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UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
December 19, 2007
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to thank all members of the media that are joining us on this all this afternoon where we will be talking about the 2008 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal which will have the U.S. facing Germany to be held February 2 and 3 at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club in La Jolla, California. Tickets for this event will go on sale to the general public on Friday, December 21, at 10:00 a.m. Pacific time. Full details of the tickets will be attached to the transcript that will be sent out following today's conference call.
We have four special guests with us today, including Arlen Kantarian, the CEO of professional tennis for the USTA; Zina Garrison, captain of the U.S. Fed Cup team; Mary Joe Fernandez, who will be the coach in 2008 and then transitioning to captain in 2009; and Lindsay Davenport. Without further ado, I'm going to ask for some opening comments from our CEO of professional tennis at the USTA, Arlen Kantarian.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Thank you. Welcome to the call. As you all know, we are fresh off our Davis Cup victory and now very focused on also bringing the Fed Cup back to the U.S. in 2008. I think you all recently received the announcement that Zina Garrison will be returning for her final year as the 2008 Fed Cup captain, and of course joining Zina this year as coach is Mary Joe Fernandez, who is going to work with Zina in '08 and then serve as our U.S. Fed Cup team captain in 2009.
As you also know, Lindsay Davenport is on the call and will make her first, I guess, singles appearance in the U.S. since her 2006 US Open appearance as a member of our U.S. Fed Cup team, and Lindsay, thank you for your commitment to Fed Cup.
At this time I'd like to turn it right over to Zina and then to Mary Joe for their comments.
ZINA GARRISON: I'd like to say that I'm excited and looking forward to the up-and-coming 2008 Fed Cup. I'm very excited to be teaming up to have Mary Joe as my coach. Mary Joe will bring a lot of experience and we'll have a lot of fun.
And I'm extremely excited to see Lindsay back on the court, so I can't wait, after having that beautiful baby which I've seen so many pictures of. But the thing I like the most is the fact that Lindsay has always been able to bring so much to the team, and I'm really looking forward to being around her again and also the other women, as well. Thanks, and I'll turn it over to Mary Joe.
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I just would like to add that I'm also very, very excited to be back participating in the coaching position of Fed Cup. It's ironic that tennis is an individual sport and your whole life you grow up working and practicing for your singles competition. But when I look back on my career, my most memorable moments have been on a team, whether it was Fed Cup or the Olympics, and even earlier before I played in Fed Cup I remember my Wightman Cup moments when we played against England. A lot of times I actually had Zina on my team, and I had Zina as my coach in Fed Cup and we were doubles partners for a long time. So Zina has always been a mentor to me and a good friend, so I'm looking really looking forward to working with her and learning from her.
I can't believe that supermom is back. I can't believe Lindsay is playing and playing so well. She's already back in the top 100 with just three tournaments. She won two tournaments this year, which is remarkable. Lindsay has always, I think, had the same sentiments about team competition and has always given back. I'm thrilled, I'm excited.
This is going to be a phenomenal year with the Olympics, as well, and a huge opportunity to bring back the Fed Cup to the United States. It's been a while, since 2000, and I think this is the year that we're going to do it again.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, and at this point I'd like to ask the operator to instruct the media on the Q & A portion.
Q. Congratulations to Mary Joe. I had a question concerning sort of your personnel choices this season. It seems to me that you guys are a bit in the same position that Pat McEnroe found himself in a few years ago of having some very experienced veterans and then a group of younger prayers, and I know, Zina, you gave them quite a bit of experience in the last couple years. But do you feel like you're going to have some tough selections, or do you think it's going to sort itself out in terms of who wants to play and who doesn't, given it's a very, very busy year?
ZINA GARRISON: Well, actually it's not that much of a difference. I mean, each year we've had a tough year. If we get through Germany we're going to have to play Russia again probably in Russia, and I think the situation is that all of us -- we're looking forward to seeing what the future holds for USTA tennis and the kids that are coming up. So there will probably be some transitioning periods, but I do think that the USTA has done a great job of trying to get us training facilities, and our player development is really looking forward to developing and helping more kids.
