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June 4, 2019

Gabriela Sabatini

Paris, France

THE MODERATOR: English questions, please.

Q. It seems that women tennis is not living its best moment, actually.

Q. Not such personalities as in the past, big rivalry. For example, you and Steffi and Martina and Chris, and so on. Do you have any explanation? Do you think the women's game went too physical for that?
GABRIELA SABATINI: No, I mean, I don't see it that way. I think you see a lot of -- you know, the level of tennis on women's is very good these days. I see so many new athletes coming out. Physically, they are much more stronger. And I see some of them that I really like the way they play, and their charisma.

Yeah, I mean, I don't see that, really.

Q. Continuing from where he said, this seems like there is a lack of consistency with, you know, different winners. The first few weeks there were, like, a new winner every week. So for the public or fans, you know, to really get into the sport is -- you know, you don't have that much consistency while earlier there was a lot of consistency.
GABRIELA SABATINI: Well, I mean, that could also be positive, you know, that you don't have the same players winning all the time. But, yeah, I mean, I see a lot of new players that I don't know and that I haven't seen before and that I'm surprised the way they play, which is, I think is good to have, like, more competition.

You still see Halep, you know, being up there. You know, some of them, okay, they did well in one year and another year not so much. Comes and goes. Naomi Osaka, yeah, she did well last year, she's not doing well.

But, I mean, I think they have a lot of good competition, and I think that's why also they are having problems. Today they have to play very well every match to win a tournament. Is not easy. So I think it's also positive.

Q. You won two times tournament of Rome. You had always a very good relationship with Italian public. Italian public loves you very much. Which are your best memories of Rome, tournament of Rome, Italy?
GABRIELA SABATINI: Yeah, I believe I won four times, I think, in Rome. (Laughter.)

Q. Sorry.
GABRIELA SABATINI: Is the only one I won four times (smiling).

No, I have great memories from Rome. Every time I see the tournament, I saw the tournament this past couple of weeks, and, you know, I miss being there.

The fans were unbelievable always. I come from Italy. I still have family there. I feel like I'm playing at home. I think that's why maybe I won so many times (smiling).

Q. Do you still see a future for a one-handed backhand on the WTA Tour?
GABRIELA SABATINI: Yeah. I mean, I hope so. I hope so. It would be nice. And also, you know, to have that kind of variety, which I'm seeing in a few players these days, I think eventually that game will be back. Because I think that's a little bit the way of winning or beating the players that are playing, like, strong and, yeah, kind of like the same game.

I think eventually we will see more one-handed backhand hopefully.

Q. After Serena Williams' exit here, do you still think she can get the 24th major to equal Margaret Court?
GABRIELA SABATINI: It's hard to say in tennis. In general, now, because of Serena, it's hard to say, because you have to go tournament by tournament. And I think she's okay, she's doing well physically. It's just a matter of, I don't know how she is mentally.

But if she propose herself mentally, if she is convinced of herself, she can be winning again, yeah.

Q. 30 years ago it was Michael Chang and Arantxa who won here as teenagers and you had great success as a teenager as well. Tennis has changed a bit since then, but when you had that success as a teenager, what was that like? All the attention and spotlight that went onto you at such a young age, what sort of impact does that have on a young player?
GABRIELA SABATINI: Well, it was very different those days, because we didn't have the social media. Maybe it's good in a way (smiling).

Because I think today there is even more attention, like, people are more connected, and then they are following even more. They have a better communication, I think, with athletes.

But, yeah, I don't know, the pressure and attention is always there. I think it's one of the hardest things that you have to work on, because I remember that many times I was more focused on what people or the media wanted me to become than what I really wanted.

So I had to work very hard to put that aside and really focus on me.

Q. Talking about this, which relationship do you have with your body? Because I remember when you played, you put maybe, to me, too many muscles on you. And now you look perfect.
GABRIELA SABATINI: Thank you (smiling).

Q. How do you feel? Better then, better now? Why? And another question is about Eugenio Rossi, which you remember very well. I remember you in Wimbledon with this younger player your age. Which other tennis player do you like, like, a human being, like a man, in this moment or in the past like Edberg or Becker or now Zverev? Which one do you like the most?
GABRIELA SABATINI: Well, physically, well, I'm a lot older these days, but I still continue to exercise, to work out. Obviously I don't work out as much as I used to, so muscles will go down. Also with age they go down (smiling).

