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July 6, 2003

Leander Paes

Martina Navratilova


MODERATOR: Can we have your questions, please, for Martina and Leander.

Q. When you gave your TV interview, you were asked if you'd be back next year. You actually said you'd be back, whether or not you'd be playing. Does that mean you're thinking of packing it in?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I have no idea what next year will bring. I really have no plans at this time. I just want to finish out the year and see what the heart says, I don't know. It's a lot of hard work. The payoff has been unbelievable this year. I've been plugging away, plugging away, and three years, I won one tournament. And now, it's all come to fruition. So I don't know. I have no plans right now, I really don't. One way or the other, I cannot tell you. But it would be a shame not to defend a title. At the same time, I wasn't planning on having to do that. Nice problem.

Q. How do these latest titles compare to the ones you made in your earlier years?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Earlier years, in my prime. Like 20 years ago.

Q. I was trying not to say that.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, that's okay, you can. It's -- you know, the reason I played initially, I mean, you try to be No. 1, you try to be the greatest of all time. That's really a long-term goal. You want to be No. 1. You want to win Grand Slams. It's all very selfish. It's just me, me, me. I mean, you do it for people that are involved as well, but it's mostly about you. And this time around, when I first started playing, I just wanted to see what it would feel like again. I got such amazing response from the fans, and media as well, the players, my peers, people that are playing in the 35-and-over here that are actually younger than I am, but who are playing the 35-and-over or the 45-and-over, and they're inspired. But really the fans, the response that I've gotten from the people has been such that I just didn't want to stop, because people are saying how inspired they were by what I'm still doing out there. And that's what my message has been, "Don't let age be your determining factor, whether you do something or not." Don't let that, you know, bring you down or make you think that you shouldn't be doing something. And so I just couldn't stop. And it's been about everybody else; it's not been about me. And so, you know, different reasons, and great results. Maybe that's why the result has been such, because it's not been about me, it's been about others. I have great support. Sorry, don't worry. You'll get... (Laughter).

Q. What I was gonna say was what do the records mean to you, the 20 titles now, equaling Billie Jean's?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's not about that at all. And I said that. When I first started playing, planned on playing at Wimbledon, it was because Mariaan de Swardt didn't have a partner. I thought, "I'm gonna be here, I might as well play." It was weeks into it, after I'd been playing, I'd read in USA Today that the reason I came back was to break Billie Jean's record. That was the first time I realized I was one behind. Honest to God, that was not the reason at all. If it had been, I think my knees would be knocking too much. Again, that's a selfish reason to go after something. It's been about Leander and me being on the same court. We really came together by accident last year at the US Open. We had so much fun playing, even though we lost in the second round. We'd beaten the No. 1 seeds, then we lost in the second round. And we had so much fun losing, that I said, "We got to do this again." Then comes Australian Open and we win the whole thing without losing a set. French, we had a bit of an off day, played against a great team. Here we are again. It's been about -- the chemistry between us has been fantastic. So it wasn't about the record. Yeah, it's great, but, you know, if Billie Jean had won 30, I would still be out here thrilled the same. It absolutely doesn't add anything, doesn't take anything away. You know, she's a great champion. I saw her before the match. She wished me luck. I believe she meant it. I mean, I know she did, because that's -- records are there to be broken, and I helped her win one, she helped me win one. Here I am, 10 years later, still playing, so...

Q. Can you talk about that chemistry, both of you. What makes it work for the two of you?

LEANDER PAES: It was a dream to be out winning Grand Slams, and doing it with one of the true legends of our game is like a dream come true. Apart from trying to win and be the best, like Martina just said, her passion for the game and her zest for life is what has turned me around. Last year, I had a very tough year with my partners, and at the end of the year I was really feeling my age (laughter). You play with someone like Martina who is out there, she's running, she's got 16 years over me, but she's so bubbly and so fast on the court. She's covering everything, chasing every ball in practice off one bounce, even if it's outside the doubles line. When she did that in Australia, I thought to myself, "What am I talking about?" Martina really helped me find my passion again. We go out there every day trying to be the best that we can be, and I just wish I started playing tennis a lot earlier and got to play with her more years than, you know, five Grand Slams or four Grand Slams so far. So I am enjoying every single bit of it, to answer your question. I am Martina's vehicle, is the way I look at it. And she's the legend and I'm the vehicle to try and break these records that she's looking to get. So it's a dream come true for me.

