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Sampras Wins Convincingly in Cincinnati

August 7, 2001

Three-time champion Pete Sampras cruised through to the second round of the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Nicolas Lapentti.

Sampras, who will be hoping to celebrate his 30th birthday on Sunday with a 12th Tennis Masters Series title, survived the hot and humid conditions to earn a second round meeting with Spain's Alberto Martin.

"It was pretty hot out there, probably the hottest conditions so far this year," said Sampras. "You want to get used to these conditions, but at the same time, you don't want to wear yourself out. You just have to get used to it."

But Sampras, winner here in 1992, '97 and '99, knew what he had to do to overcome a potentially tricky encounter against the in-form Lapentti in the first round.

"I've played Nicolas a few times, and he's got a big serve and doesn't mind the heat too much," said Sampras. "My mind set was to be aggressive from the start, serve and volley and attack his second serve, and I think it worked pretty well today.

"This draw is just like a Grand Slam, and there are no easy first round matches."

He hasn't won a major tournament since last year's Wimbledon, marking his longest slump since 1990.

"When I don't win Wimbledon every year, there's always questions, and it's a pretty high bar to live up to each year,'' Sampras said. "It has been kind of a disappointing year, but I know I can turn that around very quickly over the next three, four weeks.''


Back to Archives - 2001 | News

TMS Cincinnati 2001- round 1
Post-Match Interview

Pete Sampras defeats Nicolas Lapentti
6-3, 6-2

August 7, 2001

MODERATOR: Questions for Pete?

Q. What's it like playing in a microwave?

SAMPRAS: In a sauna. It was pretty hot. I think that's probably the hottest conditions so far this year. It was toasty.

Q. Is that good for you at this point, in terms of trying to get in condition for the Open and everything? I mean, is that okay with you?

SAMPRAS: Yeah. I mean, it's, it can be very hot in New York, as we know. You know, playing three out of five there, it's a pretty tough situation; and to play here as hot as it is gets you in good shape. I mean, it takes time to get used to this weather. It takes time to get used to the humidity, and I've been here a few days and it's been pretty hot and, you know, you're just, you know, doing whatever you can, drinking fluids. I never wear a hat and I'm forced to wear a hat here; so pretty tough conditions.

Q. Pete, how is the thigh doing?

SAMPRAS: It's a hundred percent.

Q. How does the heat affect your practice because I'd think you wouldn't want to spend too much time practicing for your next match?

SAMPRAS: There's a fine line. You want to get used to the heat, but you also, you don't want to wear yourself out by playing too long. You know, I play every day if things go well over the week, but, you know, in these conditions, you just have to get used to it. I mean, you have to be out there and, you know, which I was yesterday for a little bit, for like 45 minutes because, you know, the conditions are a little bit different than L.A., a little bit quicker so it takes a little time to adjust.

Q. What do you think about Cincinnati besides the heat?

SAMPRAS: Well, I've been coming here for years and it hasn't changed much.

Q. Still under construction?

SAMPRAS: Yeah, exactly. Still under construction. You know, it's a very -- got some good restaurants here, have some good steakhouses here that I've been going to. So I've had a fun time here, but I'm here to do my work so there's not a lot of times to do other things. But always seem to enjoy playing here and coming back.

Q. Do you look at what's happened in football recently and the players that have dropped and maybe –


Q. -- adjusted your training schedule in the heat?

SAMPRAS: No, you don't really adjust. You just prepare. You just, you have to drink a lot of liquids, you know, the night before; before the match, after the match, eat the proper foods, drink during the match. I mean, it really is a lot more preparation than playing in normal conditions. You don't really change anything in your preparation. You just, you know, it's important to get here early, get three or four days to get acclimatized to the heat and to the humidity. A lot more preparation goes into playing in the heat than to play anywhere else.

Q. Considering the problems that you've had in the past, was that a scary thing to read about that, to read about Korey Stringer?

SAMPRAS: Oh, yeah. That was an interesting -- different sport, different mentality. Football players are considered, if they give up, to be soft and that's -- you know, tennis players, you don't have quite, you know, that to live up to. And I've had my share of tough moments on the court with the heat, with the conditions. You just, you know, you just play through it and know the best you can.

