January 17, 2003
MODERATOR: Questions for Nicole.
Q. It's been a long road for you to get here. Did you ever at any stage when you were battling to make it think about not going on?
NICOLE PRATT: Yeah, almost retired at 21, 22. I was pretty much tired of the traveling and I was spending sort of six, nine months out of a suitcase. I pretty much thought things have to change, I have to do something different. So I decided to move to the States. Basically that changed my career around from then on.
Q. What would you have done had you not continued?
NICOLE PRATT: I probably would have went back to University and studied something, probably teaching. I've always been interested in physiotherapy.
Q. Glad you didn't?
NICOLE PRATT: Very happy I didn't, yes (smiling).
Q. What stopped you from doing it?
NICOLE PRATT: I just really believed that -- I mean, I believed I had the ability to go out there and be a good player. At the time, I probably didn't have enough support behind me of people that believed that I could do that. I just took it upon myself, I weighed out my options and I thought, "No, I can really go out and do this, I just need to find the right team, the right networking around me, and things have to change." I sort of guess that attitude I've taken from then right through till now, I'm not prepared to sort of be second best to myself, just go out there and achieve as much as I can.
Q. There's a fair entourage of your family and friends. They were very excited up in the stands. At the end of the match, it was not only a big match for you, but a big match for everyone associated with you, as well.
NICOLE PRATT: A lot of friends. I live with a family here in Melbourne, the Smith family, for three or four years every time I've come back here. Sort of their daughters and sisters, different things, have married, and kids. But also, yeah, I've got a new team around me that I've been working with probably sort of since July last year. Been working with Noel Blundell, physiotherapist, Natalie McCall (ph), fitness trainer, Jeremy Oliver. They're all there today. That's a big part of why I'm still improving and getting better.
Q. What has Noel been doing?
NICOLE PRATT: Noel has been coaching me, you know, been spending a lot more time on the mental aspect of preparing to play, reaching the right intensity levels at the right times. I mean, he really believes in my ability. I really work well with anyone that has that sort of same belief as I do. It's been great. Sort of been six months now and it's been gelling.
Q. He's worked with a lot of Australian players. Is that how you came to see him?
NICOLE PRATT: I've known Noel for quite a few years. I know he worked with Jason Stoltenberg. It was something I really hadn't tapped into. Sort of a couple people made me aware of that. I thought, "Well, no, I'm going to give that a try." I was dealing with an injury and I wasn't as able to spend as much time on court as I'm used to. I thought that that could be, you know, an aspect of my game that I could really pick up, and I did. It's been working well.
Q. Can you just talk about the satisfaction for yourself on what you achieved over here?
NICOLE PRATT: Oh, it's very satisfying. You know, I've always -- I've been a hard worker for a long time now. Sort of to be in the fourth round of a Grand Slam, but especially the Australian Open, is very personally satisfying for me. I have put in a lot of hard work, taken a few knocks. I'm very happy to be here today.
Q. And quite possibly it would be Venus Williams in the next round. What are your thoughts? How will you approach that?
NICOLE PRATT: Well, if Venus gets through, I mean, this is what I've been working towards. I had a good year last year, but I wasn't able to sort of beat any of those sort of Top 10 players. I had a few good matches here and there. Basically my game wasn't equipped to handle those players. You know, I've been working sort of the last six, eight weeks at addressing that. It's just the beginning for me. So, you know, give me another six months, 12 months, I'll be even more prepared. But at least I can go into this match knowing I'm as prepared as I can be, I've addressed, you know, quite a few of the issues that I need to against those players. You know, I'll go out there fighting.
Q. How many times have you been on center?
NICOLE PRATT: I think that was my third time on center court, third or fourth time.
Q. First time as an Australian No. 1.
NICOLE PRATT: Sorry?
Q. First time you played center court as Australian No. 1.
NICOLE PRATT: No. I think I was No. 1 three years ago maybe, two years ago, yeah.
Q. Is it fair to say that you fashioned your game around your limitations?
NICOLE PRATT: Yeah. I think for a long time I've played well with those limitations. Now what I'm trying to do is take those limitations away and add a new dimension to my game. You know, today I stepped it up, hitting over my backhand, whereas other times I'd look to slice. Getting a little more on my serve, even though it can be a little inconsistent. It's all stuff I'm working on. It should just get better and better.
Q. You won the match with seven winners in straight sets. If you play Venus, you probably need to do a bit better than that.
NICOLE PRATT: Yeah, definitely. Definitely, I have to step it up against a player like Venus. I have to be prepared to do things that are a little different. You know, I might not hit that many winners, but I think I'm able to mix up my game enough that the girls sort of start to make mistakes, start to push a little too hard. All the time I'm getting that extra ball back. But a player like Venus, you need to do something with that extra ball. Sort of that's what I need to go out and do.