Q. Who's the boss out there?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Leander. Most of the time I ask him what we need to be doing on the serve, when I'm serving particularly, depending on where he wants to go. I mean, obviously I have some input and, you know, help out as well on some strategy when he was serving, but most of the time he's calling the plays, which is fine.

Q. Has that evolved a little bit? Has he taken a little bit more influence as he's got to know you?

LEANDER PAES: Martina is so instinctive, and when you have an athlete who is so talented and so athletic as her, I always encourage her to follow her instincts. That's how I play my tennis. When we're out on the court, even though we do call where the first serve is going, we move as a team.


LEANDER PAES: There are certain shots that I know it's my responsibility to get. Like, for example, a smash that comes up in the middle, being a lefty-righty combination, if it comes up in the middle, and it's a backhand smash I try to come over and hit it. At the same time, with such great instincts, I don't need to cover a whole lot. I just got to read the play and be there at the right time because I know Martina's there at the right time. A stat that we can look at in the last fortnight is how well Martina served, and the wear and tear on her body for how many years she's been playing and the tournament she's had, for her to come out on a daily basis and play two matches on one day and perform like this is incredible. It really is incredible.

Q. Why did you leave the court after the end of the first set in the semifinal and final?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Why, it's called I have to take a pee break. That's what happens when you get older (laughter). I never used to have to take toilet breaks when I was in my 20s. In 30s, it started creeping up. Usually I was okay during the singles and during the doubles I had to go. Now it's after each set. It has to be a really fast match for me not to have to go to the toilet. Leander says "I'm going too." The team that goes to the toilet together wins together, so... (Laughter).

Q. You talked about how much this inspired other people out there and the fans who are watching, even people who are not in tennis. What kind of reaction have you got? E-mails, letters, what kinds of things have you been hearing from people?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, it is -- it's been from everybody. Little kids that didn't see me play, didn't even know who I was, now they're like, "Hey, Martina." They saw me maybe on "Sesame Street" but they didn't see me play. Teenagers getting off the ski lift, "Hey, Martina, you rock." And then the middle-age housewives in the country clubs going absolutely bonkers when they see me, say, "I can't believe what you're doing. I'm gonna get out there and do more." Older people. Just a spectrum. It runs the gamut, totally. And that's what's amazing, you know, that because I hit a fuzzy yellow tennis ball, that inspires people to do more with life. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Q. During the fortnight, we haven't had a chance to ask you about a woman who triumphed on many stages and was athletic and loved tennis and perhaps most of all was an inspiration. I know Katherine Hepburn was an acquaintance of yours.


Q. Could you take a moment and say what was so special about her, please.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I think there's been plenty written about her. And she was a pioneer, and she was a woman way ahead of her time. She wasn't limited by the fact that she was a woman or lived in the '30s or '40s or whatever. I think I especially like the fact that when she won the Oscars, she said, "I think a thank you will suffice." That wasn't what it was about for her. I've been trying to get her to come and watch me play here in the '80s, she said she was too nervous watching me. So she never came. But I know she was watching, and, actually, when I heard the news of her passing, I thought, "Okay, Kate, this one's gonna be for you."

Q. Really?


Q. Ahead of her times in which way?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Every way. She just did her thing. Wore those trousers, she didn't care. She did her thing. She was the first woman, I think, to take control of her career way back, when the studios didn't let you do that. She just did her thing, didn't let any social ideas limit her. And that's what it's about, doing what's your passion, what's in your heart.

Q. Did you ever hit with her?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, she -- she had a bum ankle after the car accident, by the time I met her she had a really bad ankle. So we never played tennis, unfortunately.

Q. Sorry to bring up the age thing again, but another record that you have is the oldest competitor here to win a title.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well... I broke it in the Australian Open by a month, the oldest one to win a Grand Slam title. Now I've extended that by a few more months.

