ATP Tour Teleconference
Pete announces Engagement with Bridgette Wilson
June 20, 2000
GREG SHARKO: Good morning, everybody. Thanks for joining us today. We want to thank Pete for joining us for today's call. Pete joins us from England where he is preparing for another Wimbledon title run. I am sure Pete is ecstatic today after his Lakers captured the NBA title last night and Pete will come into this year's Wimbledon Championship as the No. 1 seed for the fifth straight year and the 7th time in 8 years he will attempt to win his 7th Wimbledon title and record 13th career Grand Slam title when he begins playing Monday at the All England Club. He will play Jiri Vanek of the Czech Republic in the first round. We would also like to welcome the Tennis Masters Series Canada tournament in Toronto where they have announced the entry list for the 7th Tennis Masters Series stop of the season. That tournament will begin July 31st. Pete will also be defending his Tennis Masters Series in Cincy the following week. At this time we have got a number of reporters with us and I will just start off with Doug Smith, question for Pete.
Q. Any special preparations you are making for this run? It is the same as last year? Are you doing anything differently knowing that you have to get over this 13th - unlucky 13th number?
PETE SAMPRAS: No, pretty much the same as every year. I had a pretty good week last week and I have taken yesterday and today off and I will start hitting at Wimbledon tomorrow. Pretty much the same routine as I have had for the past three, four years.
Q. Pete, for this Wimbledon, since it is the record-setter that you are going for, is there an urgency to get it done now, get over that barrier and just put it in the record books and be able to move on?
PETE SAMPRAS: No, because I don't look at the record as something I want to get over with. It is something that I -- you can't take for granted, I never ever thought I would be in this position as a young pro and -- but certainly whenever a Slam comes around and I have had two opportunities I have come up short and Wimbledon is a place that I do pretty well - I'd love to do it anywhere. If it is not here, then maybe possibly in New York in a couple of months. But it is something I am not just trying to get out of the way. It is an opportunity that I'd love to do and make history and to be a part of that. It is not like I am -- I feel any pressure. I look at it as an opportunity to -- I would love to one day break it.
Q. Wimbledon is obviously still the best place for you to get this record, though, isn't that --
PETE SAMPRAS: Not necessarily. I mean, I feel like I am just as strong a contender in Australia and the Open. Wimbledon may be 20% more because I have done very well here over the past seven years, but I feel like I am just as strong in the Open as I am at Wimbledon. The French is -- obviously I am more of a dark horse. But it would be fitting to do it here, a place that I love to play and I have won most of my titles here. But if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. No guarantees that I am going to win here, but it is going to take someone who is playing very well to beat me. But if it doesn't happen, then we will just have to get ready and maybe have to do it in New York where it all started.
Q. You have reached the final at Queens, but I don't think you felt you were playing that well in several of the rounds. Where is your confidence level going into Wimbledon as compared to previous years?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I thought I played -- I didn't play well in a couple of matches, but through the week I thought I played pretty well. But my confidence is there and it was a good week, got a lot of matches, saw a lot of different players, lefties, righties, guys that stayed back, came in, of course at Wimbledon little bit slower; a little bit softer which I like and I feel good. I am healthy, I am ready to go. I have had a couple days to recover and get charged up and ready for a good four, five days of practice. And be ready to play Monday at two o'clock.
Q. How about physically just tell us where you are stand because the 12 past months hasn't been the greatest every month or two?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, it is fine. My back feels fine. Legs feel good. So I am 100% healthy.
Q. If it is okay to ask you a quasi golf/tennis question your name comes up a lot in discussion of what Tiger Woods did at the US Open and talking about athletes who -- what is your impression of what Tiger did, if you were able to follow it, and what is it like to see your name brought up in discussions with all-time performances like that?
PETE SAMPRAS: I did see quite a bit of it here in London, but I have been obviously a big golf fan and a big Tiger fan. He handles what he has done in the game and the pressure that he is under very, very well. He is obviously the best golfer in the world. He backs it up and all he wants to do is win - in a sport that, I think some players are more content on where they stand with the prize money. He says that he just wants to win every time he plays. And you just watch him play, he has got the intensity and the demeanor and he has got what it takes to, you know, -- you look at -- the history he is going to make, there is no question in my mind he is going to be in the history books.
