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August 17, 2005

Martina Navratilova


THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. I know you're a big hockey fan. Hockey players generally get three months off a year. In the context of all of the injuries to the top women's tennis players, would it make sense for women's tennis to have a three-month break at some point?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Not just women's tennis; tennis, period. It doesn't make sense. It is essential. They have got to change the calendar. I don't know what it's going to take for that to happen, but it has to happen. I've been talking about that for 20 years now. It's not anything new. It's not a surprise. We should have had the off-season long ago, even before injuries became such a big part of the game. It's not acceptable to have that many top players not being able to get well and stay well.

Q. Do you see anything different in the training, what players are doing? Is it more hard-court training?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, there's a lot of reasons for it. I've been talking about -- I should just get a printout, give it to you guys.

Q. There are so many injury pull-outs.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's a combination. It's playing at an earlier age on more hard courts, but particularly now we have a majority of the tournaments are on hard courts. We used to be -- we had a lot more tournaments on grass, about the same on clay, and indoors was on carpet. We played hard courts maybe four tournaments a year. Now you end up playing, out of 20 tournaments, you probably play 12 on hard courts, maybe six on clay, one on grass and two on something else. The ratio has changed greatly. People hit the ball harder. I think the players are taller. There is a lot more (levers?), a lot more pressure on the joints. They're more bound to get injured than the shorter players. There's just that much more pounding on the long limbs than the shorter bodies. Everybody generates a lot more speed as they're hitting the ball. The stroke production is much different than what it was. But biggest culprit still I think is not having the off-season, not having the time to regenerate, recover, rest, get back in shape, get ready for a year. I mean, you know, the last few years on the tour, I didn't play the Australian Open because I just needed -- that was my off-season. I made it. You shouldn't have to forego a Grand Slam to get enough of a break so that you can recover and get healthy. And also the way the computer ranking is set up is for really quantity. It encourages you to play. You feel like you're losing out if you don't play. As a result, a lot of players are playing at 80% most of the year. There's always something niggling. You just don't get well. They don't want to lose out by not playing.

Q. When you say to the top tour officials things like there should be an off-season, what kind of reaction do you get?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's not top tour officials, it's the tour. It's the tournament directors that have got to get a clue. If they want a field of top players, then they need to give them a break so they can stay healthy enough to play all these events. It does no good to anybody for people to be pulling out just before the tournament starts or - even worse - during a tournament, day before. I pulled out I think three times during a tournament and about three times before a tournament in my whole career. That's probably, you know, 500 tournaments or something. I mean, it's less than once a year. Now it's four, five, six tournaments a year these top players are pulling out, or more. That's a shame. That's not because they want to. I mean, they show up; they try to play; they're pushing it. You can't play at 70% and try to win. But I never -- I didn't. I wouldn't have played at 70%. It's not worth it. The tournament directors have got to just say, "Okay, we've got to create an off-season." Somebody's going to suffer. It can be done. The whole calendar needs to be revamped. They're doing it one tournament at a time. That's not good enough.

Q. Can you talk about selecting your doubles partners. I know you've played with some of the younger players. What do you see of them coming up, how you kind of make that selection, or if it's mutual?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's always mutual. But you just try to see how your games would match up, you know, if you like each other, if you get along, whatever, if you know each other a little bit. But most of all, it's about -- well, number one, whether you like each other, that's a given, and then how your games would match up. Hopefully I can do something for Anna-Lena, she can do something for me. I'll help her out; she'll help me out. It better be a symbiotic relationship or it's not going to work.

Q. Do you also find yourself getting into a mentoring role on the court?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I do that whether I want to or not. If I'm walking by a court and I see a player doing something, you know, I just have to say something. I can't stand it. I've always been that way. I've always been that way. I think they appreciate it. Here and there I have players asking me particular questions. It's so sweet. There was one player that I hit with in San Diego. She was asking me -- I was starting to help her. After practice she asked me something else about her serve. So I told her. And then, you know, two hours later I saw her practicing what I told her to do. It was like, "Okay, she's getting it." I haven't seen her since. I don't know if it's working. Hopefully it's helped (laughter). But it's nice to be able to pass on the knowledge, obviously. Yeah, I mean, I end up being a mentor more than probably I bargained for, but that's okay, I enjoy it.

