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June 21, 2004

Martina Navratilova


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please, for Martina.

Q. How does it feel? Why did you lose a game (smiling)?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, you know, it's nice when the biggest applause is when my opponent wins one game. I've done that many times. Just let up a little bit. She started playing better at the end and I had to play better, so that was good. It's nice to be pushed a little bit at the end. But, you know, she's a better clay court player and I'm a better grass court player.

Q. Did you in your own mind have any doubts that you could come out here and be competitive?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No. I told you that in Paris. You guys didn't believe me (smiling). Now do you believe me?

Q. Now.


Q. What would you like to say to the people that said you shouldn't be taking a wildcard from players?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Are they still saying it? I don't think so.

Q. Are we allowed to remind you you're now the oldest player ever to have won a singles match here since Open Wimbledon, which is quite an achievement, isn't it?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, that's what I live for, you know, breaking all kinds of records (laughter). Not! I've told you before, my only ambition was to be the youngest, it wasn't to be the oldest in something. But that's how it worked out so I'm not complaining. Somebody's got to hold the record.

Q. How does it feel to come back here and still get a reception? You've been here a lot of times in doubles, but in singles.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's not any different for singles or the doubles really. The people are happy to see me. I'm happy to be out there. Singles is just different for me playing, but the reception is the same. I'm sure some people are saying, "Why is she doing this?" Most people are saying, "It's great that she's doing it." That's for me to know why I'm doing it. And the reception, that's always been nice. It's just grown over the years and it's nice to be appreciated and they know I appreciate them. I've been saying this all along, playing tennis is for the fans, it's not for anyone else. It's for the people to enjoy it. Of course, for the players to enjoy it. If we don't enjoy, that's a be problem. It's a game. People forget that. This is a game. People take it too seriously. I never have and I never will.

Q. You enjoyed it out there?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Sure. Yes, I did. I very much did. I mean, I'm focused, I'm concentrating. Never really relax. I think I relaxed when it was 6-Love, 5-Love. That's when I finally relaxed - and that's what happens, I lose a game. It's great to be out there, great to have that opportunity. I think, you know, when people say, "Why are you doing it?" I guess the answer is, because I still can, bottom line.

Q. What would it mean to you to get back on centre and play singles?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Again, I've been there a few times now with the mixed and doubles - you know, singles on centre or doubles on centre. I mean, after winning last year, you know, that's as good an experience as I've ever had there. I don't know if I could top that. Well, this year.

Q. Do you remember your first match here in '73 against Christine? Do you remember?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Sure. Her daughter is playing Sugi right now.

Q. What was your match with her like?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Tight. I had a tight dress (laughter). I got a dress from Fred Perry at the French Open, they give you stuff, Lacoste gives you stuff. Fred Perry gave us some gear. Coming from Czechoslovakia, that was amazing. I was just happy to get anything I could play tennis in. Made the mistake of wearing a dress for the first time for the match. I was a bit chubby, as you know. And the dress was not the right size. I didn't fall out of it like Linda, but it was itchy. It was itchy. So I was just glad to get off the court. Never wore that dress again.

Q. Had you ever played on grass before that year?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No. That was my first match on grass. Just practiced on it. But it felt like home right away.

Q. Are there certain things you do every time you come to Wimbledon? Do you stay in the same house?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Can't afford it (laughter). Can't afford the same house anymore. It's gone up. No, I don't do everything the same way. I always drive myself. That's about the only thing that's stayed constant. Once I started driving here in '76, I've always driven myself. And since '81, I've stayed at Wimbledon - most years in that same house. But those people don't really want to rent it anymore because they've got too many kids. It's the second owners. And the other houses, I mean, it really has gotten astronomically expensive here for the players. And it's a shame that people like Tennis London make a living off the players. I can understand sticking it to the tourists, but not to the players. You know, I tried to rent one place, 1300 pounds. Before I could sign the contract, the people gave it to Tennis London and the price went up to 300 pounds a week.

Q. Were you as tight of nerves as you were with the dress?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Not at all. Back then?

