January 30, 2004
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Martina.
Q. How do you rate the final to come? Do you see in Clijsters/Henin...
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You mean the women's final?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I thought you were going to ask me about the mixed doubles. What a surprise, a Belgian asking about the Belgian final.
Q. Do you see it evolving into a classic rivalry like we've had in the past?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, we could. It's too early for that. But hopefully that will happen. But for that to happen, Kim needs to win a few of those finals in the Grand Slams. So far, Justine has had the upper hand. But it certainly has all the makings of the contrasts and a great rivalry between two fantastic players. The fact that they're coming from Belgium, it's sort of a footnote. For you guys it's a big deal. But tennis players -- it's like McEnroe asked Safin yesterday if he doesn't like Americans because he beats Americans. You do not ever think about where somebody is from when you're playing them. Maybe when a Belgian plays another Belgian, but it gets old, too. So it's just another match. And the rivalry definitely is potentially a great one.
Q. Do you think the more they play each other, the less relevant or the less important becomes their nationality?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah. Everything becomes less relevant when you play each other more. Then it's just one-on-one, as it should be. So the more you're familiar with something, the less the unusual situation becomes relevant, just like with Serena and Venus playing each other in the finals. First time it was a huge deal, then it diminished every time. You become familiar with what's going to happen on the court and off the court. And that's the way it should be. It should just be a great match between two great players. You know, where you come from is really irrelevant.
Q. Do you think Justine and Kim have brought something new into tennis, and do you think they can still dominate women's tennis for a long time?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You know, any time anybody gets to No. 1, people talk about domination. So it's really funny. When Steffi started winning everything, "She's going to be dominating." Well, it turns out she did. But usually, you know, Davenport was No. 1, then she's going to dominate; Hingis, she's going to dominate. It's too soon to talk about that. Let just say they're No. 1 and 2 right now. The tennis world, I think, still feels that it's because Serena and Venus aren't here. Venus was here, but wasn't quite up to task. Serena still hasn't played since Wimbledon. So, you know, when somebody loses the ranking because of injury, you don't feel like somebody really earned it. So until Serena comes back and then she gets beaten, then you can talk about domination. But people are talking about domination, and it happened too soon. Yeah, Serena and Venus were winning everything. Now they're not playing. Now Kim and Justine are winning everything. But the fascinating time will be when Serena and Venus both are in full force and playing, then we got four heavyweights going at it instead of two right now.
Q. What do you think is the most fascinating, a Williams final or a Belgian final?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Great tennis, that's what I'm looking for. You know, Safin, Agassi, I don't care where they're from, they played great tennis. Federer, Ferrero, hopefully we'll see another great match tonight and a great final. I said the ball doesn't know how old you are, the ball certainly doesn't know where you're from when it's getting whacked. I think any time you have a contrast, it's better than if you have the same. I think it's better to have one of the Williams sisters playing a Belgian. But bottom line is, if you have a great match, it doesn't matter. So we'll just hope for a great match and let the better woman win.
Q. You've spoken about the No. 1 position. Justine Henin told a lot about the stress of being No. 1. You don't hear the men complaining about it. Is it maybe the women's tennis, the mental side is a little bit more fragile?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Wasn't it Wilander that said he didn't want to be No. 1?
Q. I think so.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Thank you. Asked and answered. So, no, it's not a woman's thing. You never heard me complaining. You never heard Chris Evert complaining. You never heard anybody complaining. I don't think Justine is complaining. Yeah, there's stress about being No. 1. Everybody wants to beat you. You know, you can't win. You can only lose. So you can only protect what you have, but you can't go any higher. But I've not heard anybody really -- I've not heard any women complaining about it. So to make it a woman thing or a man thing is a pretty sexist suggestion.
Q. How did you cope with being No. 1?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I liked that better than the option, which was being No. 2 or something else. It's very simple. You know, you don't ever go and say, "I want to be No. 2, I want to be No. 3." For some players, the goal is getting in the Top 10, the Top 20, whatever. Some players know no matter how hard they work, they can never be better than 45, whatever. So that's okay. But when you know you have the goods to be No. 1, then that's what you want. You don't start losing just so you can get back up again. King of the mountain, that's where you want to be.
Q. Can you talk about your mixed doubles match?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Thank you.
Q. You said on court that this is your last year. Leander has said that he'd be quite happy to partner for as long as you want to go on for. Have you really made up your mind that this is your last year, or is there something that might change it for you again?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I don't think so, no. There is nothing that can change my mind. I'm very happy with my decision, just like I was when I quit playing singles. You know, I'm doing everything the right way this year, really putting a total commitment to it. Hopefully, it will be a great year. If I keep playing like I did today and play the way I know I can, it will be a great year. It's a nice way to go out. You know, I'll be back here again doing TV hopefully or other things. I'll stay in the game, but I will not be hitting the ball anymore. That's okay.
Q. Is there a project that you want to do once you left the game, other than a media career?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think -- well, like I said, I'd love to do TV. I really enjoy it and it's fun. I think I'm getting better at it. But I would like to stay involved in the game on the political side. If I can make a difference there, there are some things that need to be changed on the tour. And if I can be a part of that, then that's what I will do, yeah.
Q. How close is Leander to his last year performance after the illness?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: The first match he played unbelievable tennis. I was a spectator really. Then I decided to get a little more involved the last two matches and take some more shots down the middle. But I think he's right up there. I mean, he doesn't feel it on the backhand quite yet, but everything else. He's moving great. His intensity is phenomenal. You know, he wants it. I mean, his heart -- he's got a big heart, and that's how he plays. So I'd say he's right up there.
