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Tennis Masters Cup - 2000
Lisbon, Portugal
Pre-Tournament Interview

November 27, 2000

MODERATOR: Questions for Pete.

Q. How do you feel physically and tactically?

PETE SAMPRAS: I feel good. I mean, I've been here since Friday. The court is a good court. It's a surface you can stay back or come in on. It's a fair court. I feel like I'm hitting the ball well. Physically I feel fine. Obviously, I haven't played a lot of matches over the past couple months. Hopefully I can find my confidence as the week goes on. It's nice in a format like this, you're able to lose a match, or like last year when I came out, lost a match, ended up winning. It's a nice format for someone that hasn't played much.

Q. Was it a tough decision not to play at all in the fall or pretty easy?

PETE SAMPRAS: Pretty easy. I mean, I thought about it. You know, you ask yourself, as far as my goals, what they are. Obviously, at this point it's The Majors. I've been No. 1 for many years. It's not quite the priority that it used to be. Pretty much came down to my goals. I wanted to play Australia. It is a major. I wanted to give myself the best chance to do well there. Take my time off, play here. I don't think it would have been smart to go into Australia not playing at all, so I decided to play here, get ready for Australia.

Q. I'm sure it must have been linked to you getting married?

PETE SAMPRAS: Not necessarily. It really wasn't. I mean, got married, went on a honeymoon. I had plenty of time to get ready to play if I decided to. Not playing had nothing to do with getting married. It's kind of where I'm at in my tennis, what's important, what my priorities are. Ask myself that question. It was pretty much Australia and the commitment I had to a tournament.

Q. How does a guy like you get motivation to play? I know you want to win Roland Garros.

PETE SAMPRAS: The motivation is not a problem playing this week because of who's playing. You're playing against the best players in the world. Obviously, I don't think it has a lot of bearing going into next year, but still it's a big week for tennis. Really wasn't a question in my mind if I wasn't going to play here. You're right, I mean, I'm to the point in my career where you want to keep interested and motivated. You know, that's why I decided not to play for a little bit. That's my challenge for the rest of my career, is putting myself in situations that will keep me motivated. Obviously, the Slams will always drive me.

Q. Roland Garros is the biggest motivation of your career now?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's one of them. I made a commitment next year with my schedule, I'm going to play a little bit more on clay. It's the one that I haven't won. I'll do whatever I can to figure it out. I'm going to commit myself and play a lot more week next year compared with this year.

Q. What is the schedule going to be?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, probably Hamburg, Rome, maybe World Team Cup, maybe Monte-Carlo. I mean, I could play all of them. I don't know -- I'm not sure yet. I will definitely play a lot more.

Q. How much have you been on court since The Open?

PETE SAMPRAS: Good question (laughter). About three weeks. You know, I took time off after The Open, got married, went on a nice honeymoon. You know, even throughout that time, I was still training. I wasn't sitting around watching TV all day. You know, about three weeks ago I started hitting some balls. I'm back to where I want to be as far as my timing and rhythm.

Q. Normal three weeks before a major event or less intense?

PETE SAMPRAS: Just easing into it a little bit. Obviously, as the week goes on, you get more intense. You know, I spent that time off training, working twice a day with Moose, making an effort to get myself in the best possible shape. I had the time, I might as well take advantage of it. The challenge is keeping my motivation there.

Q. You played an exhibition?

PETE SAMPRAS: In Baltimore. I played Todd. It was perfect timing. I don't play many exhibitions. I just got the call because Kournikova pulled out. It was perfect timing.

Q. What day was that?


Q. Then you flew out?

PETE SAMPRAS: Flew out Thursday, got here Friday.

Q. Not usually an understudy for Kournikova.

PETE SAMPRAS: I was replacing (laughter).

Q. You have said you are confident, you have trained, but do you think you can physically take the physical part?

PETE SAMPRAS: I feel like I might pull up a little bit sore after my first match. Even though you train hard and practice hard, it's always a little different when you play a match. You know, my goal is hopefully to find my game as the week goes on. There is a chance I could be a little rusty in the beginning. All it takes for me is one set or a couple games to get my confidence there. Certainly I can be a threat.

Q. As usual, you can lose one match?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. It's tough winning five straight matches against the top eight players in the world, you know, for five days in a row. I think the last number of winners here have lost a match. It's not easy to be at that level every day.

Q. If you win two times, you have your (inaudible) ---?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm the first to hear that. I like round numbers.

Q. Also if you win the tournament, you can top Ivan Lendl. He has five wins in the Masters. Is that something special for you?