But, no, today I work out, and I think with years you start to know what your body needs. So I'm a person who is very healthy, and I wanted to become smaller, also.

Q. You are not vegetarian?
GABRIELA SABATINI: No, I am not vegetarian. I eat everything. I eat a lot of beef. Exactly.

And then in regards to -- yeah, I remember Eugenio. I haven't seen Eugenio for a long time.

But, yeah, Italian boys are always good looking. Like Fabio Fognini today, he's a very young and nice, nice boy. I don't know. Zverev is also, which I also like his game a lot. Tsitsipas, also. I really like his game and his mentality.

Q. Handsome?
GABRIELA SABATINI: Yeah, also (smiling).

Q. Sorry to ask you a quite common question, but I'm curious, how does your life look right now? What are you doing? Where do you live? How close or far are you from tennis? And finally, with what perspective do you look on your own career with many years now behind you?
GABRIELA SABATINI: Well, these days I'm living in Switzerland most of the time. I spend a little time in Miami and in Buenos Aires. I like to travel still. And I still have my perfume, my line of perfumes, which has been more than 30 years. So I dedicate a little bit of time to that. Then, yeah, I mean, I do hobby things that I like.

In regards to how I look back, well, these days I'm not very involved with tennis. I'm helping a little bit the Federation in Argentina. But I'm not -- you know, each day I'm not really working in anything in particular with tennis.

And how I look back? No, I'm just very -- I will always be grateful to tennis, because I feel that it has given me so many things, not only on the court but off the court. Although I travel a lot with tennis these days, I like to travel much more and to discover what I couldn't when I played tennis.

Yeah, I will always be close to tennis. I mean, I like to watch tennis. I watch as much as I can, and I like to analyze the matches. If I can give an advice to someone, of course I'm there.

But, yeah, I don't feel, if we talk about coaching, no, I don't feel like to have that commitment every day, no, I'm not prepared for that.

Q. You said you have discovered new players. Which ones? What can you say about these players?
GABRIELA SABATINI: No, well, I like Barty, the Australian player. I like her very much. I saw her in Miami. I really like the way she plays. You know, her slice, backhand slice, I like very much. I think she's a very strategy player.

Yeah. That's the one that I like the most these days as far as her game, yeah.

Q. Steffi Graf turns 50 next week. Can you tell us a little bit about the former times on tour together, in doubles together, and what is in your mind if you hear her name, and maybe a few wishes for her?
GABRIELA SABATINI: Yeah, when I talk about our rivalry, I think I was lucky to have Steffi Graf on the other side, because I was a better tennis player every time I play against her. A great competitor.

And when we retire, I feel like we are friends. We stay in touch. We played a couple of exhibition matches afterwards. It's nice to, you know, once you retire, to share other things, you know, more the personal side. I think she's a great person.

Well, then she will have to tell me how it feels to turn 50 (smiling). But, no, I always wish her the best, and I know she's doing very well.

Q. Could I just ask about this girl, Amanda Anisimova, who has reached the quarters at the age of 17? Knowing your history of being sort of a prodigy, a teenage prodigy, first of all, have you seen her play much? Secondly, what would your advice be to somebody who is in the spotlight like her after your experiences? I know you say it's very different these days, but...
GABRIELA SABATINI: I haven't seen her playing very much, so I cannot say very much about it.

No, the advice would be to -- I mean, there are no secrets. You know, you have to have goals. Try to put your attention in your team, in your tennis. I know these days it's difficult to do that because of all the media.

But it's important to really focus on the things that are really important that will take you to the next step, which is, yeah, you know, putting in all the passion, sacrifice, and to have dreams and to have goals.

I think that's an aim for those things. And to have a good team, I mean, that's key. That's crucial.

Q. Following up, what do you appreciate about living in Switzerland? Secondly, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka play each other today. Who do you cheer for more or what do you like about them?
GABRIELA SABATINI: Yeah, I think it's a beautiful country. I like the peaceful atmosphere. It's great to do sports, also, which I like to do cycling a lot.