Q. Do you know the point, though, in your own body where you have to say okay, you know, that's –

SAMPRAS: Well, it hasn't happened, but, you know, any time you start feeling nauseous, any time you start feeling dizzy, those are times where things aren't going in the right direction. So it's being in shape and it's getting used to the conditions and, you know, when you play in certain conditions, like I have been, and you come here the first day out, you're feeling it the first day out so you just have to take your time and get used to it, but not over overuse it, and, you know, it's a fine line.

Q. Do you feel like more than ever, these first rounders are getting harder to get through? I mean, they're more scary than they used to be? Seems like you see a lot more upsets than you used to.

SAMPRAS: I think it's a trend we've seen over the past five years. A lot of great players, a lot of depth. You see a lot of upsets. There's not as much dominance in the game. Top four guys, six guys aren't really in the semis and finals of these tournaments and it's just a sign of where the game's going. It's much stronger today than it's ever been. You know, guys aren't quite as fearful of the top guys and go out with nothing to lose and you see upsets. That's the nature of the sport. But it's definitely a trend that I see happening more and more with time.

Q. That makes it tougher on a guy like you who is trying to sustain a level of excellence in a period where it's tougher?

SAMPRAS: It is tougher. No doubt about it. There's a lot of, lot of depth, you know, from guys ranked 50 and above. It's really, you can't take any match for granted. You know, five, six years ago, you could maybe get a good draw here and there. But you look at the field we have here and the field we've always had here, it's like a Grand Slam, you know, and you can't look ahead in the draw. You can't plan on who you're going to play in the third or fourth round. It's match set every time. That same old cliche we use. The game has gotten better and better.

Q. You said the depth in the field. Lapentti is like two spots below you in the champions race. That's a pretty tough first round draw. What was your mind-set going into this match?

SAMPRAS: Well, I played Nicholas a few times, you know. Sure it is a tough draw, but there are a lot of tough draws. He possesses a big serve, big forehand, doesn't mind the heat so much. You know, he's a -- this probably is his favorite surface. And today, my mind-set was to be aggressive, was to come in and put the pressure on him, and he'd much rather have me stay back and get into those long rallies. And every second serve I got, I was going to do something with it. I was going to come in, use my serve and volley and be aggressive. That was my strategy and it worked out well.

Q. Did you feel a lot better today than you would have yesterday? You asked for an extra day.

SAMPRAS: Yeah, I needed one more day to kind of get situated here a little bit and so it was hot yesterday, hot today. I'm sure it will be hot all week. But the important thing is I'm a hundred percent healthy and ready to go.

Q. How important is you to get some momentum going in the hard court season? You did well in L.A. and to get this one out of the way, just to get a string going before the U.S. Open –

SAMPRAS: Yeah. Over the years I've had Wimbledon to get my momentum going and leading into the summer and the U.S. Open. This year, Wimbledon not going as well, it's important to do well this summer, it's important to go in there with confidence, with an aura, the guys know I'm playing well. And to do well here and even in L.A., with the field that we have here is huge, to go in there with confidence, with a lot of matches and all my legs and give it my best shot there.

Q. Will it depend how it goes this week? Are you still considering at all taking a wild card next week?

SAMPRAS: Just kind of playing it by ear on how things go this week. And I'm actually entering in Washington. So –

Q. What are we supposed to infer from that?

SAMPRAS: No, I'm entered so I'm playing. We'll see how it goes.

Q. You talked about how it is starting to get old already about people asking you about your career and where it's going. But by the same token, when you're out there, when you're preparing, does it give you more incentive to try to want to prove to people that they're way off base in trying to write you off at this point?

SAMPRAS: The only thing I'm trying to prove is something to myself. There's nothing I need to prove to really anyone in this room or the media. I've done that. I've done everything I could ever do in the game and some. So I'm just trying to prove it to myself and trying to prove that I can, you know, still play at top level, even as you get a little bit older, you know, you might have a lot of matches over the years, but you have a lot of experience, which can help in big moments. So I'm not -- you know, there's no reason to panic, you know, with the way things have gone this year. It has been kind of a disappointing year, but I know I can turn that around very quickly over the next three, four weeks. So it's gotten a little carried away, this retirement talk, to be honest with you. But it's some -- I'm judged at a much higher standard than anyone else in the game. When I don't win Wimbledon every year, there's always questions, and it's a pretty high bar to live up to each year.

