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September 5, 2003
NEW YORK CITY
JIM FUHSE: Welcome, everyone. Thanks for coming on such short notice. Basically, we're here to announce this contest that we're holding in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the WTA. Pretty much we've narrowed it down - very difficult job - to the 15 greatest matches in women's tennis history. We'll be asking both you, the international media and the fans, to vote for what they think is the greatest match of all-time. We'll be announcing those results this year at the Championships. We wanted to bring in two of the greatest players in history to talk about it - They're both mentioned here, Martina, three times; Tracy, once - to talk about that match. Memories of that match, Tracy, Martina?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You go first, you won (laughter). Bitch (laughter).
Q. The forehand volley.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, what forehand volley? What forehand volley?
TRACY AUSTIN: Thank God, forehand volley.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That was before I had a coach, see?
TRACY AUSTIN: Who were you working with then?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I just started working with Rene Richards during the tournament. I couldn't fix it all. I was in better physical shape than I was earlier. I think we played in - was it Montreal or Toronto - that year?
TRACY AUSTIN: Toronto.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You beat me like 7-6, 7-6.
TRACY AUSTIN: Right.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I knew then I had to get in better shape. I was getting tired in two sets. Then we played here in three sets. But I just started working with Rene Richards. People said, "Oh, yeah, she choked on that forehand volley." I was like, "I didn't have a forehand volley." That wasn't a choke if you saw the swing. That was a miracle when it did go in, regardless of the score. I'd like to have the technique I have now back then. Tracy played a great strategical match. "Strategical," is that a word? George W. Bush made that a word. I was playing pretty well. Tracy kept hitting to my backhand most of the time. Then in that final tiebreak, you all of a sudden hit some down-the-line forehand to my forehand. I thought, "I don't know if she's thinking that well or if her brother is telling her what to do." He was sitting right behind the court. But that was a great shot.
TRACY AUSTIN: He's not that smart (laughter). That's funny you thought that. That's interesting.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It didn't occur to me during the match. After the match, somebody said, "He was coaching her." I'm like, "Ah, well, who knows? It doesn't matter." She hit the ball down, I should have figured it out.
TRACY AUSTIN: Right.
Q. Is that how you remember it, Tracy?
TRACY AUSTIN: Not the last part. That was me, someone just asked me about that, you know - actually, John did. He said, "Why did you change my tactics?" I just said, "There was an opening there." I never listened to anybody in my entire career from the stands, because I think I can think better than most . That was, I think, one of my weapons.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Stroke of genius.
TRACY AUSTIN: I could think on my own two feet. But I just think that there was an opening there. I think I played her backhand so much, she was kind of leaning over that way. As far as the whole match, I remember beforehand we followed a men's match that was just lingering, kind of waiting, waiting, waiting. Just been a little extra nervous and, you know, getting ready, getting ready, getting ready. It was a very blustery day, very windy. You remember that?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Hmm.
TRACY AUSTIN: Martina came out there, just like boom, 6-1, 2-1 very quickly. Sometimes when you played Martina, she was so powerful at the time, you just felt like you were just getting knocked over. Where can you edge in? Where can you get your foot in the door? I think, just stay positive, one point at a time. I started getting some passing shots, started getting some lobs over her head, started getting a little feel. Luckily, I think I started to play her forehand volley a little more. Her backhand volley's the best. On big points you got to go to the forehand, because it might, you know, "might" have a problem there. The backhand, it's definitely as solid as a rock. I think it's, again, it's just a couple of points can turn things around, playing the right shot at the right time. And, luckily, it turned around. It's funny because it wasn't something, the third-set tiebreak, where I switched it up and hit I think it was three basically clean winners down the line, it wasn't something -- why hadn't I been doing that before? That's what I wanted to know. I guess I just saw the openings there. I think that it was a strange match in that the wind was so blustery, the conditions were not great. And so it was just dealing with conditions and dealing with Martina constantly, constantly attacking. You know, I think it's a fun contrast, you know. I think that's what we're missing a little bit in the game today, is there are so few serve-and-volleyers because I think the kids have the big racquets. They can return so well, so powerfully that you don't see the serve-and-volleyers. A lot of kids are having such success at young ages. Martina's talked about the fact that it took her game a little while to develop the serve and volley because it takes a while. It's sad in a way we don't have that kind of contrast, like the Chrissy-Martina rivalry as well, as far as the contrast.
