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Sampras Goes Out in Second Match, Agassi Goes on - no yet finished

January 11, 2001

Melbourne, Australia - Andre Agassi wasn't too amazed at his two come-from-behind victories, just as Pete Sampras wasn't worried about his two losses at the Colonial Classic, a warm-up for the Australian Open. Patrick Rafter defeated Sampras 6-4, 7-6(5).

While losing 3-5, 0-40 in the second set, Agassi raised his level to beat Nicolas Escude 3-6, 7-5, 6-1, which put him in the final.

Pete Sampras seemed to admit that he wasn't in top form yet but that if he was hitting the ball well, and feeling well, he would win matches and build his confidence. He feels if he can play better today than he did yesterday it will continue to help him to work out things.

In the round robin matches, Sampras lost to Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain. He will have one more match in which he will play Nicolas Kiefer of Germany.

The more important matches for Agassi in the Open will be the early matches. He's eager to get his confidence back. He thinks it will come quickly because of his winningl year-end play. He believes he will have to work harder this year. Agassi is seeded sixth at the Colonial Classic.

Agassi expressed his annoyance at himself, as he was about to lose serve. When he finally picked himself back up, he was careful to not make as many mistakes.

The winner of the Kafelnikov/Ferrero semifinal will face Agassi on Saturday.

In the match between Sampras and Rafter, Sampras lost his serve in the seventh game of the first set. Rafter won the second set tiebreaker, when he returned a serve too wide for Sampras to get.

This will likely be the last Australian Open for Rafter, who commented he would probably retire at the end of the year. He plans to play the whole year.

Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti defeated Kiefer 6-7(4), 7-5, 7-6(2). He is a replacement for Safin who retired with a sore elbow.


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Retirement Not in Sampras' Plans Yet

January 11, 2001

Pat Rafter may be thinking about retiring, but not Pete Sampras. Even though he lost to Rafter in the Colonial Classic in Melbourne in straight sets.

Year 2000 found Sampras not playing as much as usual, then after losing to Safin in the US Open he married Bridgette Wilson and took an additional two months off. This lack of match play was perhaps the reason he lost in the semi finals of the year ending Masters Cup to Gustavo Kuerten.

Sampras sees himself playing for another 4 or 5 years. Sampras is enjoying playing on the ATP Tour still, while Rafter is tired of the traveling and the heavy ATP schedule.

Sampras stated the he still enjoyed the competition, and likes the challenges given to him as a tennis player. He did state that hearing the news about Rafter made him think about his own life.

Leaving at the right time is important to Sampras. To win the French Open and then retire would be a good time, Sampras believes. Anyone knowing Sampras, knows he will do it when the time is right and will do it gracefully.


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2001 Colonial Classic
Post-Match Interview

Pete Sampras loses to Pat Rafter
4-6, 6-7(5)

January 11, 2001

Q: You seemed a little frustrated out there today, Pete.

A: A little bit. In fact, he's a tough guy to play in these conditions, (indistinct) it is tough to get a hold of it. I though I played a little bit better than I did yesterday and had my chances at 43 serving and kind of played a sloppy game. I thought I hit the ball a little bit better; there is obviously a lot of room for improvement over the next three or four days, but I'm a bit more pleased the way I hit the ball. Would have been nice to have won this match.

Q: So what do you do, do you start tinkering a little bit with things or is it just going to come naturally by playing more games?

A: By playing more games, another tough match tomorrow, so you get into a certain rhythm and when you come down here you just have to adjust your shots a little bit, it's a little bit quicker, ball bounces up very high and there's a couple of adjustments you have to make. I'll get some time to work on a few things and hopefully I will be ready by next week.

Q: Do you think Pat played like a guy on the verge of retirement?

A: No, I thought he played fine. He always plays solid, good serve and volley, tough guy to break. I have heard about him retiring, or the talk of it, and it's something that it's his decision, his career. When you look at Pat's career, he has been number one, won two majors, a lot of players would retire on those numbers, but he is still reasonably young he is only 28 and a good athlete and a good mental attitude out there, he can play for many years.

Q: He said when you walked in the changing room today: hey, what's going on here about retiring, what did he say to you?

A: He said: yeah, well, you know. It's a grind out there. We talked about it for a minute. He has mentioned a few things to me, just little comments here and there, about how much longer he is going to play and it's his life and there is obviously a lot more to life than tennis and I think he recognises that, he has had a good career. I have always found Pat to be a contender in every major, he is there and a couple of things here and there he could within the next two or three or whatever but he's definitely had a good career.

Q: Is it fair to say it wouldn't have been that much of a surprise?

A: Probably not. Obviously he has made it public and I don't think he really knows exactly when it is going to happen, I don't think he thinks he is going to play for five more years, I don't know what he said here today, but maybe another year or so and he might call it. Ones a player starts talking about it, obviously it is something he has thought about and, sure, Pat has thought a lot about it.

Q: Can you understand it or empathise with it?

A: I have never had a serious injury I've had back problems but for him to have surgery on the shoulder which put him out of the game for a while, the rehab, and mentally it is tough when you've been on top of the game and he didn't play for quite a while, and to get back up there takes a lot of work. Being from Australia, he doesn't spend a lot of time at home, he is away from home for six, seven months at a time, so over the years it takes its toll. I still think he is young enough and in good enough shape to play this game for a long time, but I can understand, it's a grind out there but on the other hand it is a great job to play a sport and make a good living and travel around the world. I wouldn't trade this for anything.

Q: Do you get a bit sad when guys that you have had a good rivalry with over the years, or played good matches, when they drop out? It would be hard to imagine the day when Agassi or Sampras are not playing any more and they are not there to play each other. Has it become tough to see these guys that you are used to playing not there any more?

