Sampras Wins Tough 4-setter in Melbourne
January 17, 2001
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Pete Sampras battled to victory against Czech
Bohdan Ulihrach at the Australian Open on Wednesday and then admitted his
decision to limit the number of tournaments he plays has helped his game
if not his pocket.
Sampras won 7-6 7-6 4-6 7-5 in three hours to set up a third round meeting
with Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela.
The American's desire to extend his domination of Grand Slam tennis has
seen the former world number one gradually cut back on the tournaments he
has entered over the last five years.
The 29-year-old explained that his need to concentrate on the four majors
has meant he has failed to compete in the full complement of nine Masters
Series tournaments a season.
As a result, Sampras, who has secured more than $41 million in prize money
in his 12-year career, has missed out on end-of-year bonuses handed down
by the game's governing body, the Association of Tennis Professionals.
Sampras, seeded three in Melbourne, said: "If I'm honest, I guess
I would have lost around $7 million over the last few years for not competing
in every tournament.
"But everyone knows that I am concentrating on the Grand Slams and
making sure my body is in the best of shape for those events.
"I will play in about five or six of the Masters Series again this
season, although I intend to play more on clay this year."
Sampras, the winner of a record 13 Grand Slam titles, has won seven Wimbledons,
four U.S. Opens and two Australian Open titles but never the clay court
Moreover, discounting Wimbledon, he has not won a Grand Slam tournament
at the other three majors for four years -- the last occasion being his
Australian Open triumph in 1997.
"I would be happy to keep winning Wimbledon, although I admit it would
be nice to win another one, as well," he said.
Ulihrach had won two of his previous five meetings with Sampras before
their latest encounter on the new show court.
After the American had secured the first two sets on tiebreaks, Ulihrach
again raised his game to give Sampras problems and force a fourth set by
taking the third 6-4.
But Sampras hit back and, despite missing one match point on Uhlirach's
serve at 5-4, he finished off his dogged opponent with his second match
"I feel sore and I am looking forward to a day off on Thursday,"
"Bohdan was playing some really good tennis, so you have to give him
credit. I didn't feel like I was playing badly.
"Every time I have stepped on court for the last eight or nine years,
I have felt like all my opponents have raised their game because it was
me they were playing.
"So it was good to pass the latest test -- although physically, it
is not necessarily a good thing to be pushed hard on these courts early
in a Grand Slam. The hard courts here have notoriously been tough on my
body in the past."
Back to Archives - 2001 | News
Australian Open - Round 2
Pete Sampras defeats Bohdan Ulihrach
7-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-5
January 17, 2001
Q. I know. A tough one, and at times it looked as if you were probably
just getting yourself up for it. Is that fair?
PETE SAMPRAS: You mean up for it mentally? What do you mean "up"?
Q. You seemed a little bit sluggish at times. There were some long, tough
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I felt physically pretty good. I was definitely up
for the match. I mean Bohdan, he started off the year getting to the final
so I knew he was playing well. It was a roller coaster up there, playing
that match. I felt I had him when I won the first two sets, kind of lost
it a little bit. I thought the tennis was at a pretty high level. He wasn't
missing much, really making me work really hard on my service games. Both
these two guys I've played have made me work very hard, just playing at
a very high level. I've played six hours in the past couple days so my body
needs a little day off tomorrow. But I felt like I was up for it. I mean,
I definitely felt like I was playing fine.
Q. Can that be good then for the rounds to come?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, not necessarily. Physically, it's, you know, two pretty
tough matches. This court's always historically has been pretty tough on
my body. But the day off is nice. I've gotten my share of, you know, I've
played plenty of tennis so that's good. But later on in the rounds you definitely
want to have your legs and your back and everything to be feeling good and
hopefully I can get through the soreness that I'm feeling and I'll be okay
Q. Philippe Bouin, L'Equipe.
PETE SAMPRAS: This is a new thing. I like this. Put you guys on the spot.
Q. Last year you had problems with the balls. How do you think the court
is playing this year?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think the court is playing a little bit slower, still goes
through the court pretty good. But I think there was a lot of complaints
last year to the tournament organizer, they definitely slowed it down a
touch. Last year I thought was too fast. I was serving some 30, 35 aces
a match. It was nice to have it a little bit slower to have some more time
Q. What do you think of that new stadium?
PETE SAMPRAS: I really liked it. I mean, it seemed like a good court and
to have two retractable roofs, one site, it's pretty impressive. It definitely
is a step up from -- I played on that Court 1, a lot of big names. I'd hate
to be out playing on Court 1. It was nice to be out on the Vodafone. It
was a good start.
Q. Unusual for you to be broken six times.
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's just a combination of the guys I've been playing.
You know, Bohdan, you know, I felt like I was serving pretty good and returning
and passing. You play someone that's playing at a high level, you start
pressing a little bit and you go for too much. I was throwing in a few doubles.
I think you have to give him credit for the way he played. He put me under
a lot of pressure. You know, I still felt like even though I was getting
broken, I feel like I was hitting the ball well enough from the back court.
I can get back at him and break him back. I did that a couple of times.
But, you know, it's just an indication on how well he was returning.
