August 26, 1997
FLUSHING MEADOWS, NEW YORK
VERONIQUE MARCHAL: Questions in length issue first for Mirjana Lucic.
Q. Were you very nervous?
MIRJANA LUCIC: No, not at all. I prepared very well for this tournament. I really have to say thanks to everybody who let me play this one, the tournament director and the USTA. I really appreciate it a lot. I really am very happy that I got a chance to show that I can play, and now I can play.
Q. Can you win this tournament?
MIRJANA LUCIC: That's a very strange question, I have to say. Well, I came here just to enjoy and really to try to play my best, to try to give the maximum in every match I play, to have fun.
Q. You've practiced with Martina quite a bit.
MIRJANA LUCIC: Yeah. I was at her house a couple times, and we practiced here yesterday. Martina is really a great person. It's very, very nice to practice with her.
Q. Are you able to take anything from the way she carries herself and apply to your own game, or really is it such an individual thing?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Yeah. I mean, you can always learn from anybody, especially from somebody like Martina who is No. 1 in the world. You can always learn something, yeah.
Q. Do you think you're at a disadvantage not being able to play a full schedule?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Yeah. Definitely. I can play only eight tournaments this year. As I said, I'm very happy that I can play the Grand Slam, even though I shouldn't. I mean, the rules said that I shouldn't play this year yet. I really think that the players who can play the tournaments, I think they really should have a chance to play.
Q. What do you mean? The ones who can that have the talent?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Yeah. I mean, I prove already with the tournaments I play, my ranking is very high for only four tournaments. I really think that I should get a chance.
Q. Have you had anybody come up to you and express displeasure that you were able to play here at any point?
MIRJANA LUCIC: I didn't really understand the question.
Q. Has anybody come up to you and complained to you about the fact that you were able to play?
MIRJANA LUCIC: No, not really. Nothing like that happened.
Q. Did you put added pressure on yourself to do well because of your circumstances?
MIRJANA LUCIC: No, not at all. I don't put any pressure on me never. Tennis is a very big part of my life and I really try to enjoy it every time I go on the court. I think that's the most important thing, that I really enjoy it. That I have fun.
Q. Is it a fun time to be on The Tour? Does there seem to be a lot of players close to your age? Do you think that makes it easier when you're traveling a lot?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Yeah. I mean, it's very nice, especially now. A lot of young players are coming, and they're really playing great. It's really nice. It's much fun.
Q. You play Rippner next. She's a little bit older than you. Have you ever played her before?
MIRJANA LUCIC: I played her like three years ago when I played my first ITF tournament. We had a very tough match. I remember I lost. But I haven't seen her really much after. But I definitely hope that it's going to be a nice match and that we both are going to enjoy it. We'll see what's going to happen.
Q. Do you remember where that match was, which tournament?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Not really. I just remember it was like three years ago, something like that.
Q. It was in Europe or in the US?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Yeah, in Europe.
Q. Did you think Kleinova was a little shaky today?
MIRJANA LUCIC: I don't think so. I really played well, so she really didn't have a chance to do nothing special with the ball. But she's very, very tough player. I played her a couple times before. We have had two very tough matches. She's a really tough player. If you want to play against her and beat her, you have to play very well.
Q. Would you have liked to come to the net a little bit more?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Actually, that's what I'm working a lot on my game now. I'm doing it pretty well. Maybe not today, I didn't really do it as much as I can. I'm working a lot on that. I'm very happy with when I'm doing it well.
Q. Is there anything about being on The Tour a lot that either worries or scares you at all? Is there anything that would feel uncomfortable about it?
MIRJANA LUCIC: No. There's nothing, nothing that makes me worry; nothing that I'm scared of. As I said, tennis is a very big part of me. It's a game. It's a very nice game. I travel always with my father and my sister sometimes. I have always a couple people around me. There's nothing.
Q. Have you talked much with Martina about The Tour and the fact that she's been on it, you know, for a couple years, really very young, any stuff that she likes or dislikes about The Tour? Do you guys talk about that much or not?
MIRJANA LUCIC: We talk really about everything. We talk a lot. We like to spend time together. We talk about all kinds of things, but there's nothing like that, nothing special.
Q. Do you remember the one service return you made in the first set? You hit it so hard, the crowd gasped. I wonder, do you think any other woman in the world could hit a ball that hard?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Well, it's very difficult to say. A lot of players are hitting the ball very hard. It's hard to say who hits harder. I don't know. It's a very tough question.
Q. Do you remember that particular shot?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Not really. I'm trying to think of it, but I can't remember. I think it was an inside-out forehand, cross-court.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about how you started in tennis. You were hiding out in the car while your older sister went to take lessons.
MIRJANA LUCIC: It's a very funny beginning when I think of it now. My father was really against it a little bit because my older sister, she played a lot. She practiced every day. I really wanted to go with her and to see how much fun she had. She would always come back very happy and she couldn't wait to go the next day. I wanted to see what's happening there. My father was working with my mom, so they really didn't have time to take me to tennis and back every day, me and my sister. So he was telling me to stay at home and have fun around the house. When he saw that I really don't give up, that I was hiding in the car, running out of the car when he wouldn't look at it, he was laughing. So it was kind of funny for him in the beginning. That's how. He just let me.
Q. How old were you?
MIRJANA LUCIC: I was four years old.
Q. How much older is your sister?
MIRJANA LUCIC: She's almost five years older.
Q. What is her name?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Anna.
Q. Were you running out of the car to play tennis or just to watch her?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Yeah. I was running out to play. I would take my father's racquet, which was huge, it was almost bigger than me. I mean, I couldn't come into the court, so I was playing with the balls around. It was fun.
Q. Speaking of Anna. Kournikova said yesterday on the age issue, she didn't think it was, I'm paraphrasing, but she didn't think it was fair basically for you to be allowed to play here because the rules should be applied equally to everybody. Have you heard that? What's your reaction?
MIRJANA LUCIC: No, I didn't hear that. I think I proved with the tournaments I played, my ranking is already high enough to get in the Grand Slams. I already proved that I can play tennis very good. I mean, I don't know what else to say. I think that the players, whoever is good, whoever is young and is good and can play, deserves to play. I think that they should let them play.
Q. You spoke about your father and mother working and couldn't take you. What jobs do they have?
MIRJANA LUCIC: They have a very good restaurant in Croatia.
Q. They both run the same restaurant?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Yeah.
Q. Did you say the name of it?
MIRJANA LUCIC: The name? Poseidon. I don't know what it's called in English, God of the sea.
Q. Poseidon in English. Who is your favorite player?
MIRJANA LUCIC: My favorite player since I started playing tennis was Steffi Graf. I really think. Also after I met her and after I played with her, I think she's a very great person. She's great. That's all I can say about her.
Q. But compared to you, she's really old?
MIRJANA LUCIC: I don't think she would like to hear that.
Q. Do you think you would play competitive tennis for that many years? I mean, are you just going to play until you don't play?
MIRJANA LUCIC: It's very difficult to say. I just started. This is just my fifth tournament. I'm going to do it as long as I enjoy it and as long as I have fun.
Q. Can you tell us something about your upbringing, where you were educated, how you learned to speak such good English?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Sorry?
Q. Can you tell us something about your upbringing, where you were educated, and how you've come to learn such good English.
MIRJANA LUCIC: In school, I started learning English when I was like 11. I was studying English for like two years. That was very little, that was just like twice a week, we had one lessons. But I learned a lot on the tournaments and away. I was in Texas a couple times two, three months practicing. So that's how I learned it.
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