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January 26, 2003

Leander Paes

Martina Navratilova


MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. When you finished in '94, did you ever think today could happen?


Q. Another Slam.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Another Slam did happen in 1995, won the mixed doubles at Wimbledon. But that's all I played. I played in '96, and I thought I was really done. You know, the comeback really did happen by accident. If I hadn't been doing TV at Wimbledon, I would have never played again. But then one thing led to another. Like I said at the ceremony, Giselle did say, "I have a really good feel being in this tournament." Then we lost the doubles to the Williams sisters. I thought, "Darn." But there's still mixed doubles. We just played really well, never lost a set, which really is the key here. Once you get into the tiebreak, it's anybody's ballgame. That shows how well we played, because we never lost a set.

Q. Having not played here, I think this is the first Slam you stopped coming to, did you ever think about the mixed being the only Slam of the whole set you didn't have?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You know when it occurred to me was Friday night as I was falling asleep, trying to fall asleep. I thought, "Wait a minute, this is the only one I've never won." That's when I thought about it for the first time. Leander told me he checked it out before our semifinal, so he knew. He didn't say anything. He didn't want to jinx it. Of course, I didn't say anything either. Yeah, that's when it occurred to me. I guess they only started playing mixed here in '87, but I didn't play those three years, then I hadn't played here since '89. You don't think about that when you're playing. You just play and make your schedule. Whatever happens happens. I didn't think about it here again until Friday night. It's pretty sweet to have all of them. I got something Margaret Court doesn't have, because they didn't have mixed doubles here.

Q. I thought they did years back.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I don't think so. '87 was the first time.

Q. The Open era.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Maybe before. How many did she win here?

Q. Two, I think.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I was wrong (smiling).

Q. I'll have to double-check.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I'm sure you're right.

Q. Is it true that you're only as old as you feel?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, age is an -- actually, I'm 36, because when I first came and started playing I was six years old. I just look big for my age (laughter). No, I can't lie about my age. Everybody knows. It's pretty funny. Sometimes people say, "How old are you? I don't want to bother you." I'm like, "You can look it up in any player guide. It's not a secret." I think people put too much on the age. I certainly didn't think that I would still be playing at this age. When I was growing up, I wanted to be the youngest to win something, not the oldest.

Q. I know Chrissy has three kids and lots of responsibilities, but do you ever talk to her? Is there any way in which she envies you?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I don't think she envies me, but I think she has a lot of respect for me. I know we talked after I played my singles match last year in Eastbourne. She was pretty amazed that I could still do it for a lot of different reasons. But I don't have three kids. I have a lot of dogs, but they're a lot easier to take care of than children. I think she's pretty impressed, which I guess I would be if somebody else was doing it. You don't impress yourself. But if somebody was doing it, it's pretty bloody good, isn't it?

Q. When you send a kiss to the sky, did you think that the one upstairs wanted you also to win?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I definitely was thanking the tennis gods on that one. Leander was yelling, "Up." He wanted me to throw up a lob. I was thinking, "Todd has to cross." Hit it down the line. He didn't go. Then the let cord over the racquet. That's when I thought, "This is meant to be." Definitely a higher power at work there. I'm very thankful.

Q. What's it like playing with Martina Navratilova?

LEANDER PAES: Well, it's a real treat. Martina earlier today said she won her first Grand Slam in 1973. I was born in that year. I grew up, my whole childhood, watching Martina play, create history winning those many Wimbledon titles. I never thought I'd be on the same side of the net as her. It's a real treat to play with her. Her zest for life, her passion for the game is mind-boggling. I'm going to be 30 this year, and I felt I was getting old. You know, Martina has kind of rejuvenated me, rejuvenated my spirit for the game. I'm very thankful for that.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Wow, that's the nicest thing I heard all day, all week.

Q. Do you remember very much about that first Slam? Was that the mixed at the French?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yes, with Molina from Chile. I got in trouble with the Czech Federation because Chile was not a country to really -- they didn't have very good relations, politically. I was always getting in trouble that way. Yeah, I do remember that one. He was a lefty. That was the first one, yeah, '73, bloody hell.