I'm not overly concerned, but I think in any sport you have to have some transitioning period, and I'm looking forward to that.
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I'll just add that obviously we want to have the best, the highest ranked players play, and if we can get Venus and Serena on board with Lindsay, our chances are really good. Now, it's tough when some of the players get hurt, and I think these last couple years they've had the young guns on board and they've had the experience, and hopefully they're going to step it up this year.
There's a group of veterans that are right behind that have played, whether it's Meghann Shaughnessy and Jill Craybas, Laura Granville, but then you have some of the youngsters in Angela Haynes and Shenay Perry and Madison Brengle, so we've got to see who's going to step up and play better and start taking some chances.
Q. This is for Lindsay. Of course congratulations on all your news on the home front; that's terrific. The question is when you did take time off or take a break to have the baby, did you envision this return to Fed Cup play? And if not, could you share any light on the decision-making process that you went through that led you to this point?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, I think the first thing that really got me thinking about making a comeback was the Olympics and just how it was situated. It was going to be around 12, 14 months after my baby was born, and that was the absolute first thing I thought of, that I really would like to have a chance and go back and represent the United States in the Olympics.
And then as this comeback has progressed, Fed Cup was probably -- besides playing the Grand Slams, like right up there and something that I wanted to get back into, make a full commitment for the whole year and to see if the U.S. can be successful again. I've had some great memories in Fed Cup. Injuries have kind of hampered my participation the last few years, but I'm really excited to get back out there and play. I'm hoping some other top Americans will join me.
But it's definitely been a huge drawing point to come back. I really feel like I've been given a second or third chance out here to represent my country, and I plan to take advantage of it.
Q. Zina, you played in the WTA tournament here in San Diego a few years when it was at the San Diego Tennis & Racquet Club?
ZINA GARRISON: A long time ago.
Q. You got to the finals, and you played Steffie really, really tough one year and the following year you played in the semis. Can you talk just a little bit about that experience? Apparently you also met someone who became your coach for a little while. Can you talk about that for a moment?
ZINA GARRISON: Yeah, I have great memories of San Diego. It's always brought me so much pleasure. I used to love that that tournament. The thing I loved about it was the California crowd was always very knowledgeable about tennis and they would very much come out and support you, so that was one reason that I always made sure it was on my schedule.
I did meet Angel Lopez, who actually became one of my coaches and taught me some very valuable lessons about just the mental preparation it took to become the player that I became.
Q. Lindsay, have you shocked yourself a little bit? You know, when you took off, you said, "This is it; I won't be a tennis-playing mom." And then you came back and won two tournaments and now you're playing Fed Cup and you're hoping to play the Olympics and the Slams. Have you shocked or exceeded your expectations thus far?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Absolutely. Just coming back to play first was a huge step and one that I was really nervous about. I was really excited to come back and play but also really nervous about still being able to do well and having the comeback be a success. But yeah, I never would have thought that it would have gone as well as it has so far.
I just didn't think that athletically I'd be able to rebound as well as I have. My body has felt really great the last six months since Jagger was born. I'm really excited for '08. I've been able to work hard and pretty much be a full-time mom. I have really, really enjoyed trying to balance it all and feel like it's made me -- I really think a more calm and hopefully a better person.
Q. Secondly, a couple years ago in Del Rey you turned to both Venus and Serena and said, "I'll commit if you do." Have you had any conversations with them, and do you feel like by lending your star power to Fed Cup in '08 that you'll bring everybody else along with you?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, that was great except I was the first one to have to pull out, so I won't quite say it in those terms. But I really committed the whole year. I told everyone at the USTA hopefully if we get by Germany I'm willing or excited to go to Russia or Israel, whoever wins.
I'm hoping that -- it would be a huge, huge thing obviously if we could get both Venus and Serena, but even one of them would make the team just a really formidable opponent, and I don't think anybody would want to face us. I certainly still have to improve, but hopefully we can talk one of them into it at least.
