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September 7, 2003

Martina Navratilova


THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. Martina, I wanted to ask you specifically about mixed doubles going forward. Have you talked to Leander? Do you think you'll be playing next year?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Planning on playing in Australia. Yeah, that's the plan. He's out of the hospital. It will be a while before he's to full strength, but definitely hoping to play in the Australian Open.

Q. How much do these losses hurt, when you have an opportunity like that?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, it was a great opportunity. We have to be thankful that we got there. We've been working all year to get better and better. It's hard to be disappointed with getting to the finals of the US Open. I think we're both disappointed we didn't play better tennis. They played well. Give them all the credit in the world. They played well. But we didn't create anything either. We could have played better. We should have played better. For me, I think, you know, I felt like a little kid, "Hey, I'm in a Grand Slam final." Then I played like a little kid. So it was not, you know, the best performance. It wasn't the worst either. Certainly, we could have played worse. But they made us look bad, but we also let them make us look bad. So if you look at the stats, I think they served very well in that first set. We couldn't get anything going. Ultimately, we only broke them -- only had a breakpoint when we broke them at 5-2 in the second. So normally we break serve a lot more than we did today. We just couldn't get to them on their serve. That was the biggest problem.

Q. What do you think, Svetlana?

SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Yeah, I'm agree with her. I mean, usually we hold our serve more times than we did today. I didn't serve well. And, well, we didn't play our game, which we were supposed to play. They played well. We could have do much, much more things. Was just not our day. We didn't play very well. We should do much more things to beat them.

Q. Martina, it's a wonderful, huge, over-sized stadium out there. Just theoretically speaking, if you could start all over again and build a US Open stadium, would you like to do that? And, if so, what changes would you make in that facility?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I'd have a roof. I'd have a roof, for sure. Probably two courts or maybe even three, make it playable in the rain. See, charging a whole lot of money for tickets, then people see 20 minutes, an hour, that's not good enough. The facilities here, the possibilities are here. So I'm sure we'll probably see a feasibility study for putting a roof over the stadium pretty soon from the USTA.

Q. The next time a huge stadium is built, do you think there's a way to get a more intimate feel?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I tell you, this stadium feels more intimate than Louis Armstrong, because it's more straight up. Louis Armstrong is this way. People are much further away. I don't like playing on -- now even, when they took off part of the stands, it's even worse. It really feels spread out. I like this stadium, it's a more intimate place than Louis Armstrong. Grandstand is fabulous. Everybody's really close. The key to having a great tennis facility is steeper stands. The Moody Coliseum in Dallas, Texas, fantastic seats. It seats about 8,000, 9,000 people. It's just straight up. When you're up there, but there's not a bad seat in the house because you're close to the action.

Q. The one-tiered side on the side of Roland Garros, does that help or not really?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: The one-tiered...? There's one like that. Yeah, obviously that helps because people are closer in and there's no obstructed views. The closer you can get people to the action, the better. I mean, here and way up there, they're a long way away. That's real diehards up there, you know. The tennis court looks like a postage stamp. It's pretty amazing. They say, "That ball was out! I saw it clearly!" You can actually see it from there. Yeah, it's good effort.

Q. Any sense of why today wasn't your day?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I think we were both a little overwhelmed getting to the finals. They've been there. This is their fourth final of a year in the Grand Slams. Obviously, they've been there many, many times and won it. For us, it's still a learning experience. I don't remember the last time I was in a woman's Grand Slam final, but it's been a while. Does anybody know?

Q. We're going to find out.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Some time in the 90s.

THE MODERATOR: Last time was '90 here.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Some time in the early '90s. I quit in '94. It's been at least 10 years since I've been in a final. It was -- I didn't have a good day. I didn't show the best tennis that I can play today. So I'm gonna have to keep coming back for more because I know I can play better than this. So, like I said, I felt like a little kid, "What an opportunity." Then I played like a little kid.

Q. Martina, today, it's fair to say, is an extraordinary day here with Billie Jean on site and Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors, Chrissy, perhaps others if I'm missing any. You certainly are in that same level of superstars of the sport, the true elite. How does it feel within you that you know that you're still playing - and, granted, some of those are older than you - but you were a superstar and then came back to keep on going, unlike any of the other superstars?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I don't know. I mean, maybe other sports people, people play at this age. I'm definitely blazing new paths on the tennis court. But, like I said, I always dreamt about being the youngest champion. I'm now the oldest. But that's okay. It's just nice to be in that group of people. You know, this sport has given me so much and I'm just trying to do my part, make sure that I give back. Some give more than others, you know. I hope I've done my share. I wish there were some that would do more for the sport, because it has given us an amazing life. You know, somebody said, "Well, you know, this guy was acting funny on the elevator. He was like you're famous." I'm like, "That wasn't a choice. I just play tennis, just happen to be famous." Tennis has given us so much, I just hope I do my share giving it back. It's nice to be in that group of people. One day I'll be on there after I quit. Right now, I'm still enjoying being out there on the court and doing my thing.