Q. Back then.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: There were no nerves, no. I mean, I keep saying this over and over. They keep saying how it's amazing when the youngsters handle the pressure. Wayne Rooney, oh, it's amazing how he handles the pressure. Whoever on the Centre Court. You're just so excited to be there, there's no pressure. My first Wimbledon, there was no pressure, first Wimbledon final. I mean, that was a dream come true. It was a thrill to be there. You know, the older you get, the worse it gets. I was much more nervous today than I was for that first one then, but, you know, I wasn't tight.

Q. Do you know what court you played on?


Q. Can you remind us why you left the singles in 1994? Does this make you wish you would have played any more?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No. I had enough at that point. Really, this playing singles is a by-product of me still playing so much more than I thought I would, really enjoying it much more than I thought it would. Again, I'll say this. If I wasn't around doing the TV, I never would have played again. But being around, you know, it just made me -- I got that itch again. And I had plenty of time away from tennis and I was very busy doing all kinds of things, that it was nice to just sort of do it because I was here. But it just grew. I have no regrets. No, I'm happy to be here, and that's it.

Q. Is anyone sponsoring you with your gear or are you buying your own gear these days?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: This is Under Armour stuff. Maybe there will be a deal eventually. I'm not getting paid by anybody at the moment, but they give me good stuff. I'm sure that something will happen. I don't care. It doesn't matter.

Q. I saw you shaking your head after the first set, the 6-Love. Why was that?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I have no idea. I don't know what was going through my head. I would have to see it on TV. I might remember what I was thinking about. But it wasn't disbelief, you know, because this girl lost to Molik 0-0 in Eastbourne. But that was her first moment on grass. She had just played a clay court tournament, so I figured she would play better than she did last week. But, you know, I had a lot of practice. I played five singles matches last week, which equals my output for the last 10 years. So I'm match tough (smiling). I don't know why I was shaking my head. I was just happy to be there.

Q. What about the quality of your play today? You seemed to be firing on all cylinders?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It was okay. You can only play as well as your opponent. She didn't really push me till the end. I had to play better at the end to finish it off. But I didn't have to do anything spectacular today. Just played solid tennis. I'm looking at my stats here. First serve, 72%, it's a good match overall.

Q. What message do you think your enjoyment and your success sends to some of the older players on the tour and also fans who are inspired by an older player doing what you're doing?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's not about age. It never should be. And I think the message that I would always like to send, old or young, is just enjoy what you're doing, regardless of what it is. If you don't enjoy playing tennis, go do something else. I give that message in my speeches to corporate executives. If you really don't love what you're doing, do something else, unless you absolutely have to pay the mortgage and you need a year or two to make some money. But do something that you love. That way there are no regrets. I loved playing when I was playing. I loved not playing when I was doing other things. Now I love playing again. So the message is, do what you love and love what you do, and everything else is details.

Q. We were discussing your match. Do you have an advantage in a sense that you play serve and volley, and who plays serve and volley anymore? Who knows how to play on grass anymore? Everybody is a baseliner these days. Do you think that gives you an advantage, despite your age or if you're slower or less powerful? Do you have that advantage, a strategic advantage?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Speaking of power, I have an advantage because I know how to play on grass, period. I know how to play tennis, that's an advantage. But I've been doing it for a long time. I have advantages on many fronts just because I've been doing it for a long time and I'm a better athlete than most. Everything's an advantage. I'm a lefty. That's an advantage. I'm smart. That's an advantage. I have a lot of advantages, and I put it to good use. But the speed, I was noticing the speed gun, and I think it's too fast, because I have not been serving that hard. I mean, I hit some serves that were like 105, 106. I know they were harder than 100, but I think the speed gun is a little fast, should we say, which is fine. That makes my serve faster. But I know she was hitting some serves that showed 100, 101. It just didn't feel that fast. I don't think that speed gun is that accurate. But advantage, of course I have an advantage.