Q. Would you say that perhaps your title last year at Wimbledon was somewhat of a similar experience in terms of being on top of your game as, say, say, Tiger as with the US Open?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I think -- I don't know golf well enough to know how well he played. Obviously he played great. The way I played in the final I was kind of in a zone and maybe Tiger, I don't know if he said he was in a zone, but the way he dominated the field he certainly looked like it. When you are under the pressure of playing for the biggest tournaments in the world, Wimbledon or the golf US Open, you don't expect to play in the zone and I was able to do that last year at the time where that you do have the most pressure, it is hard to -- it is hard to play great when you are nervous. But sometimes you can get into that zone that seemed like it happened for Tiger and it happened for me here last year.
Q. Can you talk about your affinity with Wimbledon at this point? Obviously there is a special relationship there. How would you describe it at this point in your career?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, for instance, yesterday I took the day off and I just went down to the club and had a work out there and just walked around the grounds and made a special trip to the Center Court and just, you just stand there and look around at the stadium, look at the court, look how green and plush it, it is certainly an appreciation that I have - it's gotten greater and greater over the past number of years. I just love the place. You walk through the gates, you look at -- if you look at the plush grass and how green it is and there are no sponsors; not a lot of horns and whistles that you see like you see in other stadiums and it is definitely -- it is our biggest tournament. It is our Super Bowl. You walk on the Center Court it is like a cathedral. You just -- you don't feel that many other places. You don't feel that really anywhere except for Wimbledon. I appreciate it and I loved watching the tournament as a kid and now I have won here six times and certainly I'd like to add to that over the next four, five years, but it is a place that I love to play. I feel like the whole world is watching when Wimbledon is on TV. It is definitely our biggest event.
Q. Question about the points race and what you think of it about six months into the year and do you think it has changed anything for you this year and do you think it has changed anything for the Tour as a whole?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think it has been -- I am -- I haven't really been keeping up with how it's been perceived through the media and through the fans, but I do like the simplicity of it where it is a race and everyone starts at zero; you just play the year. I like that, and I think after the US Open, those next couple of months will be interesting to see who ends up in Lisbon or who ends up No. 1. But for me, not having played a couple of the Masters Series tournaments, you know, I am not giving myself a great chance to finish No. 1 unless I win Wimbledon or the Open. But I think it is a step in the right direction the Tour has tried to make simplifying the ranking system. I am sure after this year they will have a better idea on how it is going to be, whether it works or not, but I think it has been okay so far.
Q. Following up, I know for many years it was important for you to finish No. 1. Have you sort of made peace with that and are you surprised that maybe how you feel about that knowing that maybe that is not a possibility?
PETE SAMPRAS: Obviously, a big year for me to do it, was the 6th year to try to break the record and I did that. From that point on I feel like I have achieved that goal and obviously I sacrificed quite a bit to try to do it. Last year I didn't play that much. I had a few injuries and this year playing more Davis Cup, you know, it is telling me that I am -- it is -- it is still important, but it is not as much a priority as it used to be five years ago. So, you know, it is certainly about the Slams and if you do all the Slams, sure, you are going to have a high ranking, but you play Davis Cup, it definitely can hurt your ranking because you are playing extra tennis and it definitely can add a lot more weeks to the year. I'd love to try to do it year and if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. But where I am at, obviously trying to do well here at Wimbledon and maybe at the US Open to see if I can win one of the last two Majors or win both of them.
Q. The Lakers won last night. They are your team and like you at Wimbledon, they were more or less expected to win the' Championship. Can you draw any analogy between yourself and them and what kind of inspiration you might have gotten out their victory?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I hope it all is destiny for both of us, but I have been a big Laker fan and they escaped through a couple of difficult moments against Portland. I saw that 7th game, I was there, and I believe in destiny and fate and they were destined to win it this year. Look at Kobe and Shaq and how they got their relationship a little bit better and how the whole team gelled, Phil Jackson came in and, you know, had the respect that the players probably didn't have over the years and they did it. Hopefully we can keep the L.A. luck going over the next three weeks. I didn't see it. Unfortunately, it was on in the middle of the night, but I hear it was a pretty great moment.