A: I don't know if sad is the right word but it's a sign that you are getting up there. For us, when Jim retired, being a rival of mine and Andre's, it kind of woke us both up to how much longer we are going to play when someone calls it quits. You look back at your career and you remember the great matches, you remember the rivalries that I have had, and certainly Boris has been one, Andre has been one, and Edburg and Pat, as a sportsman it happens to everybody. For me in my shoes, I see myself playing for quite a while. I still love playing and I love competing but it happens to everybody. You just know when it is time, you wake up of a morning and don't feel like playing or training and that's when it's time to maybe look beyond tennis.

Q: Pete, we remember the socalled war of words between you and Pat. Would it be good to describe you now as buddies beyond just repairing whatever was going on then, but you have actually found a friendship beyond that?

A: Yeah, I think Pat and I the media kind blew a few things up here and there that I said a few things that I kind of regretted and (indistinct) Pat's a good guy, he's a class act on and off the court, and certainly he's a good representative for Australia and for tennis because he is a good sport and we've put that behind us and moved on.

Q: He was indicating this might be his last Aussie Open, his last big tournament. If two meet in the final in a couple of weeks time, will you tank it?

A: So he could win? I probably would. I like to get to a final but my personality, I would tank my final so it's not that important to me

Q: I don't know if you know who is playing the fourth match in the qualifying at Court 17 this afternoon at Melbourne Park?

A: Ivanisevic?

Q: He is playing .... How do you feel about seeing Goran playing a qualifying for the Australian Open?

A: I'm surprised he didn't get a wild card. Three time Wimbledon finalist, that's pretty good. I'm surprised he didn't get a wild card, he deserves one, but Goran has lost his way a little bit and lost some confidence and when you lose a little bit, it's a struggle but it is nice to see him still competing and still trying to get back into the top 100, or whenever he is at right now, but if I was a tournament director, (indistinct) a wild card to.

Q: You speak about Pat being 28 and the grind of the tour, does this announcement put back some pressure on the ATP to maybe fix that grind and bring it back to extend your careers?

A: I don't think one retirement is going to do that. I have always said over the years that I think the year is too long and whether you're in a Davis Cup final or making the championships, you don't really have much time off and it is a grind. A lot of other sports, especially in the US, you have four or five months off to have a normal life and get back into it and tennis players it's a one man show up there, it's all up to you, you don't have team mates, so it can be a mental grind at times. I think the tour is trying to make an effort to try and shorten the season a little bit but Pat was in the Davis Cup final in December, you have a couple of weeks and get ready for another year, so it takes its toll. I think the tour is trying to cut it back but I don't see any immediate changes over the next couple of years. They still have the same schedule and the year is just too long.

Q: Pete, Pat had said it at this stage to make the Australian crowd aware of what his thoughts are so obviously he is looking at some grand plan. Do you have anything along those lines? If you had a perfect scenario, the way to hang up the racket, is there anything that has played in your mind?

A: Well, not really. Just the thought of retirement isn't really first on my mind. Sure, in a perfect world, like a Michael Jordan (indistinct) and call it quits, and that's a nice way to go out. For me, winning the French or something, calling it quits after that, you want to leave your legacy in a positive way, you don't want to play too long or whatever but I don't have any details of exactly what I will do or what I will say and when I'll do it. When it's time I will do the right thing and bow out gracefully.

Q: Who decides when it is time? Would you go and speak to people about it or would you just wake up, as you said?

A: I don't think there is really anyone can say anything, I think it is something that you know and feel when you wake up in the morning or when you go through the travelling schedule or practicing, you just know when it's time. I think I have always said for me when it's time it is when I feel like I can't contend for majors, if my health is a big issue, if I'm not enjoying it, if those things start creeping up over x number of years it's definitely time to look beyond tennis but as long as I'm still in contention and still playing, somewhere in the top of the game, I will just keep on going.

Q: Have you ever been close?

A: To retiring?

Q: Yes. To even entertain the thought.

A: No.

Q: No down times?

A: There are times where you are a little bit tired, a little bit burned out, but the thought of retirement seems pretty final, so it is something that's never seriously crossed my mind.

Q: Pat made the point that you are a much more naturally talented tennis player, he says it comes easier for you than to him; he is a guy that has to work really hard. Would you share that opinion?

A: Well, that's flattering to hear. I still have to put in my time and put in my training to do what I have done over the past, eight, nine years but it takes a lot of energy to play the way Pat plays. He has got to be in good shape, he is a physical player, he does a lot of moving, and the game always has become reasonably easy at times for me but I can understand what he is saying but it still takes a lot of effort to be number one for a number of years so it takes its toll.

Q: Is it more of an effort now, as you get a little bit older, do you have to train harder to keep that standard?

A: Yeah. As you get older your body changes, the recovery time, you feel a little bit more you get to 29, 30 and you feel a little bit more versus when you were 22, and so the time where you need to train a little bit harder and push it a little bit harder.

Q: How are you approaching your schedule this year? Are you going to scale back at all to focus even more on the Grand Slams?

A: Well, I'm going to concentrate a little bit more on the clay. I want to play a few more events, probably get over to Europe a little bit earlier to give myself the best chance to do well at the French and pretty much have the same schedule all the way through Wimbledon, then the US Open. It's pretty much trying to peak four times a year and that's the challenge and that's the goal.

Q: Although you are know you're playing three matches here, how frustrating was it to lose the first two? Was that bad for your confidence or not very significant?

A: Well, I hope it is not too significant. As long as I'm hitting the ball well and feeling well, which I think I'm getting there. When you win matches you build confidence but if I can play better today than yesterday, I can kind of build on it and work on a few things this weekend and get ready, but I'm not overly concerned but I definitely like to go out and win tomorrow.


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