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The Sampras Ship Sinks

January 21, 2001

Melbourne, Australia - Newly-wed Todd Martin performed the inevitable on Sunday, ousting an out-of-form Pete Sampras in four sets 6-7[2] 6-3 6-4 6-4.

The 30-year-old Martin, the oldest remaining player in the men's singles draw, beat the two-time Australian Open champion in two hours, 32 minutes, advancing to the quarterfinals where he will meet defending champion Andre Agassi.

The upset came as no surprise to the most optimistic of tennis pundits. A sluggish Sampras had struggled in his first three matches this week, escaping 6-2 in the fifth set against little-known Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela on Friday afternoon.

In contrast, the darkhorse Martin, here with new wife Amy, had tripped up the No.13 seed Cedric Pioline in the third round and looked to be regaining the form that had taken him to the US Open final in 1999.

Martin simply outplayed the third seed on Vodafone Arena, providing Sampras with just three opportunities to break and posting a minimal 12 unforced errors [compared to Sampras's 27].

Martin's blistering return of service ensured that Sampras turned in a lacklustre and defensive performance at the net - winning only 60 percent of points when he ventured past the service line.

"Today I finally stuck to my game and took his second serve and gave some swings to them, and made him pass me with his backhands," said Martin, who was off the Tour for four months last year when he tore ankle ligaments while playing basketball.

"Nothing feels better than to know that I did something today that I've never done before. Today I did it the right way. I'm a deceptively stubborn person and I had a tough time really believing that I could do it.

"Today, I proved it to myself. As far as satisfaction in doing the job the right way, it was right up there. In my mind he's the best player in the world."

The victory was the perfect pay-back for Martin, one of the most talented players never to have won a Grand Slam singles title. The 6'6" [1.98m] Floridian lost to Sampras in the 1994 final here, and had beaten him on just two out of 19 encounters [but never at a Grand Slam].

"I give him all the credit. He returned serve as well as he's ever done today. He served huge and I always felt under pressure," said Sampras, who is also in Melbourne with his new wife, actress Bridgette Wilson.

"I was given a lesson. I felt like I just got outplayed. It's disappointing, but I feel very eager to go on and keep playing. I feel like I can win a couple more majors before I'm done," said Sampras, the all-time leader in Grand Slam singles titles [13].


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Australian Open - Round 4
Post-Match Interview

Pete Sampras loses to Todd Martin
6-7(2), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4

January 21, 2001

Q. When you've had such a dominant record against him in the past, what do you think made the difference today?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, about 3-all in the second to the rest of the match he was the better player. I mean, he just returned and served about as well as he's ever done. He was utilizing the body, served into my forehand, got some points off there. Returned great. Todd's got one of the best returns in the game, and he's got those two weapons that are so big in tennis that he was just on in both areas. Didn't miss much, just he played a great match. I give him all the credit in the world. I didn't feel like I played poorly. I feel like I played fine. You know, he just served huge. He really, you know, 15-30 points, love-15 points, he always kind of got that first serve in. I always felt like I was under pressure in my service games. He just played better than I did today.

Q. If you played him so many times, are you thinking about strategy?

PETE SAMPRAS: I just follow the same strategy. There's not a ton of strategy when you play Todd. It's all hit and miss tennis. You know, I played Todd so close. I've had my fair share of wins. Today I just -- he just played at a high level, I mean, throughout. Like I said, from the second set at 3-all to the rest of the match. I, you know, played some good serves on break points, he came up with some huge returns. You know, he played great. That's the best he's played against me in many years.

Q. Do you feel like you found your game here in Melbourne? You were struggling in the first round. Do you feel like you're stepping up?

PETE SAMPRAS: I felt like my body was feeling good today. I felt fine physically. I got through some tough matches and felt like if I can get my game going today, possibly get into the second week, I can be dangerous. But I just ran into a great player in Todd. I mean, he really played well. I give him all the credit. You know, I could have played better, but I think we have to look at the match and look at how well he played.

Q. Ubaldo Scanagatta, La Nazione, Italy. You looked pretty flat at the end. I mean you didn't react as much as you usually do when you make a good point or something.

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I was trying. I mean I was, you know, I felt like I was definitely into it and focused on what I was trying to do. But, you know, it's tough when he's popping in aces. But I felt fine. I mean, I felt like -- I feel like if I could have gotten a break there, I had a break point there at one point, it could have changed the whole complexion of the match. He just won the big points today. But I felt like I was moving fine, I had energy, I just ran into a hot player.

Q. Missed three break points, I think.

PETE SAMPRAS: Just a sign of how well he served. I mean he really, you know, even his second serve, he was bouncing up pretty high on my backhand. It was tough to get control of the point. When he gets that first serve in, he was picking the corners and mixing it up, I never really felt like I got a good read on it. Using the body to serve well on a pretty quick court, that's a tough serve to get back especially when he's 6'6" and can pop it pretty good. He played great.

Q. Is there a lesson to be learned, Pete, for you?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, no, it's disappointing. It's not the way I wanted to start off the year. I won't say I learned a lesson. I mean, I was given a lesson. I felt like I just got outplayed. I don't think a lesson needs to be learned. I just lost a tennis match. I mean that's the way it goes. It's disappointing. You know, I just get ready for my next tournament.

Q. Are you concerned about retirement?


Q. You still feel eager to go on a couple of years?

PETE SAMPRAS: I feel very eager to keep on going. I feel like I can still win majors, and I'd like to win a couple more before it's all said and done. I know I can do it. It's disappointing not to do it here, but I've got many years and many Slams ahead of me.

Q. What is next now?

PETE SAMPRAS: I go home and, you know, get ready for my next tournament. And there's not really much at this point to do, you know, except just go home and get over the loss and start to get back into the training and get back at it.

Q. I'm sorry if you already mentioned this, but are you getting advice from Jose Higueras, and are you going to be working with him?


Q. What do you think you should have done differently if you could play again this match with Martin playing the level he played?

PETE SAMPRAS: I mean, I don't know what I could have done. I felt like I was serving well and hitting big second serves. You know, he just got off to a pretty good rhythm. You know, I don't know what I could have done. I think I needed him to drop off a little bit and maybe miss a few serves and, you know, he only hit 12 errors today. That's solid tennis. I mean, this is the best Todd's played against me in quite a while. I mean I just give him all the credit. He just played better than I did. I didn't feel like I played poorly; I thought I played fine. He was just a better player today.

Q. If he plays like this against Andre, how difficult do you think it will be for Andre in that match?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, it's -- it can be a different match. Andre obviously returns very well, and -- but the way Todd played today, depending on the conditions and when they play during the day, I think Todd's got a very good shot. He always plays Andre well. You know, Andre is the favorite, but I look at it as a pretty close match, the way Todd's playing now. And the fact that he's confident, you know, he'll be a threat through the whole tournament.

Q. On television you said something about blisters on your feet. Is that the case?

PETE SAMPRAS: Well, I always have blisters when I play down here. It wasn't bothering me today.

Q. Do you plan to play more on clay in regard to Roland Garros?

PETE SAMPRAS: Yeah, I'm playing more than I did last year. I'm going to play Rome and Hamburg and maybe Dusseldorf and be in Europe quite a while before I play the French.

Q. You may answer or not answer if you don't like. Would you like to become a father during your tennis career, or you would prefer to wait?

PETE SAMPRAS: I'd prefer to wait, but I don't mind surprises. (Laughter.)


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