Q. Where would you like to see the WTA go in the next few years? Larry Scott has made some announcements about things they're doing. What goals would you like to see them achieve?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, good start would be putting on a Henin-Capriati match earlier than 10 o'clock at night. The greatest match I've seen in a long time. It's funny, we were just here discussing the 15 greatest matches of the last 30 years. I was like, "Make that 16."

THE MODERATOR: I think we're gonna do it.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: There were so few to see it and that was a shame. We had a great product. The game the women are playing is fantastic. They're great athletes, great competitors, great personalties, diverging backgrounds, etc., etc. We have the product. How you market it, that's another story. I think we're going in the right direction now, in more of the ability of the women rather than how they look, which is where the emphasis should be. And, you know, let the people see the product we have. But you got to get them -- somehow lure them out there. Another key is, of course, for Serena Williams and Venus Williams to play more. You've got to support the tour. So there you go. I don't want to get into everything that could be done.

Q. Are you happy at all that someone like Justine now - who has a real awkward game, has a whole range of shots - has been able to succeed?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yes, absolutely. It's great to see that kind of shot-maker be successful. You have to be a great athlete to do that. Again, I said I like the way she plays because she uses more of the court. Ultimately, ground stroke for ground stroke, she can match up with just about anybody. But then she's got an extra option. That's what I always said. That will be the next player. Not necessarily serve and volley, but somebody that can take the short ball, come in, use the whole court, do the drop volleys, do the dropshots, hit the short shot and come deep down the other way, use the whole court. She's doing that. She's the next dimension. Obviously, you have to be very good at it, but that's the next generation. I think she's the kind of player that can take it to Serena and Venus and make them do more instead of just relying on being fast and hitting the ball hard.

Q. Many felt that the Justine match with Jennifer was also intriguing in terms of who can close the deal here, who has the self-belief. It seemed that Jennifer's racquet speed, the speed of her stroke, the length of her stroke, was all coming down quite a bit at crunch time. I don't know, but can you talk about the art of closing matches and what you have to do under that excruciating pressure?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You have to be brave. You have to be willing to not take a chance, but swing even a little bit harder, if anything. Let -- you have to believe that you have it and let the body take over. I think Jennifer gets too much into her head and doesn't let the body take over. What I did see, which I haven't seen before she started in this tournament, I didn't notice it before, is hitting her forehand off the back foot a lot. Even when she is not pushed back, she pushes herself back. I haven't seen that before. She still hits it extremely well. But how much better would she be hitting it if her momentum was going forward instead of stuck back there? But 11 times within two points of winning the match, you don't get to a matchpoint, you know something's up. I don't care how great the other player is playing; you are allowing that to happen. Obviously, Jennifer's had a hard time closing the deal. As great as she played and as much as she can take from that, how hard she fought, but how hard did Henin fight? My goodness, that was the most amazing effort I think I've ever seen - man or woman on the court. To keep coming back, plugging in. She's cramping, having to hit, play different shots. But she made it happen. And then she comes back and wins the next day. I mean, that was just amazing.

Q. So how does a champion not get into the head --

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, you have to let the body go. You have to say, "Okay, be the ball." It sounds stupid but it works. You have to trust your body and trust your instincts and be brave. If you play careful, that doesn't work. I was careful in the first set. Second set, I finally started hitting. I was like, "This is ridiculous." But you have to just trust it, that it's there. And she didn't.

Q. Martina, you've seen in the US Open the last two weeks a change in the pecking order in women's tennis, th absence of the Williams sisters?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, it will be interesting to see. I hope that they play before the end of the year. It's such a great story with the two of them. Now there's obviously a big hole. I mean, you take away the top two guys in men's tennis, you have a problem. Agassi, Federer out of the tournament, it's like, "Whoa..." So it will be interesting to see what happens. I think Henin, of anybody, has the game and she has beaten both of them on clay and other surfaces.

Q. She's closed the gap?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: She's the closest one. She's closed the gap. I definitely would have to say she's closed the gap. It's not closed yet, but she definitely was a lot closer than she was a year ago.

Q. In your opinion, what is missing in Kim Clijsters' game which doesn't allow her to beat Justine at this moment?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: She's too far back. She's too far back in the court. She's too far back in her positioning. She's got the strokes but she doesn't trust it. She's got a good volley. When she's at the net playing doubles, her volley is just fine. But she doesn't go forward. She doesn't force the action. Ultimately, all things being equal, Henin will win four out of five matches because she has the extra dimension. Kim has it. Maybe perhaps not as much as Henin. But she has more than she shows. She's too far back, too passive.

End of FastScripts….

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