpower him. He is a tough guy to ace because he stands back. But serve and volleyed about as well as I could this week. This level reminded me a little bit at Wimbledon and going into the summer and through the Open, I was playing at this level. Certainly hope I can keep that up for the next week. But if the serves there it just helps out the rest of my game I could be that much looser and that much more aggressive on my returns, but I can't help the fact that I have really, you know, that second set I really felt I let it slip away and -- but he made me work.

Q. Why did you decide not to change rackets?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I should have looking back on it now. But you get used to a certain racket. You like it and new balls came out I was thinking I should change rackets because ball just kind of flew on him, I was going downwind; threw in a couple of doubles and that I just should have done it. But I didn't. Thought I could get through it and -- but that changed the whole momentum at that point of the match.

Q. '92 Davis Cup you said that Mac is good for you in that he sort of pumped you up and you are kind of good for him in that you calm him down a little bit. Do you enjoy that being similar in L.A.?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, that was because we were playing together. But I feel John and I will talk about the match; talk about my -- he knows what kind of person I am. Certainly we will just sit and communicate about it and keep it pretty simple. I am not a big believer for me a big screamer and big motivator. I know what I need to do out there. It is just a matter of going out and playing and we should balance each other out pretty well.

Q. Do you think you will kiss him on the head again?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think I have -- have I done that?

Q. He said that in the 1992 you kissed him and told him you loved him?

PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, really? (laughter).

Q. Moments you'd like to forget.

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know, I can't answer that.

Q. You wish you had more time to enjoy the victory now instead of going immediately after -- after a big event?

PETE SAMPRAS: Absolutely. We all know Davis Cup schedule is not a great schedule and when after you victory like this, sure, you'd love to enjoy, have three, four days off to do whatever you'd want. I have committed to playing and you take a day off and start practicing again. Certainly if I would have lost today's match it would have been tough to get on that court. But you have to do what you have to do at some stages. We all know Davis Cup, that the schedule should be changed. It should maybe give yourself a week off after this one and because it is a lot of tennis. Gustavo was telling me during the ceremony he has got to go to Brazil to play, I think I don't know who in other words playing, I am sure it is not an easy match, so, sure it is not going to be easy, but fortunately I have a good teammate.

Q. Do you think they should have two Tennis Masters Series events back-to-back like they have Indian Wells and here or should there be a week break?

PETE SAMPRAS: There is a little break.

Q. Well, three days, four days?

PETE SAMPRAS: That -- we will take it. We will take it. Anything we will take. But sure, Masters Series, you are playing 6 matches, no business, and to have a week off in between them is smart. It gives -- the quality of tennis is better and the guy that gets to the finals has a little bit of time to recover but to have back-to-back it is tough to do that.

Q. On the final point when you went to cover the passing shot and hit the net did you come close at all to reflexing, getting a racket on that ball after it hit the net?


Q. Look past the Davis Cup, which state of mind will you go to Paris? Where do you rate your chances?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I won't consider myself the favorite. I consider myself more of a dark horse that I can play well there. It is just a matter of just letting it go, letting all the pressure go, letting all the -- the monkey off the back go and hopefully just play well. It is simple. I have always kept it simple. I think the last couple of years I have come placated a little bit thinking about it and talking about it too much. I just got to go out and play like I do all the other tournaments. And play the events that I am going to play and just go out and do it.

Q. When you got clay just around the corner do you think, oh, good, it is that time of year again or do you think, oh--

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's a challenge and I definitely need a challenge at this stage. Sure it's a tough part of the year, but I thrive on those conditions and I -- I feel like it is challenge for me right now and I just need to go out and prepare well and hopefully it will click. That is all you can ask for is hopefully get the game going.

Q. Has it been for a while that you have this respect for him on all surfaces or is it something that he did today that lifted him in your estimation?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I have only played him I think once, so I knew his capabilities. I mean, he is not getting to the finals without playing great and he serves well and he has got good passes and he is just very creative. He will come in. I got tremendous respect for him anyone that can beat Andre the way he did is playing great, so I knew it wasn't going to be an easy match but like I said, the way I played the first two sets, I really felt I was dominating. Everything was going the way I wanted it to go and I just let it slip away for a minute, but I just -- I have grown -- he is a great player. He has won a Slam and he is certainly going to be in contention for all the Slams, so he is going to be around for many years.

Q. You haven't taken a decision for Monte Carlo yet?

PETE SAMPRAS: I am not playing. No.

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