Q. Can you briefly tell us the Cathy Freeman connection when you were young again?
NICOLE PRATT: I was competing in the Mackay District Track and Field Athletic Championships. I was from an hour outside of Mackay. Cathy was sort of from the Mackay area, too. We competed, I think, in the hundred meter and long jump and the high jump I think as well.
Q. Under what age?
NICOLE PRATT: Under 12s, primary school championships.
Q. How did you go against her?
NICOLE PRATT: I think I lost. I think she had better legs (smiling).
Q. Question on yesterday's doubles. Standing on one side of the net, seeing someone so old and so young on the other side, how was that?
NICOLE PRATT: It's inspiring I guess to see Martina on the other side of the court still out there. She loves the game. She really, really loves the game. And I can relate to that. I mean, the only reason sort of probably why I'm out playing, as well, is I love the game, I love to be competitive, I love every aspect of it. You know, you still see with Martina today, she's still working on her fitness, she's still working on her game. She's even said she's a better player now than she was 10 years ago - probably just hasn't got the same legs. But, yeah, I mean, it's great. The women's game is such a contrast. We have the young players, we have the older players, players still maturing like myself. You know, it's a great mix.
Q. Australian women tennis players have been criticized a bit in the last five years. Do you think that's fair?
NICOLE PRATT: I think some of it's been justified. We haven't had players probably in the past five years -- maybe not five years, but probably past five to ten really step up. But it's also difficult, too. You are out there, you're doing the best you can. You know, we don't have a Lleyton Hewitt, a No. 1 player in the world, who has just done amazingly. But all you can do, you know -- I think what's happening now is we're really coming together as a team, as a group, and we're pushing each other along. The more we all start doing well, then we're all going to push each other to get better and better and better. In turn, we'll have better results. I don't think it should be too often now that we aren't doing well because I think we're getting back to where we need to be.
Q. Collectively the Australian women players have been hurt, feeling despondent about that criticism, given you're probably working as hard as you can?
NICOLE PRATT: Like I said, I think before having the camp situation where a certain amount of money has been invested in putting on a camp, having the best players in Australia come together, you know, it's a belief. People out there are saying, "We believe in you, we're going to give you this opportunity so you can be in the best possible shape you can be in going into the Australian summer." Things like that really make a difference. I think there's more positive energy coming from Tennis Australia. We've had Evonne Goolagong -- Evonne Cawley, sorry, as Fed Cup captain. They're all little added things that you have people constantly around you saying, "We believe in your ability, we believe you can get better." Then it just transpires through the players. I think it's definitely improving.
Q. Being the first in 10 years, what is the actual feeling, you're doing something that hasn't been done for a decade?
NICOLE PRATT: Oh, it's just personally like really rewarding. I mean, I've been working really, really hard. I guess, you know, I believed probably the last couple years I was capable of a result like this, but also I want to do better. Yeah, I'm happy. Put it that way.
Q. You can set your sights on Venus now?
NICOLE PRATT: Yes. I've just been taking it one match at a time, kind of knew that Venus was there as a fourth-round opponent. It's exciting. I've got nothing to lose. I'll go out there and enjoy it.
Q. Have you heard from the crew in Mackay over the last couple days?
NICOLE PRATT: I think they've been trying to get hold of me. No, I've got friends, obviously, and family up there that have been calling me, wishing me luck. It's always great.
Q. What about your role as a mentor to other players? Samantha Stosur, she won a couple matches.
NICOLE PRATT: I haven't spent much time with Sam, other than sort of walking by and saying, "Congratulations, go out there, enjoy your next match," things like that. I think my mentoring comes from being a role model. I've sort of been there, hard working for the last three, four years. You know, I've always been the last five years probably one of the fittest Australian players. I think that's how I feel like I can lead by example. I know the girls respect me, respect my opinion on different things. It's satisfying that I can play that role for the younger Australian players.
Q. Do you feel like that could be your greatest legacy, you might help others break through?
NICOLE PRATT: I'd love for any young player to say I have been an inspiration for them. It doesn't matter what age you are, whether you're 17 or 25, they can all say, "Look at Pratty, she's fit, she's 29 years of age, she's having her best year, and she still loves it, she still wants it." I know if I had that attitude around me then, I'd be inspired to do well, I'd be really excited about what I do for a living. I mean, we have a great job. It's about getting the job done. Hopefully, you know, in five years' time it will be said that I did turn things around.
Q. You said that you hadn't always got the support or recognition that you would have liked. For instance, you weren't picked for the Hopman Cup, which you've talked about. Despite all the work you've done, how much was your motivation to show people that you could do it and you were the Australian No. 1?
NICOLE PRATT: Oh, I don't think that was a huge motivation for doing well. I put in the hard work. For me, I wanted to do well for me and the people around me that have helped me get there. Certainly at the time it was very disappointing not to play. You know, I think I've picked myself up really well. Yeah, I don't know, just trying to put that behind me, I think.
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