PETE SAMPRAS: I look up to him and his career. My goal here is to win here. It's also to try to find my game. If I get in a position, I get into the weekend, sure, I'd love to have more than him. It's not the first thing on my mind, you know.

Q. What chances do you give yourself, having not played?

PETE SAMPRAS: You know, just as good as last year. I went into Hannover not having played really since The Open. I came in here and ended up winning. It won't be easy this year. It's always not an easy tournament to win. You know, I have the confidence to do it because I did it last year. You don't like to rely on that every year, but I feel just as good this year as I did last year coming in.

Q. What do you think about Portugal? Do you like it?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, seems like a nice city. Haven't seen much. Pretty much from the hotel, to the courts, back to the hotel. But just driving around, seems a lot of culture, a lot of history here. The people seem like they're very passionate about their tennis. I did a little appearance yesterday in the mall, which was a great turnout.

Q. Do you know any words in Portuguese?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. Doesn't sound like anything I've heard.

Q. Brazilian is Portuguese, so...

PETE SAMPRAS: Never been to Brazil.

Q. Who is the real No. 1, the first on the ATP list, the one who wins the Masters?

PETE SAMPRAS: As far as the entry?

Q. Yes.

PETE SAMPRAS: You know, I like the race idea. I like where everyone starts at zero. You just play out the year. Whoever has the most is No. 1. The entry list, that's the only way you can really do it is by that way, using the old system. Looking at the year, Safin has played a lot. He's had a pretty consistent year. He's looking pretty good to possibly finish No. 1.

Q. There's not comparability between the two systems?

PETE SAMPRAS: For me and how I look at it, I've always looked at the best year as the person who did best in the Slams. A lot of guys look at consistency and who has won more. In that respect, I think Safin and Kuerten deserve to be up there. But I look back at this year, I always measure my year on the Slams. It all goes hand-in-hand. If you do well at the Slams, you'll be ranked high.

Q. So you think the Champions Race may be the best measure?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I mean, counts all the tournaments, the Slam and the other nine, sure, I think it's worked out practically well.

Q. The champion is going to be who wins here, is going to be the best for 2000?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, if I win here, I don't know how it all is going to come out. You know, Safin has had a very consistent year, much more than I have. He's won more tournaments.

Q. You lost the final with him in the US Open. You came in and practiced with him. Did you arrange that?


Q. Just coincidence?


Q. Good practice for you.

PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, yeah. All these guys are good practice.

Q. I suppose getting married and having a honeymoon are the best possible ways of keeping your mind occupied. Since then, have you ever thought back on the US Open final?


Q. What are your thoughts about that?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I definitely learned a little bit physically with what happened there. Not to take anything away from the way Safin played, but I must admit the match, the day before against Hewitt, I came out a little bit flat. I felt it physically. Pretty much I realized I needed to start training harder. It's a tough match to go Saturday-Sunday. You wish it would go Friday, have a day to get ready and go out and play well. Not to say -- probably the way he played, he was pretty much unbeatable that day. You know, it's one of those matches where I never played anyone in a big, big match like that that played that well.

Q. Never? How did it rate with Philippoussis in Australia? It wasn't as big a match.


Q. Big guy?

PETE SAMPRAS: Big guy serving 130. Not much you can do. Returning well. You know, one thing nice about playing The Open for a young guy, Saturday, Sunday, you don't have time to think about what you're doing. As you know, that's what happened to me when I was 19. If you have a day to think about it, you could show a little nerve. He really didn't. That being said, he's going to be a great player if he's not already a great player and will be at the top of the game for as long as he wants to be.

Q. This year you played less matches than anybody else in this tournament. Do you think it's an advantage? Experience can compensate?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't think experience plays any part in this tournament because everyone has had a great year, been in this
situation many times. If anything, not playing a lot, I could be a little vulnerable in the early parts. Once I get through my first
match, hopefully I can --.

Q. You may be less tired than the others.

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure. I mean, guys have played a lot. Kafelnikov just played yesterday. Norman has played a lot. Those guys might come in a little bit tired. But I think guys are going to be fine. They're in good shape, young. It's nice to have those young legs.

Q. The 13th meant so much to you at Wimbledon. Did you have a period of deflation after that?

PETE SAMPRAS: After The Open?

Q. Tough to get your enthusiasm back up?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. That's pretty much why I decided not to play in the fall, was because I always need to go out there with a purpose and a goal. You know, it's trying to find ways to have that. That's why I decided to not play much and play Australia.