Q. Just talk a little bit about Andre -- it appears that he has had a couple of injuries. He had a tough Roland Garros. Now he is going to be coming into Wimbledon injured. Do you think it is possible he is going to get on the skids again or he can recover and play well?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think his injury is fine. I saw what he did at Queens and I am sure he will be 100% healthy. He is playing fine. I saw him play a little bit -- certainly it is hard staying on top as we know, but I don't see him going through any skid. He had a tough French, but he seems still very much into the game and I am sure certainly he will be a threat at Wimbledon.
Q. I was just wondering maybe as a teenager even earlier, when was the first time that you thought that Wimbledon might be the place where you'd really make your mark in this game?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I always felt as a kid when I changed my game to serve and volley that grass was going to be the surface I was going to break through on and I would love playing on grass and it actually ended up much different. I came over to Wimbledon as a teenager; didn't like the surface; couldn't really return that well; didn't like the bad bounces; really had a pessimistic attitude on grass. It wasn't until I start working with Tim Gullikson and then in 1992 got to the semis of Wimbledon, it wasn't until that point that I felt like I could possibly win here. I didn't realize I was going to win the next six out of seven, but I think that 1992 year and working with Tim were two reasons why I was able to kind of get over the hump and realize that I was able to play well on grass.
Q. I was wondering if you could maybe handicap the two or three guys that you feel are represent your biggest obstacles this year?
PETE SAMPRAS: It is more than two, three guys. You look at past champions, Krajicek certainly, Agassi will definitely be a contender. You have some outside possibilities of maybe Henman, Philippoussis, Rusedski, Hewitt who played great last week. It is really -- you have to look at probably 7, 8 guys that are capable of winning there. Got Todd Martin who is an American that can play well on grass. So look at those guys as kind of the main threat to me. Then you have the Kuertens and the Normans that can play well on grass. There aren't that many grass court players in the game today, so you wouldn't be surprised if you see a baseliner maybe sneaking through the draw and getting to the final.
Q. I just wondered what you think of how much emphasis -- because I am a little upset with the draw, but I am wondering how much emphasis should be put -- forget the clay court results and (inaudible) the guys in the rankings and really put it on the grass court players who seemed to have come on a little bit short in the draw?
PETE SAMPRAS: You are talking about some of the seeds?
Q. For one, Martin, for example, wasn't seeded. I don't know if you know that and he could play Andre in the second round.
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you also have Ivanisevic who has almost won there a couple of times. It is really -- it is unfortunate there are only 16 seeds because Todd, does he deserve it? I mean, he has done well there. Goran, does he deserve it? Possibly. The committee always has this dilemma each year who to seed; who not to seed. Obviously they are going to look after their English guys, it is just the nature of the draw. I played Philippoussis first round at the French. He was ranked 18th. I was seeded one or two, whatever. So that is the nature of tough draws. That is just the way it goes. Everyone has their different opinion if Kiefer should be seeded or whoever, you know, you look at the ranking, you look at who does well on grass, so I am sure they weigh all that in and this is what we have.
Q. Just a follow-up, for example, you got Norman and Kuerten and 3 and 4. I mean, maybe Hewitt and Henman who have been more logical there, they could have gone all the way with the (inaudible) not who did well at the French --
PETE SAMPRAS: Kuerten has proved himself on grass. He got to the quarters last year. Norman, you know, beat Ivanisevic -- he can play well on grass certainly. Is he the third grass court player in the world? Probably not. Final of the French and he is leading the race, I am sure they are weighing all these things. Grass is a unique surface that you make exceptions, how much do you make the exception, I mean, do you put those guys 7 and 8 -- I am glad I am not on that committee and I don't have to make that decision. But it is what it is, and you still have to win seven matches and there is going to be one winner and 127 losers.
Q. Can you just talk a little bit about the Tennis Masters Series compared to what it used to be with Super Nine? Last year in Montreal we had a hard time getting the top players here. Now with the new format seems there is a lot more incentive to come here from a player's perspective. Can you just give us an idea of what the thinking is when you --
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the Master Series and the Super nine, it is pretty much the same. I mean, it is still the same nine tournaments. You just have to play them for your ranking. I didn't play last year because I played in L.A.; didn't work into my schedule this year. I am playing Davis Cup in Spain and L.A. didn't make sense. So Toronto worked out this year. And it is a big event and with the new ranking system you have to play these events and the new deal that we have so you, hopefully, in Toronto will have a Grand Slam field, all the top 16 players there, and have a great week of tennis. That is the goal. But guys get hurt and things happen where guys don't play, but I am looking forward to playing back in Canada. I haven't played there in a couple years, I think, -- I am looking forward to the stop and hopefully I can start off my summer season in a positive way up there.