Q. This question is for Mary Joe and Zina. It looks like the men's team has doubles specialists in the Bryans. Would you guys consider doubles specialists for the Fed Cup team like Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber?
ZINA GARRISON: Yeah, you definitely need the best ranked doubles players in the world so you have to take a look at them, but you can't take away from Venus and Serena and also Lindsay who has some of the best hands in the game of women's tennis and has great doubles attributes, as well. I think we're really fortunate in that respect that we do have numerous amounts of players that are really wonderful doubles players and have won a numerous amount of Grand Slams, as well.
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I think what the men have done is really unique in the Bryan brothers. They're the best doubles team in the world. Everybody has been healthy and everybody has been able to play.
The fortunate thing for the women, if somebody gets hurt, all the top singles players play great doubles. That's a huge plus. If something were to happen to a Roddick or a Blake, one of the Bryan brothers would have to fill in. I think we're fortunate. We have Huber now and Lisa who's been great throughout the years, so there's a lot of options.
Q. I assume this is for Zina because it's about the player selection, but Mary Joe, jump in if you have a role in that, as well. But regarding the Williams sisters, could you just clarify for us, have either or both been approached about playing against Germany, and can you tell me what their answers have been? And then just if you could also clarify the timetable by which you sort of need to know if they're able to be on board or not.
ZINA GARRISON: Considering we're going to be playing in February, yes, the answer to the first question is they have been approached and they do know and they're actually in the process of trying to figure it out. I got an email yesterday from Venus who wants to talk about it, and I've talked a little bit about it to Serena and she's trying to figure out how her schedule would go. They both were very, very, very happy to know that Lindsay was on board for the next -- hopefully the next three.
The other part to that question is we do have -- you have up until I think it's 10 or 12 days until the actual time, but we'd like to know a little bit earlier just so you can have your team. It also helps with people coming out when they know who's coming and who's not coming.
Q. So you could push it a few more weeks but you'd be eager to know your roster I guess as soon as you can?
ZINA GARRISON: Yeah, definitely.
Q. Then to sum up, could you give us a feel for how optimistic you are or aren't about either or both?
ZINA GARRISON: I'm very optimistic. Anytime you get them talking about it, you know it's on their radar and that they know. Like I said again, I want to reiterate that they were very excited to know that Lindsay had already committed. Lindsay does have a huge impact. So it was really nice. I do think that they also want to bring back the Cup. You know that it's going to take all three of them, or all four, to bring it back, our top players.
Q. This question is for Lindsay. I wanted to say congratulations on your baby and congratulations for your comeback, also. I wanted to ask you, what have been some of the challenging aspects of traveling on the road with an infant, with a baby? What have been some of the positive aspects of it?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, it's funny because obviously the life of a tennis player is pretty selfish. It's an individual sport, and now it seems like most decisions that are made really revolve around him and his schedule, depending on what time of day we leave, what tournaments I play, what makes sense travel-wise for him.
You know, traveling now, it's like going through the airport I really have nothing for myself. My racquets are checked, I have no magazines. It's all about him and his ten bottles and his food and his diapers. It's a lot more stuff and a lot more hassles in terms of logistics.
I have to say, I think it's just been the greatest thing for me. There's not really anything for me to kind of stress about in tennis. You know, I have my time where I'm on court where I focus on the task at hand, but as soon as I come off I'm able to play with my son and just kind of enjoy life. There's no real time for me to worry about the other stuff. It's going to be great for me. It certainly makes life on the road a lot more fun when I'm sitting in my hotel room playing with my son and not by myself.
Q. This is really for all three of you. This being the holiday season, if you had one wish for 2008, what would it be? I guess, Zina, start with you?
ZINA GARRISON: Bring the Cup back.
Q. Do you want do elaborate on that?
ZINA GARRISON: I'm serious about that. It was nice to sit there and watch the Davis Cup and watch Patrick and the guys bring it back. As Mary Joe said earlier, it's so special to play for your team and to play for your country and just have that opportunity. I'd like to be able to bring it back.