Q. Did you feel kind of empty?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, I didn't feel empty. I felt like, you know, getting married, enjoying that time of my life, I wanted to enjoy it. I'm only planning on getting married once, so it was a time to focus on something else in my life. When it came around to start playing again, sure, I'm going to do that.

Q. How soon after that did you actually start to consciously think, "I'm looking forward to playing again"?

PETE SAMPRAS: Sure, knowing that I was going to go to Australia, I didn't really like the idea of going in there without having played for two and a half months. Playing Lisbon, it was a perfect schedule. I play here, I go back, do a little bit more training, go down to Australia fresh, in my mind, and wanting to play. That's really the challenge, especially in that event.

Q. You spoke about when you were 19 and won the US Open. What is the difference between Sampras as a teenager and now?

PETE SAMPRAS: A big difference. Just growing up.

Q. How can you tell it in a few words?

PETE SAMPRAS: Very green and naive as a youngster. Everything was all brand-new, what just happened. Now I've been out here for 10, 12 years. Kind of a little bit more used to the lifestyle, being famous, backing it up with playing well.

Q. You remember your victories that year?

PETE SAMPRAS: When I was 19?

Q. Yes.


Q. The first victories, do you remember when you are thinking about he next match?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm sorry?

Q. When you are resting, preparing the game, do you remember that games in a flashback?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, you think of different matches you've played over the years. But as time goes by, it becomes kind of like a distant memory - but it's a great memory.

Q. You use past games as mental preparation?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. I mean, I use past games in matches when you're feeling certain things. You can drawback on a match how you felt playing this match or that match. When I played Krajicek at The Open, it reminded me of playing Patrick Rafter at Wimbledon, being down in the tiebreaker. You can draw a bit of experience.

Q. Davis Cup figure in your plans next year at all?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know.

Q. How do you feel about John stepping down?

PETE SAMPRAS: Must admit, a little bit surprised. I haven't talked to John since The Open. I'm sure he has his reasons why he decided not to do it. I hear a lot of it was the schedule and whatnot. He brought a lot to Davis Cup: experience, notoriety in the US, as far as the media, which is what Davis Cup needs in our country. I think he just felt it was time for him to go.

Q. You won't play next year?

PETE SAMPRAS: I didn't say that. I'll probably decide after this event and try to finalize my schedule.

Q. With all the hoopla of him getting given the captaincy, did you expect him to last a little bit more than a year?

PETE SAMPRAS: I thought so. When I first talked to John about the Davis Cup, he looked at kind of a three-year plan being the captain. I was as surprised as anyone else to hear that he decided to resign. But looking ahead, I think there's a lot of good candidates that can do a good job. But John definitely brought a lot of exposure to Davis Cup. We'll see how it plays out.

Q. I heard that Paul Annacone would be in line for the job.

PETE SAMPRAS: He was one of the names that I've heard.

Q. How do you feel about that?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm sure it's something that I would have to talk to him about (laughter). He's very qualified. Also Pat McEnroe, I heard Brad Gilbert was in contention.

Q. So any of them?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't play Davis Cup for the captain. I don't decide to play because of who's the captain. Nothing to do with it.

Q. You said what was needed in your country for Davis Cup is the media. People don't get into the spirit, is that it?

PETE SAMPRAS: If you look at the schedule, it's hard to follow for the people in the US. I mean, it's playing in different countries different times in the year. I always believed in having a format where you have a little bit more simplified like The Ryder Cup, everyone can focus the attention on it. Tennis is competing with so many other sports. Davis Cup is a great event if it was put together properly.

Q. Presumably if you and Andre had played in Spain, John might still be in his post. Do you have any regrets about that?

PETE SAMPRAS: The thing is, with cap -- as captain, you have to play with the players you have and support them. If Andre and I aren't there, he has to support the guys that are there. That's his role as captain, to be there for all your players, not just your top players. I don't know if that's the reason why he decided not to do it. I don't know what the main reason is. I heard more of a scheduling problem. I really don't know.

Q. Who do you think will win next week, speaking of Davis Cup?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think Spain is the favorite. Rafter can play well on clay. Hewitt can play well on anything. I think Spain is probably with the slight advantage.

Q. This year you become very emotional after you win Wimbledon. This was a special year, you got married. What changed in your life? Your way of seeing has have changed with all marriage?