Q. Talk about Wimbledon specifically.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I figured I would be since I was the oldest one at the Australian. Again, that's not the record that I was looking for. I always wanted to be the youngest one to win something. But, you know, I'll take the oldest one as well. Doesn't really matter. Again, age is not the limit here. Like I said before, the ball doesn't know how old you are.

Q. Any thoughts about going for Margaret Court's record?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Just gonna keep playing. See what happens. If I had wanted that record, I would have never stopped playing. I would have played doubles and mixed. Again, that's not what it's about. I didn't want to play tennis. I was done. I thought if I never hit another tennis ball, I'll be happy. Then I started getting the itch, and now I'm hitting. The tennis ball makes me very happy. This happened before I won anything. I'm sure a lot of you are wondering why am I still out here - because I love the game, because I love to hit the ball. And the results, that was inconsequential. Now everybody wants to talk to me, what's my secret, you know. When I wasn't winning, they weren't asking. Now they want to know. The key to doubles is picking the right partner.

Q. Could I ask Martina about her reaction to Federer. I don't know how much you were able to see of him today. What was your reaction to him? Were you excited by his performance?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I didn't see any of it because we were playing. But I did see the last three points, I guess, and just how overwhelmed he was, you know. I was crying. Kim Clijsters was crying. She knew his coach, that died tragically last year. We were just teary-eyed. I'm like, "Kim, you can't cry, you have to go play." I'm, you know... It's special. That's what makes this place so special, I think, when somebody wins it for the first time. You want them to win it. Either way, today we were gonna be happy with somebody would be a first-time winner.

Q. Did you have anything about his talent? Presumably, you've seen him in the past, obviously. I mean, were you happy that somebody who had just seemed to be a little different and has something to enhance the game?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: He always has had the great game, and he had the burden of so much talent to carry. It happened with me, it happened with Hana Mandlikova. Any time you have somebody that's talented and doesn't win, when you do win, it's like, "It's about time. How come you haven't won before?" It's that's that monkey off the back. Still, it's not as amazing as Agassi winning because he really shouldn't have won his first Grand Slam on grass. Federer, you wonder how come he hasn't won before. Now he can relax about it. The stuff that he played the last two matches, just phenomenal. He always had it, but you wondered -- I saw him play in the Italian Open. He looked odd, you know, when he lost in the finals. I'm like, "What is his story? He doesn't seem to care." But he's so passive. Obviously, loves the game.

Q. Just to finish off the question, do you think he can build something significant?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Of course. Absolutely. I think when you win here, you think you can win anywhere. And he's got the game for all surfaces. So, you should talk about him. You know his game better.

LEANDER PAES: He's just a fantastically talented player. Like Martina says, you sometimes wonder when someone is so talented why he hasn't won earlier. And he's, after Agassi, one of the best shot-makers in the game. We saw that in the semifinal match against Roddick. He played flawless tennis, served with a lot of power, hit shots that you know you saw Martina or McEnroe hit in the past, ahead of their times. I think he's got a bit of that quality as well. It's gonna be -- I was quite interested to see how much passion and how emotional he was after his match, for someone who's so passive on the court. On the court he doesn't show any emotion and you almost think, "Does he really care?" When he won, he just broke down completely. It was really nice to see that.


Q. Aside from your amazing fitness and sort of beating back the message of time, how do you maintain that itch you were talking about, sort of that desire to win?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's no desire to win. It's desire to do the best that you can. Every time, every day you get out of bed, whatever it is, when I play hockey, I take lessons for skating because I want to be the best hockeyplayer I can be. Same snowboarding, golf, whatever - I want to do it well. So it's about just getting up out of bed every morning and doing your best that day, that's what it's about. Mine, obviously, I have an amazing talent that I was blessed with that I thank the powers-to-be that they wanted somebody to have it. And I try to live up to that possibility. So the drive, it's like what's the option? People say, "God, you're so fit." What's the option? Yeah, I don't have to be as fit as I am. But if I want to play, then I need to be. And, you know, you don't want to be limited by something you can control. The first couple years after I retired I really didn't -- I was really lazy. I didn't do much of anything. Then I found myself getting off the ski slopes early because I was tired. I was like, "This is really silly, because I have all this talent but I'm tired. There's all this snow but I can't ski anymore." It's something you can control. It's in your power, what you eat, what you drink, what you do with your body, that's -- for the most part, you can control and people don't take enough care. So, you know, very simple.