So is a very good place. Yeah, I live very freely there. It's very easy to live there.

And, well, about Roger and Stan, what can I say? I mean, two amazing players. I love to watch them play. I mean, it's beautiful to watch those backhands, that tennis. That's going to be very interesting, knowing the story of Stan here at the French Open, and Roger being back and playing good tennis. I saw him the other day playing great tennis.

No, I mean, has to win the one that plays best (smiling).

THE MODERATOR: Questions in Spanish.

Q. Sorry for my Spanish level. I don't speak very well. 18 Argentinian men here in Roland Garros. No Argentinian women. Is there a problem with female tennis in Argentina? Another question: Do you have the impression that the female tennis players are more suffering from the economic situation in Argentina?
GABRIELA SABATINI: Yes, I think the fact that there are not as many women as men is a difficult situation. And maybe there are not enough references for female Argentinian players.

And playing tennis for a woman is more difficult than for a man because a woman alone, it's always more difficult for a woman to be alone. And for a father to decide that his daughter will play tennis is a difficult decision to take, so the fathers won't necessarily choose tennis for their daughters.

The fact that there is no reference or, like, idol is also something to be taken into account, and that complicates the situation.

Then, talking about the economic situation, I think that it's the same for men and women. We are living in a country which is far away from other countries. We have difficulty in traveling, owing to the difficulties in the exchange rates. That leads to a lot of complications. And also need money to be able to invest in tennis in our country in Argentina.

That's a major part of the problem. We have to be able to collect funds to work on the development of tennis in Argentina.

Q. What is your best memory of Roland Garros here?
GABRIELA SABATINI: Well, the first memory is when I won as a junior. I was 14 at that time. That moment was very important for me.

Playing here has always been special, because I grew up on clay. The atmosphere in the French Open has always been very particular. I have other matches I remember which are not positive. For example, when I lost in quarterfinals to Mary Joe Fernandez, I think it was in 1993, and then against Monica Seles during the semifinals where I had the possibility to become No. 1. So I have other memories that are not so positive. But in general, I love playing here, and I always wanted to win. But after I lost severely, I was very tired.

Q. In male tennis there are four or five players that have been dominating the tour for a few years and everyone knows them, even if you are not a tennis fan. For women at your time, Navratilova, Seles, Arantxa, and yourself were very well-known. But today, if you ask in the streets, no one knows who is the No. 1 in the women's tour. What difference is there, according to you, between the tennis of your times and tennis today? What is happening?
GABRIELA SABATINI: Well, it's true that there are many more women who win every week. There is a new name appearing in the media. New girls are in the last rounds of the tournaments.

But for me it's not negative. I see this as something rather positive to have a permanent renewal of the players. So indeed it's more difficult to memorize the names of the players. But Naomi Osaka, we know her, we remember her. She reached the finals of the US Open last year.

Yes, there is a difference indeed between male and female tennis. We more remember the names of the male players -- Federer, Nadal, Djokovic -- they are over 30 years old. On the women's tour, the winners are in their 20s.

But for me, it's not negative. It's positive to see new players emerging, to see new types of players. It's good.

Q. Several times you supported tennis silently by making donations, by supporting players, by using your image to support Argentinian tennis, in particular, during charity events. And today, it's what we would like to thank you for, because you are well-known and you have supported tennis. So two questions: What importance do you give to this honor which is given to you today? And second question, how are you going to be involved in Argentinian tennis? Because I know that you have been talking with people in charge of that.
GABRIELA SABATINI: Well, this award, I'm very grateful for it, because tennis has given me a lot, much more than I gave myself to tennis. And what I am today, what I can do today, is thanks to tennis. Tennis has opened my mind, has enabled me to travel, and today I love traveling.

All these small things I did privately, secretly, I did them because I like doing them, because it's a form of recognition for all these years I have experience in the world of tennis.

And then the charity or the tennis associations, I know them all. All the former tennis players, men and women, are getting involved, so I want to get involved, too. The idea is to be present, to support.

I have no specific task in mind, but it's just being present, working on female tennis maybe, and seeing how we can work on the development of this female tennis in Argentina.

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