Q. Mary Joe?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I'm right there with Zina. I think in order for that to happen, health. We've got to wish for everybody to be healthy, to have a really healthy ' '08, not only win the Cup but get a lot of medals at the Olympics.
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Obviously on the tennis thing, we're going to wish for health and for one player with the last name Williams (laughter) to play. I'm not going to be greedy, I'm just going to say at least one.
Q. Lindsay, how do you feel about the prospect of playing a full Grand Slam schedule next year, especially going back to the US Open?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Yeah, I mean, the first goal -- I mean, there's so many goals in the comeback, but to be able to step on and play the first Grand Slam in Melbourne is going to be a really big deal for me, emotional and exciting. I'm really looking forward to that. It's meant a lot to me to come back, and I know playing the Slams is going to be pretty awesome with my son there.
And through this whole comeback, obviously I've singled out the Olympics, but to get back to the US Open is going to be something else that's really special, hopefully if I'm not injured, and be able to play there, probably for the last time, who knows. But all of it, it's so exciting to me. It feels like I'm kind of starting over and getting to go back to those places when I didn't think I'd necessarily be back, and to go back with my family, I think I'll appreciate it so much more this time around.
Q. You already have an Olympic gold medal. What is it about the Olympics that is so special about playing in it?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, I grew up in an Olympics family. My father was in the Olympics. It was always kind of around. It's been a huge deal in life. I've been lucky enough to be a part of a few teams. I chose not to go in '04 to Athens, which sometimes I regret. I think being able to go back to Beijing would be such a big deal going back. I'd be 32 and with a family, and being able to be a part of it, there's nothing like it. It's so much bigger than tennis. It's about being an athlete and being able to celebrate it with all the other athletes.
Q. Lindsay, you mentioned about having the problems of the -- not having the problems going through the airport, but luckily the rules now stating that you can't have liquids larger than three ounces. I wonder, how do you handle the formula getting on a plane?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, they make exceptions for baby formula. As long as you have a baby in your arms, you can have as much formula if it's labeled and marked appropriately. I've learned all the rules from the FAA, so I'm happy to go over them with you.
Q. Lindsay, I'm just going to say that if you say you're playing the US Open for the last time, I'm not sure how many of us are going to believe you this time (laughter). I wanted to ask about your Australian Open preparation and what tournaments you're planning to play beforehand. This is the time of year that a lot of players take off, but I assume you're probably training pretty hard at this point?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Yeah, it was so weird for me when Quebec, the last tournament officially on the WTA calendar, was over because the season is over for everyone, but it seemed to me like it just kind of started. I took a few weeks off, but I've been practicing and working out and getting ready obviously for Australia.
It's such a big deal for me. I'm leaving the day after Christmas to start the year in Auckland and play the tournament there and then plan to take the week before Melbourne off, kind of get to Melbourne and kind of situate my son and figure out the hassles of playing a Slam again. So hopefully that's good.
It's funny with a baby because I can't be flying all over at the last minute to other places. I kind of have to set a smarter schedule. I thought playing Auckland was good, taking a week to get ready for Melbourne, the conditions, the weather, the court, and hopefully be ready to go.
Q. At this point are you working with a coach? Is anybody going to be traveling with you?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Yeah, I'm with the same coach I had when I stopped playing, Adam Peterson, and still working with my same trainer. It kind of seemed like I hadn't even stopped. The same people are around, which I feel very fortunate about, and we've been having a good time this time around.
Q. I tuned in a little bit late, I apologize if this has been asked. Lindsay, I just wanted to check, how much of a schedule are you planning? Is it going to be sort of a full all the way back schedule in 2008, and have you thought about beyond 2008? Are you back on tour?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, the schedule, it's about as full-time as I can make it. Certainly I'm going to go to Australia, and then I'm really going to take advantage of the spring when the tournaments are in the United States. It's kind of the easiest for me to travel, easiest for my family. I'll be playing all the tournaments that are in the States and then I'll probably take some time off when it goes to Europe on the red clay and then look to get back into it around Wimbledon.