PETE SAMPRAS: What happened at Wimbledon was the way I always dreamt about winning a Slam and possibly breaking the record, having my parents there, sharing with the people that helped get me there. You know, obviously after I won, it hit me, just the emotion of the record, but mainly having my parents there, which is about as good as it's ever going to get for me as an athlete, unless one day I'd win the French. I'd think up till now, it was more than just playing a tennis match and winning Wimbledon, it was more than that to me. It was one of the best moments of my life.

Q. Do you feel it's a pity your parents are not here? Perhaps it's another time you break a record.

PETE SAMPRAS: Not really.

Q. Wimbledon was more special?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yes (laughter).

Q. Do you still have relatives in Greece?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, they're all in the States.

Q. You said you're surprised John resigned. Are you disappointed in John that he let it go so fast?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't want to say I'm disappointed. I was just more surprised than anything. I mean, I haven't talked to John since The Open. I think it would have been nice to talk to him, just to hear from his viewpoint what happened or whatever. You know, it's hard to be disappointed in someone that it's his life and it's what he wants to do. I have no problem with that.

Q. Just that he lobbied regard for the job in the first place.

PETE SAMPRAS: He pushed hard.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: You said it better (laughter).

Q. You say now you know what's important in your career. Can you consider entering a new phase in your life?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, you an a new phase in my personal life. Really looking forward to enjoying being married, settling down, having some kids one day. But still, you know, very much into my tennis and doing that. Just a part of life that I love. I'm going to really enjoy it.

Q. Has it become more important for you, this part of your life, personal life?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think they're both very important, personal and professional. It goes hand-in-hand if you're happy in both. It's great. But it was just time for me and my wife, and the right person. I was just ready, and you know when you're ready to join the club.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: I don't know of any definite number in my mind that will call it a day. As long as I'm enjoying it, I'm in contention for The Majors and I feel like I can play at that level, I'll keep on going.

Q. That would be the deciding factor, being in contention for the majors?

PETE SAMPRAS: If I feel like I can't play five or seven matches every week, if I'm not playing well, if my mind is not there, you'll just know when it's time, I think.

Q. After you got married, you spent a fair bit of time in New York. Was your wife appearing in a play or television?

PETE SAMPRAS: On a show called The Street.

Q. TV show?


Q. Is it a soap?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's about Wall Street.

Q. She was filming it weekly?

PETE SAMPRAS: She's in New York for quite some time. Is it a weekly show?

Q. Yes.


Q. What sort of character does she play?

PETE SAMPRAS: She plays a bit of a vixen. Well, kind of --.

Q. Were you a fan of her as an actress?

PETE SAMPRAS: I first saw her on the screen. I said it would be nice to meet her.

Q. She watches your games, do you like that?


Q. Support?


Q. She's here in Portugal?


Q. She's not going to be full-time on the road?


Q. (Inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: When you're in love, it's hard, miss my wife now.

Q. Is this the biggest time you've spent apart since the wedding?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, she's been living in New York. I was in LA training. You spend time apart. When she's got time off, we try to make sure we see each other.

Q. (Inaudible) wear the T-shirt they offer you from Portugal soccer team? That would be quite an impression.

PETE SAMPRAS: To wear it?

Q. Like you are on the team. Do you like the T-shirt?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I don't know if I'll wear it on the court.

Q. If you wear it during the press conferences, you'll have the press at your feet.


Q. And the Brits will leave because we beat them in the European Championships.

PETE SAMPRAS: I heard that.

Q. You like soccer?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'm learning to appreciate it. Good answer, huh (laughter)?

Q. Any clubs?

PETE SAMPRAS: Not really. Being over in England during the World Cup, I happened to watch all the games. It's on about five stations.

Q. Lot of football?

PETE SAMPRAS: Lot of football. It's exciting when it's an event that big. You have to watch because you get wrapped up in it.

Q. Any sport besides tennis you watch, really a fan?

PETE SAMPRAS: Football, basketball, golf.

Q. American football?


Q. Any stars that are role models?

PETE SAMPRAS: No, not really.

Q. Tiger Woods, you mentioned Ryder Cup, golf.

PETE SAMPRAS: What he's done, how it does it, it's been phenomenal.

Q. Do you have any sense looking at the new generation, Safin, do you have any idea what's ahead?


Q. (Inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: I think it's a lot of power, a lot of baseline tennis. Guys are just banging the ball hard. I think the art of serve-and-volleying is pretty much extinct. You look at everyone else that has made me, other than me, they stay back and crack the ball. Rafter, Henman, that's pretty much it. I look at the game turning more to just baseline, everyone just cracking it. Whoever does it better is going to win.