Q. Did you ever talk to Wayne Gretsky or Jordan or anybody about what it's like when so much is expected and toward the end what happens to those guys?

SAMPRAS: Well, I had a conversation with Wayne after the Open last year, and I've gotten to know Wayne pretty well, now living in L.A. And he just said as you get older, your body changes, and I asked him what he did to play till he was 35, 36, and he just started training much harder, he started lifting heavier, running more as he got older. And that's one thing that I've been doing, and that's why it's been a little frustrating this year is not getting the results but putting a lot of time on and off the court. But to talk to someone like Wayne who has the experience, who knows what it's like to be at the pinnacle of his sport and try to maintain it until his thirties, you couldn't ask for a better person to talk to. And hejust said he started training harder when he was 30 because he was hearing the same questions I was, I have been getting. And, you know, I'm sure he just had nothing to prove to anyone but himself to try to play at that level and he was able to do that. And I certainly feel like it's a big enough challenge where I can keep it going and hopefully play this game until I'm good and ready to stop.

Q. Was not winning Wimbledon as big a disappointment as we think it was, or was there part of you that felt some day you might have a year you might not win it, you might come back?

SAMPRAS: No, it really was disappointing. I got home and it was tough being home during the second week of Wimbledon, the time I've usually been there. But also, on the other hand, you have to be a bit realistic that as great as Wimbledon's been, you're not going to win every close match you play. And the competitive guy that I am, I was like I should have won that match. But, you know, things didn't go my way. Wimbledon is a matter of a couple points here and there, and I just have to accept it, just to be down, be a little bit bummed out, which was good to feel that. But after four or five days, it's time to kind of move on instead of dwell on what happened there and get ready for the summer and kind of get back into it. It's good therapy.

Q. It's almost like you've entered into a different chamber of your career, though. Has this taken some of the fun out of it?

SAMPRAS: I think it gets more difficult as you get older when you don't get what you want. You know, it's hard to say how many Wimbledon chances I'll have over the next number of years, however long I decide to play. So when you don't get it, it's not like you're 20 and you have the next 12 years. You're hitting 30 and you don't have 12 years. So it's an adjustment. In some ways, you can appreciate what I have done at Wimbledon, that

I've been that dominant. And this year was a big disappointment.

MODERATOR: Anything else?

Q. You got to see Seinfeld the other day and you got to meet him.

SAMPRAS: Um-hmm.

Q. Had you met him before?

SAMPRAS: I met him one time at a Laker game and didn't talk to him much. And he got ahold of me before the show and invited me to come back after and have a cigar. I said I'm playing this week, I can't. I don't have to -- but I saw the show; it was very funny, and got to meet him and talk to him for quite a bit after and, you know, he's a pretty talented comedian and had everyone in this city laughing pretty good.

Q. Was the Washington thing a planned thing, because all summer long, the Indianapolis tournament directors have talked about you being open as late as last week.

SAMPRAS: How can I handle this? No, I mean, I'm entered in Washington. That's what's happened, and that's all I can tell you about it. You know, it's -- you know, mistakes do happen, but I'm not going to be in Indy. That's the bottom line.

Q. What's it like having Boris back here and wandering around the tournament site playing?

SAMPRAS: It's interesting seeing him. I talked to him a little bit earlier today, just to kind of recap on what's going on. I said you're back here and you're dealing with the heat and the conditions, and he, I think he's starting to play the senior tour so maybe a way to kind of get him going. But it's good to see him. I mean, I have a lot of respect, a lot of great matches with Boris, and, you know, he's one of the best ever and brings a lot to the game. I mean, you notice where the fans go to watch him play right now, and so he's definitely a very big name in tennis.

Q. Does he make you feel a little younger?

SAMPRAS: For a minute. The minute that I saw him.

MODERATOR: All right. Thanks, everyone.


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