My husband and I said that I was definitely fully committed through the US Open, and then we sit down as a family and kind of figure out how, first of all, it's going, how the baby is doing, what makes sense for our family. For right now I'm focused on through the US Open, and then I'll have to make some decisions from there.
Q. You plan to play three of the four majors then?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Yeah, that's my plan right now. I can't say with any certainty that I'll be going to Paris, but high on my priority are the other three and the Olympics and Fed Cup, and we'll kind of just have to see how everything else pans out for the French.
Q. Assuming you keep winning, are you committed to playing Fed Cup throughout the year?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Yeah, for sure, I've given my commitment to be with the team as long as we're still standing, and hopefully that's through the finals which I think are in September. We want to get through Germany obviously, and then we'll have a tough test if we're able to do that with either Russia or Israel away. So yeah, I told them that I was in.
Q. And one last question. Was there a point where in your mind you said to yourself, I'm done touring and playing the tour, and then you had sort of an epiphany where that all changed, or was it never the case that you thought you had decided that you were retiring?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, I definitely thought I was done. Obviously being pregnant is about the most exciting, best news you can receive in life. My husband and I were overjoyed and concentrating on that and I was just really excited about what kind of future that was going to bring us. And it really wasn't until I was about six or seven months later when I was kind of in Indian Wells and seeing some tennis again that I thought maybe I'd be excited to try and come back and start it off as a small little goal. That certainly grew as I was able to rebound and come back and be physical pretty soon after my child's birth, and it's something that's just been really fun to try and achieve so far.
Q. I don't know if you discussed playing Russia, and I know you have to beat Germany but obviously you're the heavy favorite, and obviously Russia is going to be the heavy favorite against Israel. Can you talk about the prospect of going to Russia and having to play them on clay? And Lindsay, what a difficult task it would be to take that team down?
ZINA GARRISON: I think first and foremost we really have to look at Germany and you have to play the match that's ahead of you and the match that's right there in front of you and not look ahead. But if we do play Russia, we've played Russia for the last I guess three or four times. We've lost to them. And Israel is very strong, as well. Either way it's going to be extremely difficult, and we will have to have our best players at hand going over there. It's going to be a tough one, but it would be a nice one to break through.
Q. Mary Joe, do you want to touch on that, too?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Sure, that will be, I think, the biggest challenge by far. Russia has such great depth. They have so many good players in singles, and they team up pretty well in doubles. I think it's very possible to defeat them, and obviously if the Williams sisters and Lindsay are there, even on clay, I think the U.S. has a phenomenal chance. But for sure it'll be a challenge and it's one that we'll be ready for.
Q. Lindsay, have you gotten your mind around actually playing on clay next year? And then even having to go to Russia at the end of April and playing on clay against such a tough team?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Yeah, I have put my mind around it just a little bit. I agreed to play Amelia Island so far. I'm thinking about clay right now. There's no question that will present a huge test if we're kind of awarded that opportunity.
Again, what Zina and Mary Joe were saying, we definitely would need our absolute best team. Hopefully I'll be sitting there on the bench cheering most of the time (laughter), might see a little doubles action. Obviously a couple of weeks of practicing on it and I'll get better, but there's no question that the Russians are very good on clay, but we definitely would want to have Venus and Serena with us there, as well.
Q. Let me just switch subjects a little bit. I'm sure you watched at least part -- before you came back in the fall you watched a decent amount of last season. Do you think Justine can be considered a dominant player right now?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Oh, the dominant player. She's remarkable, her win-loss, and no one really challenging her. Obviously in a handful of matches there were some close scores, but she's proven that she picks her tournaments that she wants to perform well in and tries to peak at those, and her results mean everything to her. She did phenomenal last year in peaking at the right times.
THE MODERATOR: I want to thank the members of the media for joining us on this call today. Thank you very much, and I'd also like to thank all of our special guests, Arlen Kantarian and Zina Garrison and Mary Joe Fernandez and Lindsay Davenport. We will have a full transcript that will be emailed out as soon as we receive it from ASAP Sports, and I'd like to wish everybody a fantastic holiday season, and thanks again for joining us on this call.
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