Q. I don't know if you can speak for your peers on the tour, but how are the players accepting the Masters Series? Do they like this format? Does it bother them at all that maybe now seems like 13 tournaments they pretty much have to go to? Is that a bad thing or does it matter?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think it is good every time you step out there it should count. Having to play this -- the tournaments, having all the same guys play the tournaments, you know, you have all what is going to sell this game, obviously if you have the top guys playing each other and that is the goal of the Tour was to try to get top 64 guys in Toronto or Cincinnati or Monte Carlo you do have your injuries and you have your guys that aren't going to play all of them, but for instance in Toronto, hopefully it will be good. Hopefully all the top guys will be there and play and I know I will be there ready to go. So that is good, to try to take this sport to another level, you need to have the fields to be very, very strong and when you don't have the Top-3, 4 guys in the field, people aren't going to be as interested, so that is why the Tour tried this format and it seems to be working pretty well. I mean, you are going to have to work out a few things here and there, but Toronto should be successful, I mean, if you get all the Top-10 guys there it should be good.
Q. Can you talk about your first-round match, talk about your opponent and what you know about him?
PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know him. I have never seen him play. I will try to over the next couple of days find out something about him, but I don't know who he is.
Q. Is that good or bad when you come against somebody like that?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it is a little unsettling to play someone that you have never seen play or obviously never played before to get a feel of his game, what he likes and don't like. You like to maybe try get a tape of some of his matches or something just to see what he -- what kind of player he is. It is always nice and an advantage to kind of scout out your opponent, but in this case, unfortunately I have never seen him play.
GREG SHARKO: I might add, Vanek is 80 on the ATP Tour Champions Race and it is his first appearance at Wimbledon:
Q. Getting taken out of the French so early, was that any kind of blessing in disguise? Has it given you more time to get a little more healthy or add anything to your physical regimen going into Wimbledon?
PETE SAMPRAS: No, there wasn't anything positive about losing the French except getting engaged. But it was a tough loss. It was a match that I felt like I could have won and it is major that I haven't won, so I try to do whatever I can to possibly win there and, you know, I felt like I had played fine. It was a tough loss. It was a tough week being home seeing the results, seeing it on TV, you definitely want to be a part of the Slams. But there is Wimbledon four weeks away that you can always look forward to, but it was obviously a tough, tough match to lose.
Q. Did you just say you got engaged?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yes.
Q. Do you want to talk a little bit about that? Is it Bridgette Wilson, I am assuming?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, it was in the L.A. Times the other day.
Q. I missed it.
PETE SAMPRAS: You are not doing your homework.
Q. Southern California papers drive me crazy. Can you talk a little bit about her; what she means to you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I am very excited and very happy what has happened in my personal life. I will leave it at that.
Q. Have you set a date?
PETE SAMPRAS: No.
GREG SHARKO: Anybody else before we let Pete go?
Q. You were referring to the difficulty of finding out about Vanek ahead of time. How would you go about that process? Does your coach ask around or how does it tend to work when you need find out about someone?
PETE SAMPRAS: Paul will next three, four days will talk to some players or coaches on how he plays and, yeah, that is how usually we go about it is that way.
Q. Have you ever had that situation before, can you recall at Wimbledon with any opponent in the past that was in --
PETE SAMPRAS: At Wimbledon?
Q. Yes, or just....
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I mean, Palmer last week in Queens and never saw him play. It is always a little bit unsettling to play someone that you have never played before, never seen play -- it might take you a set and a half to kind of feel it out and work your way into it, but hopefully I will get enough information over the next couple of days to scope out what kind of player he - if he stays back or comes in. Grass, it is pretty much hit-and-miss so there is not a ton of strategy, but definitely would be nice tohave some sort of idea.
GREG SHARKO: That about wraps it up. We appreciate your time, Pete, this afternoon. Wish you the best of luck in your quest for No. 7.
PETE SAMPRAS: Thanks.
GREG SHARKO: Thanks, everybody. We will have this, I might add, on ASAPSPORTS.COM. It will be transcribed if anybody would like a copy please give us a call at the office.