Q. Serena, she won the Slam. Do you think the record of six consecutive Slams is in jeopardy? What would it take to break that mark?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Everything that Serena has, which she had, which we had getting there, which is obviously great talent and ability and a bunch of luck. She came from match points down. You need all of that. You need luck to stay healthy, you need luck to not run into somebody that's playing the match of their life, and you need those tennis gods to be on your side. They were with her this tournament because she really could have lost three different matches, but she came through. Yes, luck plays a role, but obviously amazing mental toughness and strength, and she's got all of that. She's got the ability. Now it's the French and Wimbledon, those are the next two. If anybody can do it, she can. It would be hard -- it would be hard to imagine she could keep beating her sister. To me, that's almost the more amazing thing, that she beat Venus four times in a row. That's mind-boggling right there. Maybe in some way it's easier for her to play her sibling than somebody else, I don't know. But amazing feat either way.

Q. Have you committed to play with Leander every major tournament this year?


Q. You'll take it year by year now?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I asked Leander earlier during the tournament, I said, "We're hooked up for the rest of the year? Do you want to?" He said, "I thought we were. " I thought we were just hooked up for the Australian Open. I thought that was great. Again, like I said out there, we had so much fun playing at the US Open, we beat Woodbridge and Stubbs in the first round, lost next to Koenig and Callens. But we had a great time. The spirit goes both ways. Leander makes it fun to be on the court with, spiritually and of course tennis-wise. We both know how to play doubles, and that's what really makes it fun. I'm there where I should be and he's there where he should be, playing the right shots. It's sort of tennis the way it should be played. That's the most fun part of it all. Yeah, we're hooked up.

Q. Women's doubles, as well?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: With Svetlana, yeah, so far we're going to play together.

Q. When you originally decided to start playing doubles again, did you believe or think that another Grand Slam title was reachable?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I did, but I don't think too many of you guys did (laughter). I don't know. You know, I didn't think about winning when I first started playing, I just wanted to play. I just thought about competing, see how good I can still play. I've been improving. Giselle has been a great help of getting me physically ready. You can't hit a great shot if you can't get to it. I knew I was playing better tennis all the time, but still, you know, there's a lot to overcome. Yeah, I thought we had a chance. You know, you need luck. I think my lucky thing was running into Leander, intercepting him on the way to the referee's office.

Q. Obviously at this age you committed yourself for the next 12 months. Injury always might be in the back of the mind. Are you totally injury-free?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: The heel is still sore. I've been icing it. The WTA staff help keep it under control. Just my heel gets stiff and sore.

But, you know, now I've learned to ice it. I didn't think there was anything to ice there, but there is. That's been the only problem that I've had all year, and it's not a problem because I can still move. It doesn't bother me, it's just sore afterwards. It doesn't bother me to play.

I don't expect any injuries. Doubles is easier to play than singles. Singles definitely takes its toll. Giselle and her help, my body to be in the shape it is, I have to thank my parents for giving me the good genes. I'm one of the most frequented people in the training room.

Q. Away from the tennis, just about your dog, where you got it from.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Frodo came from Gladstone, north of Brisbane. He's actually going to be a mate to one of my Boston terriers, Madison. He's had a smile on his face ever since we told him.

Getting into the States is easy. Obviously, Australia is a rabies-free country. I've traveled with dogs all over. Getting back into the States is easy; it's coming here that's a trouble. Getting them out is difficult, because bringing them in the cabin is against the law. I need to talk to John Howard about that. I also need to talk to him about the deployment of troops in Iraq, but that's another story.

Q. Protagonist in "The Lord of the Rings"?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah. We wanted to name him Legolas, but he really did look a lot more like a hobbit than a handsome elf. So Frodo was much more fitting.

Q. He's going to have to travel in the cabin?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: He's going to have to go under. I thought we'd go through New Zealand, go through Tahiti, same rule. Even Hawaii has the same rule. I don't know why. The rest of the world, you can bring the dog in the cabin, but not this part of the Pacific Ocean. It's going to be a long trip for him, but he'll be fine.