Q. It was obvious that whole of Centre Court and the press box wanted you to win out there.


Q. First of all, were you aware of that positive energy for you, and indeed were you nervous in this one match?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I was -- I think the most nervous I was, when we played Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan and when we broke Lisa's serve and I had to hold. Basically, that's the match, because I know Leander is gonna hold - the way he's been serving, no problem. And that was, to me, the best team in the field. And that almost felt like a final then because I thought, "We should win after this," but you never know, of course, in mixed doubles. Today I was so calm, it was a joke. Yeah, I was still nervous, but it was -- this is what you live for. I started practicing this morning and I just had this biggest grin on my face. I had to really sort of tone it down. This is what it's about, to actually play on a Sunday. The odd thing was we didn't know who we were going to play. We were playing the semifinals and still waiting for an opponent. That was strange, not to have a particular game plan in mind. Just savored every moment. There was no time to get nervous, "No, this is what it's about."

Q. Is it tough for you to let go of Wimbledon?


Q. Yeah.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Why do I need to let go?

Q. It's been such a big part of your life and career.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It will always be a part of my life until the day I die. I don't need to let go. By not playing, I still never let go. This is a special place.

MODERATOR: One more question, you have to do a million other interviews.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: They can wait, it's all right.

Q. Yesterday Serena won her sixth major yesterday, and she's only 21. Is there a reasonable way to compare her game to the peak games of yours, Steffi's and Monica's, three other dominant players who...

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Three completely different -- four different, four different styles altogether. I didn't win my first one until I was after 21, so she's way ahead of me there. But then so is the training for everybody, the way they're brought up is so much more sophisticated. I didn't play more than -- I never played two hours practicing, just hitting the ball, till I was about 14 years old. I mean, I'd play sets or doubles, you know, it was social. In the winter we played once a week for an hour, till I was about 13. Then I started playing two or three times a week in the winter. I mean, it's a completely different thing. The development is much quicker, it's much better. The knowledge out there for technique and what you need to be eating, how you need to be training, it's a different, you know, ballgame altogether. But if we were playing against each other, I think it would still be a good matchup. Serena has the potential to be the greatest of all time, there's no doubt about that, because she's got the size. Billie Jean King was the best athlete out there. Then I came, I was the best athlete out there. Comparing me and Billie, I did everything just a little bit better only because I was longer, taller, I could do more. The same goes for Serena, she's that much taller, that much stronger. And she's got huge shots off both sides. The only thing she still doesn't do enough is volley - she doesn't do well enough is volley - doesn't get to the net that much, but then again she doesn't need to. So it would have been fun matches to watch between all these four players. I mean, that would have been fun. I know I could have won a few, and I'm sure everybody else would have won a few. So at the end of the day, if Serena keeps training hard and really, you know, gets some technical glitches out of her game, which is pretty scary, then she'll be the greatest of all time. But, you know, that work is still to be done.

Q. What is your eating regimen?


Q. Yep, your preferences. Are you a vegetarian?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, I eat fish. I was a vegetarian for seven years, then I needed to get some protein in my system. But I look forward to doing that again, being a total vegetarian. Even would like to try to go raw one day, but that's way down the road. It's really just everything in modesty. I have dessert most nights, but only take two bites. I leave the rest on the table. The waiters always worry, "Wasn't that good?" "No, it's delicious. That's all I want for now." So it's everything in moderation. Even too much water is not good for you, you know? So it's just doing the sensible thing. I think we all know what we need to be drinking, eating, not drinking and not eating. You wouldn't put junk in your car, it's amazing what people put in their bodies. But you get out of it what you put into it, it's that simple.