Q. What do you think about Portugal?

PETE SAMPRAS: It seems to be a nice city. Just flying in a couple days ago, it seems like a city with a lot of history and culture. I've just been around the people a little bit, did an appearance at the mall yesterday. They seem passionate about tennis.

Q. In this tournament, you have a difficult mission, you have to win all the games.

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah (laughter).

Q. How do you feel you're going to cope physically with the demands of the top players?

PETE SAMPRAS: I feel pretty good. I can just draw a little bit on what happened last year when I came to Hannover, not really having played since The Open, came out ahead. One thing great about this format, you can get off to a bad start, lose a match, get back into it and maybe win here.

Q. What do you think about the field, young guys qualifying? Do you think they're a threat to you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, yeah. Just look at the results of the year. They've pretty much dominated, from Safin, Kuerten, Hewitt. They've won most of the titles. That's the future of the game right there, those three or four guys that are great players. They're handling it very well. Andre and I will still be there and be in contention when we're playing well. I feel like when we are playing our best, we are the two best players in the world. But we haven't been as consistent as in years past. I'm sure the young guys with the young legs will get better and better.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: Three weeks ago is when I first started hitting some balls, get the blisters back, get myself back in shape. I'm sure I'll wake up a little bit sore the next day after I play my first match here. You obviously push a little bit harder in matches. My goal is to just try and get that confidence back. I could be a little bit vulnerable in the beginning. I look at what happened last year and kind of draw on that. It won't be easy, I know that. Guys are playing great.

Q. What about next year? When we heard about you pulling out of tournaments, we thought, "Having broken the record at Wimbledon, is he losing his enthusiasm"? Are you going to play a full schedule next year?

PETE SAMPRAS: Not playing in the fall had nothing to do with me getting married. It was a career decision that I felt like I wanted to give myself the best chance to do well in Australia. The race, the ranking, you know, I've done that in my career. Still wanting to go out there motivated with a purpose. I wasn't going to do both. I wasn't going to play in the fall and go to Australia. I felt like Australia, you know, that's what I play for. You might think I got married and I'm going on a honeymoon. The honeymoon is over (laughter). It's back to reality, back to getting back out there. It was the right call, it really was. I was home for a little while, training. Just being in some of these tournaments in my mind, I'm glad I made the decision.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PETE SAMPRAS: It's flattering to hear your peers speaking highly of you. I'm sure when Marat is almost 30, like I am, he'll have young guys admiring him like he does to me. I think he's a great player that is a nice person that will just be a credit to the game. Has proven he's got one of the biggest games in the world. It's very flattering to hear. He's coming in here probably the hottest player, just winning Paris. You know, I think he handles it well. He'll come in here and be a threat. It won't be easy for anyone to win here because the competition is that strong. But, you know, look at him and Hewitt, Kuerten, they're the future of the game.

Q. Andre said, he saw Hewitt as the version 2000 of Michael Chang.


Q. Yes. Do you think so?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yes, I think it's similar. He's combative, fights hard, very quick. He has those intangibles. Hewitt possesses a pretty big serve, returns well. He will always be in contention for the Slams, he will. I mean, he'll always be in the second week because he's consistent, doesn't play a lot of bad matches. It's a pretty good comparison.

Q. Kuerten, Hewitt and Safin, do you see the three who are going to replace you, Andre and Yevgeny?

PETE SAMPRAS: Hold Yevgeny, he's a little younger. Yeah, I look at those three players.

Q. Do you see another one? Maybe Ferrero?

PETE SAMPRAS: I haven't really seen him play, but, yeah, can he do it. There's a lot of them, not many, but I look at those three at being the top of the game for the next number of years.

Q. This is a possibility. When you finish playing, are you questioning the possibility of teaching kids how to play? Do you
think you have that?

PETE SAMPRAS: No. It's hard to teach what I do. It's something that comes very natural.

Q. You don't have that gift?


Q. Maybe you can tell someone how you see the match.

PETE SAMPRAS: Maybe a little bit. I don't think I'll go into that field.

Q. What do you want to do? Do you ever think about it?

PETE SAMPRAS: People ask me about it all the time. I don't have anything set in stone. Pretty much I can do whatever I want. That's a nice thing.

Q. You can choose?

PETE SAMPRAS: I can choose to do what I want. I always will need to be working on something, doing something being active. I can't just sit home and watch TV.

Q. Connected to tennis or out of tennis?

PETE SAMPRAS: I mean, tennis I know. It's hard to say I'll desert it.


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