Q. What's the response to you in the locker room? Are the girls coming up amazed at your success, how well you played?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Some of them, yes, and they're very supportive. Now there's nobody there, just Eleni and me. She wasn't that thrilled. No, she's a nice girl (smiling). We have practiced together before, she's a good kid. I guess she figures if you have to lose to anybody, it might as well be me. The response has been very nice from the players. They're very supportive. They ask questions and they want to practice with me, stuff like that. It's been very nice. I feel very welcome.

Q. What have you got planned besides mixed with Martina? What are you doing for doubles for the year?

LEANDER PAES: I'm playing with David Rikl.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: The Czech connection.

LEANDER PAES: The Czech brigade. David and myself have played three tournaments already this year. We got to the quarterfinals here, which was a good start. I have next week off, then I have Davis Cup against Japan. With my Davis Cup requirements as well as doubles, I have a long year ahead of me. Again, looking forward to the mixed doubles at the French Open.

Q. Do you think it's conceivable for a mixed Slam calendar year-wise?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, for anybody, mixed is the biggest potshot of them all. I think of the 32 teams, probably have half of those teams that can win. You have a lot of unseeded teams winning or players that just somehow mesh. You have more unusual winners in mixed. Mixed is probably the toughest Slam of them all. I've done it in doubles, I've done it in singles. Mixed would have been the hardest. Especially now with the third-set tiebreak both here and the US Open, it makes it even more difficult. You know, no. I mean, we could be out in the first round, but we'll have a good time, and hopefully not.

Q. Doubles generally, do you think it's in a healthy state at the moment? The women's got a lot of exposure, was very popular. The men's had a lot of cuts made to it. Where do you think the games are at?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: For the women, it's a little different. We have more of the top players than the men. That's always been the case really. It started with Bjorn Borg way back, he didn't play doubles. He was the only top player that didn't play. It sort of snowballed from there. On the women's side, Steffi didn't play much doubles. For the most part, the top women have played, which makes it easier for people to pay attention to it. I think doubles is great for the singles players to play because it helps their game overall. But as far as what shape it's in, it's always been very popular on the women's tour. Most of the time people stay after the singles and watch the doubles. Again, we don't want to homogenize tennis too much with the same surfaces, more and more emphasis on the singles. Doubles is a healthy part of the game and it should stay that way. I'm not saying that because I am still playing; I've always said that. It adds a different dimension that would be lost, that would be unfortunately lost, if people took it out of the tournament equation.

LEANDER PAES: That's one of the things that the ATP is trying to do, attract more singles players into the game. They've actually changed the doubles format this year where they're allowing the singles boys to get into the tournament based on their singles rankings. It's going to be very intriguing, though, as to how many of the singles boys, as long as they're in the tournament in singles, whether they're going to continue working as hard with the doubles. It's still early days right now. I think only down the track we're going to see as to whether we fall into that trap or not. For a doubles player like me, who is not playing as much singles anymore, the actual game of doubles is evolving a lot right now. In the past, a lot of the players were serving and volleying both serves. This week, I've played two teams which comprised singles players. One was El Aynaoui and Arazi. Younes, what a wonderful forehand he had, he was popping serves down at 210, staying back and hitting forehands all day. So it makes it really intriguing to play. At one point when I was serving to him, he was in the ad court trying to receive a serve for the deuce court.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Because he wanted a forehand.

LEANDER PAES: He wanted a forehand. It's changing doubles a lot. We doubles players have to evolve a bit more, and that's what I've tried to do this year, is actually change our returns. You don't have to dink that backhand shot back all the time. You have to work your way to the net. I think it's a good move to make singles players play doubles, it brings more limelight to the game. As Martina says, it's a good way to enhance your repertoire.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Like the difference between test matches and one-day, they each bring something to the game. So it would be a shame for that to get lost.