Q. I'm sure you're probably aware on the men's tour a lot of the doubles specialists are feeling very unhappy about the new rules. Being obviously now a very outstanding doubles player, how do you feel about what's happening with the men's tour?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Absolutely wrong. Absolutely wrong for the game overall. I mean, changing the format and doing different scoring, I don't have a problem with that. Okay, you're doing an experiment, and that might be a good thing. Maybe we should do that in singles, too, play three out of five, not two out of three so you have more opportunities for set points. People really don't get excited until it gets like 4-3 in the set. Now it starts getting tight. If you have a set to four, 2-All, it's already happening, or even before. I don't have a problem with that. But when I saw they're planning on phasing out the doubles specialists completely and you have to play singles in order to play doubles, it's absolutely ridiculous, it's wrong. There are players that cannot win on the singles tour, but they're better doubles players than a player ranked 10 in the singles. They should have a right to play because they're good enough to play. I'm not talking about somebody ranked a hundred in the doubles. They don't draw flies. They don't draw anybody to come and watch them play. Fair enough. But the top 30, 40, 50 guys, absolutely, because they're better doubles players than the singles players and they're putting it on the line. You know, it's good for the game. Most people in the club play doubles, they don't play singles. A great majority. You see the crowd stays on and watches doubles. You know, if money is the bottom line, then you're definitely making the wrong choice, definitely. I mean, the tournament directors, I'd like to see the books. I'd like to see how much money they make before they say, "We're so (indiscernible), we can't afford to have the doubles players." Let me see your books. Let me see how much you make off the tournament. How much does it really cost you? Are you losing money? If you're losing money, get out of the business, don't change the game. Put the tournament on someplace else. Maybe you shouldn't have so many tournaments on the men's tour. Maybe that's the key. But to cut out doubles because of the bottom line, that's completely wrong. Hurts the game.

Q. Just wanted to hear your impression of Svetlana Kuznetsova. Since she won The Open last year, struggling to win a tournament, more consistent in the Grand Slams. What does she need to do?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: She just needs to calm down. I think she's feeling the pressure a little bit. You know, it's a different situation for her to be in. All of a sudden everybody wants to play well when they play against her. You know, she lost a few matches. I think what was working for her, when it doesn't work, she's like -- she's a bit stubborn. So needs to sort of go to Plan B. But she's like, "I'm going to keep hitting it hard, it's going to work." She knows what she needs to do. I'm sure she'll manage. But for now it's a new situation for her, new experience. It's a good one. She'll be able to cope. There's no question. She's got a good head on her shoulders. Yeah, she's a little bull, a little bull. Reminds me of me when... She's so strong.

Q. Can I ask you about seeing the ball. I couldn't help but notice on the match today you saw every ball out that was out, quickest hands on the court. How is it you're able to do it? I'm the same age as you and I can't see anything. You're making every volley. How are your eyes different than they were 30 years ago?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: They're not. They're not different. They're the same. I can still see. I mean, I can't read any more. Over here they're not the same last two or three years. I'm struggling to read the menus these days, but the ball moving, that's okay. And I wear glasses, but it's astigmatism. I don't have nearsighted or farsighted problem. I don't wear glasses any other time. It's only when I'm moving forward and the ball's moving against me that I need that extra sharpness with the glasses. But I'm seeing the ball as well as I ever did, yeah. I think they stay. It's just you need to practice it. It's a reflex. Like anything else, if you practice it... If I don't play for a while, it takes a while to get the eyes back as well as the arm.

Q. Given that eyesight, is there any way you could be recruited for the singles draw at the last minute? I think they have some openings.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, they don't. And, no, courts are too slow for me these days. It's too rough.

Q. You were talking about mentoring some of the younger players. I wanted to know if you had a chance of looking at either Aleksandra Wozniak or Sharon Fichman from Canada?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Haven't seen them play at all. In fact, I was watching the warm-up, Wozniak was playing, then I switched the channels and went to sleep, I think. No, I did not see her play. I did see the other young girl who was in the ProAm. She has a ponytail, dark hair. I don't know her name. She was a good player. I think she's the next hope. She's like 16, she's still young. But I'd have to look at the thing to see what her name was. She's a good player. I saw her play. This girl gets everything back, she's at the right place at the right time, uses the right shots. There's a talent. If she'd be a little bit taller. She needs to grow a little bit more. Now everybody is so big. It's a real disadvantage to be a Justine Henin unless you have an amazing talent like she does. It's really hard work.

Q. It's 15 months until you turn 50.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Are you counting? I'm not counting.

Q. Two years from now is it possible you'll still be playing?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's actually 14 months. It's October 18th if you really want to be that precise. Well, I'll get discounts with AARP. That has some advantages, I guess. I get travel discounts. I don't know what else.

Q. You're still going to be playing?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I don't know. I think I'm playing better than I did two years ago, better than last year. I'm hitting the ball harder. I hit the serve 174. I don't know if you noticed. That I haven't done for -- well, for a long time, if ever. It's still there, yeah. But it's hard. It definitely gets harder when you get older. The biggest thing is it's like no matter how much I work out, the muscles are getting smaller. I feel like the shrinking woman. I see pictures. I'm like, "Whose legs are those? Those are not my legs. Look at these little sticks." We'll see. Keep going as long as I enjoy it, as long as I can hold my own, and as long as the fans enjoy it. They really keep me going at this point.

End of FastScripts….

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