Q. Who do you look at at the draw and think should be serving and volleying and probably would have incredible results if they were among the top players?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I think you need to practice it all the time, not just show up on grass and think it's going to work. You need to -- it's that first volley that flummoxes people. It's easy to hit the volleys once you've set up at the net, but it's that first volley when you're on the service line or even a little bit behind it, and you're moving, and you have to hit that accurate volley to get set up for the second shot. And people just don't practice it, so they're not capable of doing it, whether on grass or not. It's like Lendl when he tried to do it here, but he never played that way the rest of the year. It ain't going to work. There are a lot of people that are capable of it. Certainly on, you know, a 50% basis that they could serve and volley 50% of the time, stay back 50% of the time. There's nothing wrong with that. I think most of the players in the Top 10 can do that. Lisa Raymond does it a lot more on the grass than she does the rest of the year. She still doesn't trust her net game enough. Of course, the Williams sisters could do it a lot more than they're doing. Justine. Even Kim. But they're playing doubles. When they are playing doubles, if you don't practice it then, when are you going to practice it? You have to practice it in order to be able to do it in a match. Mauresmo, but she plays too tall. She needs to get down lower. You need to have that knee bend to put on the brakes and hit the low ball. There's a bunch of them that can do it, they just don't trust it.

Q. Have there been any players who have approached you to ask about serve and volleying?


Q. What do you think of that? Does that surprise you that people wouldn't tap into your expertise?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yes. But maybe they will one day. I'm planning on doing a tennis academy, get started on that next year, because I really still feel that the academies that are there, they're still not teaching a complete tennis. They're still really concentrating on the groundstrokes. Now they're getting better on the serve, but they're still not teaching complete tennis. And nobody teaches strategy, how to play the points. It's all about technique and hitting the ball, but not how to set up the point. And there's so much to that. It's not just how hard you hit it, it's where you place it. Hitting it deep all the time is not necessarily the way to go. They're not using the whole court and they're not playing points right. I will pass on this knowledge, as I promised Billie Jean King way back. And so I think an academy is the way to go and I'm sure they'll start coming.

Q. When you came off court, you said, "Now do you think I can make a living?"

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That was Bud Collins. He asked me at the French Open if I thought I could make a living. I said, "Yes, I made $400,000 last year." He said, "But in singles?" Yes, I think I could make a living.

Q. Do you still need to play tennis?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: God, no, no. I'm losing money by playing. Do you know how much it costs to travel? You know, you got your coach. You know, you got two or three people traveling with you. You got to pay their salary, their expenses, hotels. You know, I get lucky. Now I get my hotel paid. The rest you have to pay for everything. The overhead is phenomenal. No, I'm not playing tennis to make money.

Q. When Martina Hingis retired at such an early age, what were your reflections? Did you have any sadness?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yes, absolutely. Just because, I mean, it's a selfish reaction and pathetic reaction. I mean, I wish she was still playing. I think she would want to play if she could. It's always sad when the body forces an athlete to quit before their prime, and that's been the case with her. That's been the case with a few of our top players. And selfishly, I loved watching her play. You know, she played tennis like nobody else did really. And so it was fun to watch her. And it's too bad that the body wouldn't let her keep playing. You know, we've been robbed with Monica and Tracy Austin, Andrea Jaeger, now Martina. It's sad.

Q. Have you allowed yourself to look at the draw?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I know who my next-round opponent it. That could be interesting. It's funny. We talked about it at the French, would I like to get Dulko on the grass? It will be a much tougher match obviously, but I'll be ready. I'll go scout and see what happens, see what I can figure out. This girl I've never seen play before, so actually I went yesterday when she was practicing and watched her hit for 10 minutes, just to see how she hits the ball, because it's really unnerving to go on the court not ever having seen your opponent play. But with these two, at least I know how they play. You know, if ever I said "one match at a time," this is definitely true (laughter). I'm not looking anywhere else.

Q. Back to the academy idea. Would you consider setting it up in England or Europe?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, I think because of the weather, I would do it in Florida, because that's where I live. You could bring the kids over there. I think the LTA has a lot of money. I'm not sure where they're using it, using the money, putting it. But I think they can run their program a little better. There seems to be some gaps between you get to a certain level and then you're sort of stuck getting any help anymore. I know a little bit about how the system works here. So I might be contacting the LTA and saying, "Hey, I got a program going." See if we can get some British players out there and get them to play the game like they can. I mean, you have the athletes here, just not tapping them.

Q. Did it seem like old times because your opponent got the loudest ovation?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That's why I went like this. When it was 6-Love, 5-Love, she wins a game. This definitely is a de'ja vu. That was sweet. I said, this is sweet, especially after the French when I got a big ovation when I finally won a game. Now it was a turnaround. That was sweet. I was glad she won the game, by the way.

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