Q. What were the nerves like for you this morning?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Actually, Friday night I had a hard time falling asleep. Last night I kicked into high as I always did before a singles match. I always slept well the night before a big final. I had a great night's sleep. The biggest difference was we had been playing late afternoon or night, and now we had to play at 11. Didn't really have time to eat a normal breakfast, normal meal. Normal preparation was completely different. But I was fine. Serving for the match, shocking double-fault. I've taken on her energy. I said it out loud. Eleni was struggling with her serve. She played well every other way. I was sucking that up. I got mad at myself, then hit four good serves after that. The nerves were pretty minimal. I slept well, and this morning I was ready to go. This is what you work for. This is what it's about. If your knees buckle once you get where you wanted to get to, there's something wrong. I wasn't not going to play well. I'd been playing too well the whole time here. Just kept escalating. Could have won the match 1-2 really. It stayed tight. We kept our cool when we had to. The nerves were fine.

Q. Serena said yesterday she considered her Serena Slam to be a Grand Slam. The Martina Slam of '83/'84, do you see that any more than four consecutive Grand Slams in a row or do you consider that to be a Grand Slam as well?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: They started with Tiger Woods last year, the Tiger Slam. Any time you can hold four in a row is an amazing accomplishment. Don Budge coined the phrase way back in the '30s because he ended up winning it in the same calendar year. I would have won it if the Australian Open was in January instead of November. It was my bad luck. I would have won it the same way. So I don't look at it as any less. It's sort of an asterisk. It's a great accomplishment. Serena did it against the best of players. A Slam is a Slam. It's four in a row. Calendar, again, that's just a number. But four in a row is bloody amazing no matter what sequence it comes in. I ended up winning six in a row, which is the only way I could win six in a row and not win a Slam. There you go, that was something different. When I lost the Australian Open to Helena Sukova, I was upset because that would have been seven in a row, which would have broken Margaret Court's record. Nobody was paying much attention. There was not one journalist from the States that came to it. Whatever you want to call it, I had a Martina Slam. Now Serena has one of her own. She's only one of five women to have done it, so that's fantastic.

Q. You took tennis to a new level. Now the Williams sisters have done the same. How impressed are you by them?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: They're physically just so imposing. They have great mental strength as well. That's a serious combination. They can still get better. Technically they can improve, both of them. That would be a scary proposition. I would love the challenge of playing them because I think my game would match up well against theirs. Most of the other women, they don't have the tools, they don't have the variety to really throw them off. If you compete head to head, just trying to go at them the way they go at you, that's going to be a losing proposition most of the time. They're just amazing physical specimens, and they got it up here as well. They're champions, both of them.

Q. If you had to pick the mixed doubles player that you enjoyed playing the most with...

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That's easy. He's sitting right here. Oh, there is Mark.

MARK WOODFORDE: That was a planted question.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: The way I pick my partners, the most important thing is, are they nice people? Do I really enjoy being with them? That's the most important part. I enjoyed playing against Leander. We played at Wimbledon two years ago, played with Lisa. You won that thing, right?


MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: So much fun being on the same court with him. It's a privilege to play against him because we're both good sports and really enjoy the game. It's much better being on the same side with him. All the guys I've played with, Paul McNamee, Mark Woodforde, Jonathan Stark, Heinz Gunthardt, I've had some great partners. Most of all, they were really nice people. That's what makes it that much more enjoyable.

Q. Do you expect next year the WTA player guide to included you as an active player?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think I ought to be. I don't know who decides, how they decide what to do, if just doubles players are in the guide or not. I was pretty active last year, I just didn't win that much. You know, we'll have to pay more attention to it, I guess. Maybe I should be in both, retired and the active.

Q. How many Grand Slam titles is it for you?

LEANDER PAES: I believe it's five, I believe so. I lost in the finals of the US Open mixed doubles to Todd actually after having match point. But this is the fifth one.

Q. Overall?

LEANDER PAES: We've won three doubles, and this is my second mixed. One was at Wimbledon and now here.

End of FastScripts….

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