Q. How well-known is Martina Navratilova in the cities and villages of your country?

LEANDER PAES: There are probably six alphabets that spell that, and it's legend. Martina is Martina and she's a legend in every little town, village across the globe. She doesn't only stand for our sport, but she stands for mankind. Her athleticism, her as a person, as a human being, her character, to go out and do things her way, is just fantastic. And that is the charm about Martina. We all are sitting here in awe of someone who lives her life exactly how she wants to live her life, and that's why she's out here at 46 winning Grand Slams, and it's magic, really magic.

Q. Does it surprise you that Serena doesn't quite have that single-mindedness towards tennis like you people? She has the acting, going to start her own fashion design. Yet she's playing at this level, I mean, with all this outside stuff happening?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, obviously, she can get away with it. You know, how long she can do that, I don't know. But it just shows how talented she is. I mean, she is one of a kind, with her body. That's her biggest asset, is getting to balls that nobody -- most people wouldn't even think about running down. She not only gets to them, but she does something with the ball. I think she's committed enough. I think if she started losing, then she would probably give up the acting bit and the fashion design, whatever. You can only do so much. I mean, it's great to have a hobby and other interests, and I'm glad that both the Williams sisters are very broad-minded about things, that tennis is not, you know, the only thing in their life. But it needs to be the main thing in their life. So you can do other things, but only up to a point. If they start taking away, "Well, I can't practice today because I got to go design this house," whatever, that's gonna get in the way eventually. You can only get away with that for so long. But so far, obviously, she can do it all. So more power to her.

Q. Leander, now that you have discovered Martina, Martina has rediscovered vegetarianism, when are you bringing her to India (laughter)?

LEANDER PAES: That's a good -- well-put, that question (laughter).


LEANDER PAES: Martina has already voiced the fact that she would love to be in India, and she had an opportunity to be there earlier this year. So it will be -- it will be fantastic to motivate Martina to come to India and play in front of 1.2 billion people who will definitely watch her across the country.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Now there's pressure. That's a lot of people. "Make a lot of Indians very happy." (Said in an Indian accent).

LEANDER PAES: She's got a great Indian accent, I must warn you.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I love Indian food, so I would love to go and eat the real thing. Most of all, I'd like to go to India and try to glimpse a Bengal Tiger.

Q. Chicken tikka tonight?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I have no idea. We're going to the Champions Dinner, so who knows what's going to be on the menu there, but it doesn't really matter at this point.

Q. You talk and you say you're not sure when you'll stop, and you're obviously loving it. What would make you stop?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That's a good question. I can't really answer that. That's a little too private for me to answer, so... I'll have my reasons, yeah.

Q. Would it not be when you felt you couldn't win, when you ceased to be...

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: When is that gonna be? When I'm, what, 50-something? Maybe in a wheelchair, you know.

Q. Would that be a factor, though, your sense...


Q. Really?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, again, when I first started hitting again, you know, winning, I mean, we won in Madrid and that was the third year when Natasha Zvereva I won the tournament in Madrid. I was like -- I was so nervous. I was more nervous then than I was today, because it was winning again after such a long haul. That wasn't what it was about. So, you know, going out on top again, sort of - at least on top as a mixed doubles team. I had some goals in doubles for this year, mixed doubles, that I really didn't think about it. That one's more difficult to win than doubles. But I don't know.

Q. I suppose what I was asking you was how tolerant are you of talented people who perhaps, in your mind, are not as committed to doing well...

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That aggravates me more than anything, absolutely. Because, you know, when you're given talent and you waste it, that's really a shame. That's -- the fates won't be very happy with you when you come through that Pearly Gate. You only have one trip around - that you know about for sure - and you better make the most of it. And you owe it to everybody, those people around you. I think our goal in life really should be to make other people's lives better, and you can only do that by leading the way. So when -- a lot of people, people that don't have the talent have the will to work hard, but a lot of those that have the talent don't really want to work that hard. I think it comes down to not wanting to fail. When you try really hard and you still fail, then it really hurts. But, to me, the only failure is not trying, not giving your best. But a lot of people take solace in, "Well, I wasn't really trying that hard so it's okay that I lost. If I really tried, I could have won." That's a cop-out.

End of FastScripts….

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