Q. Would you be happier if they included mixed doubles in the Olympic program?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, I don't think that's in the books. And I couldn't play with him anyway. I don't know why they didn't think about putting mixed doubles in the Olympics. Here it's just a tiebreak in the last set; I think that's a mistake. Hopefully they will change that back to normal because might as well flip a coin. Juniors are playing two out of three sets, they're playing the third set out. Here we have a tiebreak in the last set. Doesn't really make much sense. They do it at the US Open, as well, and it shouldn't be. But it's nice to play the mixed doubles. I think the crowd enjoys it. It's a nice contrast between the men and women. Maybe one day it will be in the Olympics, as well. But by then, I won't be around.
Q. What about the Fed Cup captaincy?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: What about it?
Q. Are you interested?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Of course. That's a natural for me. I was just waiting for Billie Jean to stop. She quit. She's now the coach, and Zina Garrison is the captain. So if I'm offered the job, of course I'd love to have it. But, you know, I'm just playing this year. I hope to get picked for the team. Playing against Slovenia in April. I'd love to play again. It's really a fun experience. So if I can play, great. If not, then I hope to get the captaincy one of these days. Yeah, of course, I'm interested.
Q. What about Serena, have you heard what she's doing?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I have no idea.
Q. When she's coming back?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I have no idea, no.
Q. In order to have a classic rivalry, you need probably complementary personalities, styles of game. Do you think that's the case for Clijsters and Henin?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: "Complementary," you mean contrasting?
Q. Yes, contrasting.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah. That makes for a better rivalry. If two people play exactly the same way, that's why Austin and Evert was never a classic rivalry, because they were like mirror images of one another. So, yeah, because obviously there are some differences in their personalities and their styles, how they approach the game, how they play the game, how they play the points and all that stuff. So the contrast is there, yeah. And I think that's, again, another thing that's missing with Venus and Serena because they play so much like one another. It would be, to me -- the fact that they're sisters is not that big a deal anymore because they've done it. But what's missing in that rivalry is the contrast in styles. So the Belgians have it. And they speak two different languages on top of that - from the same country. They couldn't talk to each other.
Q. Now they can.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Now they can, yeah.
Q. But Justine is still a bit shy in English, perhaps maybe because she doesn't have the same vocabulary as Kim has. How do you see her personality evolve in the next few years, as we know her now?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I have no idea. I mean, her English is just fine. It will be interesting. Again, the biggest thing will be when the Williams sisters come back in full force. That's when I'm looking forward to. You know, the time passes you by. The longer you're away, the women are catching up. And there's no question they're playing better tennis now than they did a year ago or two years ago. So it will be great to see that pick up again. But where Justine's personality will evolve, who knows. Only she knows. She might not even know. I don't know that. I don't know what I'll be doing two years from now.
Q. A few years ago we talked about age eligibility rules. Then Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova, seems like they're not going to play tennis anymore. Well, Hingis has announced that. Anna Kournikova. What is your opinion on that? The age eligibility rule failed?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I think it still is a good tool to slow things down a little bit. It's not a solution, a complete solution, because the bottom line is still the parents, how they treat their kids and how much they push them and how much they want them to play. But I think overall the rule is a good one. And I think it helps to slow down the process of people trying to be really, really good at an early age. So, you know, I would keep it as is, maybe bump it up a couple tournaments when you're 16 and 17. But I think overall it's a must, and I think we would have a lot more problems if we didn't have it in place than we've had already. Hingis might have had the same problems if she started playing later. Kournikova, I don't know what her training regimen was and all that stuff, yeah.
Q. Now talking about men's tennis. What is your favorite player?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Oh, Roger. I love to watch him play. I've been keeping my fingers crossed for him this tournament. He's done great. He's so much fun to watch. You know, just a little artist. And I like his demeanor, as well. He's just very -- what you see is what you get. Marat Safin, I've been -- we put a little bet with my team, and I picked him to beat Roddick and I picked him to beat Agassi. So I'm looking good on the overall pool. Play for a T-shirt. I'm going have a new T-shirt after this. But Marat, what an inspirational story. Those two guys, I love to watch. So I'm pulling for that final.
Q. If you talk about the Athens Olympics. Are you determined to come after that? I read in some articles you are thinking of going into politics.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Okay, what I said that I would go into politics one day. The next thing I know it said, "Next year." Things got lost in translation. I did a press conference in Germany. Next thing I know, people are calling me, they heard I'm running for governor next year (laughter). Things got a little out of whack there, as usual. No. I just said "one day." And one day I might very well get involved in politics. First, I think if I do get involved in the political arena, it will be on the tennis scene first and get my feet wet there. I know a lot more about tennis than I do about the rest the world. If I can make my contribution somewhere there, I'd be happy to do that.
Q. You've been so good at predicting so far, you can't go without predicting the Marat/Roger final.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I went with Roger the whole way. So, yeah, I picked Roger the whole way. But Marat played awesome tennis yesterday. It would be hard to beat.
Q. Nenad Zimonjic and Bovina in mixed final. Have you played against him?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I know him. I haven't really seen him play that much. It was actually funny because he came to me in Sydney. He said, "I think somebody's pulling my leg because they're texting me pretending me that they're you, asking me to play mixed doubles with you." I said, "No, that wasn't me. I haven't heard from Leander, but I'm sure he'll be fine. Maybe if Leander is not around, maybe we can hook up." Now we end up playing each other. I know Nenad, and I've played Bovina in doubles a few times. I know what to expect there. Leander knows Zimonjic pretty well. We'll have him scouted out.
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