Tennis Masters Cup 2000
Post Match Interview
Pete SAMPRAS loses to Gustavo KUERTEN
7-6, 3-6, 4-6
December 2, 2000
MODERATOR: Questions for Pete.
Q. Did he surprise you by how well he returned and passed today?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I knew he was going to return pretty well. He's a tough guy to serve against because he stands so far back and returns well. More impressively, you know, was his serve. I had a number of break opportunities; he came up with the big serve. Using that serve out wide on deuce side, that was a huge serve for him. He got a lot of big points. He just played the big points a little bit better than I did. To your question, he returns well. Wasn't the greatest serving day for me. I felt like I had enough chances to get up a break there in the third at Love-40. He hit a couple big serves. It's a tough loss.
Q. Do you think those sort of chances going are typical of someone who hasn't played enough in the last couple of months?
PETE SAMPRAS: No, I really don't, no. I mean, I'm playing fine. After the first match, the last couple matches, I'm back to where I want to be. It's just, you know, a missed opportunity. He just played the bigger points a little bit better than I did. You know, I was 1 for 8 on breakpoints. I don't think that's a lack of match practice, it's just bad luck. I didn't play those points poorly, he just hit a couple service winners. I had my chances. You know, all it takes is one point out there. Unfortunately, I didn't get it today.
Q. He's getting a lot of treatment. He seems to be being held together, kind of Todd Martin-style. Is that a distraction? How do you feel about the way he seems to be overcoming a little adversity?
PETE SAMPRAS: He seemed to be moving fine to me. Adrenaline can definitely help you out, can get you through a lot of aches and pains. The crowd was obviously behind him. That can lift you up quite a bit. He'll have a long day tomorrow. You know, he's a fighter. There's no question mentally he's one of the stronger guys out there.
Q. You've obviously thought about next year. You've said in the past you're going to concentrate now on the majors. What are your plans for the start of the year now?
PETE SAMPRAS: I'm going to probably play the exhibition before Australia. I think it's called the Colonial. I'll play that, then Australia. After that, I really don't know (laughter).
Q. You haven't finalized your plans then for after the Australian Open?
PETE SAMPRAS: After Australia, I think Davis Cup is looking pretty unlikely next year. I'm not sure. I'm playing obviously Palm Springs and Miami. Before then, I don't know. Maybe play Memphis. I've got to play something before Palm Springs. But definitely after Miami, I'm going to play a little bit more on the clay to get ready for the French.
Q. You will play more on clay this year?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yes.
Q. You're really going to have a go for that, are you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, that's-yeah. That's really what's left. Just give myself the best chance. Everyone tells me, "You have to play more on clay, you have to play more on clay." I've tried that over the years, played more. It's backfired when I'm on there too much before the French. Kind of a fine line. But you definitely want to go into the French having played matches and winning matches. So I've decided to play a little bit more.
Q. I know obviously Paul has been with you, you've had good coaching all through your life. Have you considered maybe taking on some clay court expert coach along with Paul to see if you can sort of get the clay court really suiting you better than it has?
PETE SAMPRAS: You know, I really haven't. Paul does a great job. He knows-even though he wasn't a clay court specialist himself, but he knows my game, he knows what it takes to play on the clay. The court at Roland Garros isn't that slow, it really isn't. It's a pretty quick clay court. It's movement, it's sliding, it's an adjustment. But it's not like if I start working with someone else, it's going to be a magic pill. It really doesn't work that way. I know what I need to do. I just need to go out there and do it.
Q. I know you competed all those years at The Masters in Germany, in Frankfurt and Hannover. Obviously you're disappointed now. Have you found this a very successful venue here in Lisbon? Have you enjoyed it here?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think we got off to a slow start as far as the crowds. It was a little bit like half full. It seemed like yesterday it finally kicked in. The people got into it. Obviously over the weekend, it was a packed house. I think it finally kicked off. It's only here for one year, so it's really hard to make things perfect. People don't know much about the event. With the four players we had today, two guys tomorrow, I think it's obviously good for the game. This event I think will go down as a very successful event.
Q. Could you give your comment after the first year of the new ranking system? There's only one match to go and the race is not decided yet. Do you think it was a good change?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah. I mean, I think the race, everyone starts at zero, you play the year. It's a pretty simple way of doing the ranking system. It all boils down to the match tomorrow. You know, I think you guys probably have a better understanding than I do. The media are the people that need to understand the ranking system and tell the public how it works. I think it seems to be working pretty well. It's the first year, so I think each year that we have it, it will get a little bit more popular. That's definitely what it needs. I think Safin was rooting for me today, he told me before the match just two things, "Please win." Fortunately, I'm going to make him sweat a little bit more.
Q. He'll be doing it for Agassi tomorrow.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah.
Q. What is your rationale on Davis Cup? Are you ruling out playing the whole year or just the first round?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, until the format changes, I don't see myself playing. I mean, I think the format should change. I think until it changes, I don't see myself playing. That pretty much sums it up. I've always felt like the format in Davis Cup is the worst thing for the players. It's outdated. It was established a hundred years ago. To have it the way it is today, for me at this point in my career, it's something I don't plan on being a part of until it changes.
Q. Why did it change your attitude about it? A year ago you were thinking about playing more in the later years of your career. The format was the same then as now.
PETE SAMPRAS: I just figured I was going to focus a little bit on it last year. It was to the point where it meant a little bit more. But next year I just feel like, you know, I've just decided not to play.
Q. Did Mack's decision affect that?
PETE SAMPRAS: No, it wasn't any effect. I don't play for the captain; I play because of what I want to do. You know, it's a tough schedule. I've always felt like the format in Davis Cup should change. Until it does, I won't play.
Q. You observed the adversity strategy. He has a weak left, you tried to work on his weak left. At least that's what it appeared. The second question is you were talking about the audience. Most people were expecting to see Agassi playing you tomorrow. I think you had big support. Could you comment?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, the crowd enjoyed it. They were rooting for both guys. Back home, it would have been a good match-up, me and Andre tomorrow, like last year. But it wasn't meant to be. He fought hard and won the big points today.
Q. How do you see the final tomorrow?
PETE SAMPRAS: You know, I think Andre is a strong favorite. The way he's playing, the way Kuerten is feeling, three-out-of-five sets, he's going to have to go on a lot of adrenaline, from the crowd. I see Andre being the favorite. You know, it should be interesting.
Q. You were No. 1 for six years in a row. Do you still care about who will be the No. 1 tomorrow? Do you have an opinion who should be, who deserves it?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's really hard to answer. I think Safin and Kuerten have had great years. Kuerten winning the French, Safin winning The Open. In my opinion, I think they both deserve it, when you win a major and have a good consistent year. It's going to come down to one match. I look at the players, they're both on the same page as far as their tennis. I don't look at one guy as the clear No. 1. I think they both have had great years.