Q. Barry Flatman, Daily Express, London. Do you see the same guys going
for the big ones this year? Is there anyone you can see coming through to
challenge the top guys?
PETE SAMPRAS: I think you pretty much are seeing the guys you're going
to see for the rest of the year. I mean you got a couple seeds in Kuerten,
Safin, Hewitt is going to be a threat. Just go down on the seedings, those
are the guys that are going to be around in the second weekend. So a lot
of dangerous players out there, but I think those guys are pretty much the
future of the game.
Q. Pete, Sandy Harwitt. You play Chela next. How do you see that match
different than the last two? A little easier?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, at this rate it's pretty difficult. I've never played
him. I haven't really seen him play much. But I'm sure I'll get a few hints
about it tomorrow and see what he plays like and what he does and -- but
just take a day off tomorrow and let the body rest and get ready for Friday.
Q. Do you think it's fairly obvious from all the people you play when
you look at them, see their rankings, what they've done in other tournaments,
the one thing they always do is lift themselves because they're inspired
by merely playing against you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Oh, absolutely. I feel that every match I've played for the
last eight, nine years. I mean, when you're the man to beat or one of the
guys to beat, there's guys that come out with nothing to lose and they swing
away. They're going to play at a high level. You have to go into that match
expecting that. That's happened these two matches, I mean Karol and Bohdan
were hitting great shots. It's hard to say if, you know, if they play like
that, if they're playing someone that's ranked 100. The fact that they're
playing me, it gives them a chance to kind of relax and have a little more
Q. Now that one year is done of the Champions Race, what's your evaluation?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I think it ended up pretty positive with the race and
Kuerten finishing No. 1. He had to beat me and Agassi in the semi, which,
you know, is difficult to do. And he had a great year, won the French. I
think it was a pretty positive step in the right direction, to have it all
come down to Lisbon. You know, the future of the game are the young guys
coming up, but you can't overlook myself and Andre, the way we're playing.
So it was a good start. I mean --.
Q. It seemed pretty accurate?
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I think it seemed accurate. For me, I didn't play all
the nine, which obviously is not going to help out my ranking. I can be
happy with a win at Wimbledon, a final at the Open and a semi here. So that's
not a bad Grand Slam year.
Q. How many of the nine do you plan to play this year?
PETE SAMPRAS: Probably the same as last year, probably five or six. I'm
going to play a little bit more on clay, I'll probably play Hamburg, Rome,
Cincinnati, probably five.
Q. Did you get much heat from the powers-that-be about not playing as
many nines as you did?
PETE SAMPRAS: I got hurt in the pocketbook. Lost my bonus, which I've done
five years of my career. But, no, I mean my -- I expressed I wasn't going
to play in the fall. They asked why. I told them my reasons, and, you know,
I'm at a different stage in my career than, you know, the Tour's taken the
direction of -- that I'm not going in the same direction both playing all
the nine, I'm not planning on doing that. I didn't get heat. I'm gonna do
what I'm going to do to prepare for the Grand Slams, and that's really where
I'm at in my tennis.
Q. Four years since you won another Slam apart from Wimbledon. How much
of that is a factor in sort of the last part of your career, to do another
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I'd be happy with Wimbledon every year, I can't complain
with that one. But, you know, I came pretty close to here last year, and
the final of the Open. So I'm not -- I'm still in contention and I feel
like I'm still a threat but it would be nice to start off the year and win
here. It's not going to be an easy two weeks. But, you know, the game is
getting tougher. I mean there's no doubt about it. I feel like, you know,
five six years ago, you can get through a couple easy matches in a Slam
and it just goes to show these first two matches I've played I've been having
to work really hard and guys are getting better. It's tougher as you get
a little bit older to keep winning these Slams.
Q. Davis Cup?
PETE SAMPRAS: Nope.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yep. (Laughter.)
Q. Going back to what you said earlier, how much money did you leave at
the table in that bonus situation?
PETE SAMPRAS: Honestly, I think... Close to seven million or so. I mean,
I don't know accurately -- how accurate that is. But, you know, you get
a bonus at the end of the year. I think I've only received a couple of times
because I didn't play all the tournaments. The years I was 1, I lost 1.2
a year for quite a while.
Q. Tax man complaining?
PETE SAMPRAS: I'm complaining.
Q. Small change, isn't it?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, for some people.
Q. Chela said earlier that you were his idol since he was a kid. He thinks
you're the best player in history. What do you think when young players
PETE SAMPRAS: I just hope he feels like that on Friday. It's flattering.
It's definitely flattering to hear compliments from people in the game that
I'm competing against and, you know, I think I have some respect in the
game with the players with, you know, what I've done and how I do it.But
it's obviously, I don't dwell on stuff like that, but it's nice to hear.
Q. Laver's been around. He's always been the man for you. If he was the
man to present you with the trophy come a week next Sunday, would that make
it even more special for you?
PETE SAMPRAS: Well, sure. I mean, if I get there and I happen to win here,
I didn't know he was presenting the trophy.
Q. I don't know if he is.
PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I mean, I think we all know how much I look up to Rod
and all the Aussies and -- but to receive a trophy from him or to receive
any compliment from him like I've received over the last couple of years,
it's always nice to have that.
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