Q. Do you second that?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, I mean...
Q. How do you feel about the way the game's played today?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It takes a lot more skill now to be a successful serve-and-volleyer than it did. I mean, you could develop success by coming in and just learning how to volley because you would see the ball. You'd get a play on it. Now, it's so hard to get a play on it that you have to be extraordinary to be able to serve and volley. I saw some kids hitting, they were like 13 years old. They were blasting the ball. I mean, they were hitting it almost as hard as we do. But they're like -- they can barely see over the net. Of course they come to the net, they have no chance. You can't volley that. You have to be really physically strong. You can take a big swing with a big racquet and develop the kind of pace. But to handle it with a volley, you have to be nice and compact and you just don't have the strength to handle it. So you don't develop success with it. So then you don't do it later on, even when you would have the opportunity to come in.
Q. You talk about the difference in styles and how that helps create a good match. Does it help to have a clash of personalties, perhaps? Does it help to have maybe even a clash in ages, young versus old? Are those factors? Do you see any of that in what we have left in this tournament?
TRACY AUSTIN: You know, I think any added dimension that you can add to a rivalry helps - you know, whether it's the serve and volley, the contrast in personalties like the Pete and the Andre, you know. Pete's kind of more conservative; Andre, very flashy. You know, whatever, whatever it is. I didn't think about the age thing, but I'm sure that's something. You know, the more contrasts that you can have, I think, you know, probably the better. And the more dynamic personalties that you can have, the better.
Q. Do you see that in the field, what's left here? Do you see that potential?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I think with Henin, she's got the potential to be the contrast in her style. She's sort of the Hingis with more power. So I really enjoy watching her play because she uses more of the court than anybody else out there. So you see angles and plays from her that you don't see from anybody else. So Henin against anybody, you have a contrast. Personalties, I think people make too much of that. You really want to see great shot-making out there. So what if Pete's not flashy? You know, he hits great shots. That's what you really want to see. I'd rather see the good stuff during the play than in between points.
TRACY AUSTIN: But the contrast was interesting with Andre and Pete. I think also the fact is that the public getting to know them. Pete and Andre were at the top of the game for so long, that we, you know, we really got to know them and feel like we knew them as people. I think for a good rivalry to develop, it has to be over a few years in major tournaments, whether it's championships or Grand Slams, and it has to be over a number of years where we can feel like we get to know the people. Roger Federer, I feel like we're just starting to get to know him a little bit more.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: If you look at these 15 matches, it's always a contrast of something - with personalties, looks, styles.
JOHN DOLAN: Ages.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Cultures, ages. That's what brings this together.
JIM FUHSE: Of the matches you're not involved in, which one stands out the most?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: The one I would have liked to have seen was Court and King. I wish they would have more rain at Wimbledon so we can see that during one of the rain delays.
TRACY AUSTIN: 1970?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah. They always bring out the Smith-Nastase. They go far enough back, but they don't quite get to the '70 Wimbledon final. I've seen about all of these matches - I remember most of them anyway. And one that I don't think did make it, which was one of my favorite matches, actually, was Graf against Sanchez-Vicario in the Wimbledon final. I don't know what year.
Q. The long game.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That was like a 20-minute game. Aranxta had all these game points to go up and serve for the match at 5-all in the third. That was a monumental match. But you only have 15. That's picking your favorite children. That's kind of difficult. But I don't know. I have to really study it a little more. Seles-Sabatini, the Slims final, that was a five-setter. That was the first five-setter. That was one of the things I wanted to experience, play a five-set match. I either won in three or lost in three, so that didn't happen.
Q. Martina, which match of the ones you played in do you think was the greatest that you played?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, not one of these. I played my best tennis, but when I played my best tennis, it wasn't a close match. These guys, with Tracy, it was -- I shouldn't have been in the finals, so that was a bonus for me. Again, playing back-to-back, that made it more difficult.
TRACY AUSTIN: Who did you play in the semis?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I beat Chris 7-5 in the third.
TRACY AUSTIN: That's right.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: The Graf match they were showing during the rain delay, I haven't really seen that match. That was the most I've seen of it, was a few days ago when they were showing it. Just wish that I had a forehand volley -- forehand volley, that I'd had a forehand down-the-line back then. If I had the forehand down-the-line that I have now then, I would have won that match a lot easier - and I would have beaten Chris at the French Open final in '85 as well. But Chris played a great tactical match. And, you know, beat me. I was playing decent tennis. So that was a great effort on her part.
Q. From an intellectual and emotional standpoint, you look back on your career, pick one match, whether you won or lost is immaterial, that you felt was the toughest, the most exciting, the most exhilarating, the most exhausting that you played.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You know what, I would probably pick beating Seles in Paris in '93. She played well, I played well. It was a slow court. Heavy balls. That was as good as beating her on clay. That was, to me, the monumental effort. I was 37 years old. And that was a match that I really didn't expect to win. That one's not here, but that wasn't a Slam. Of all the matches I played, that was probably the best tennis I played.
Q. Do you have a comparable one, Tracy?
TRACY AUSTIN: I think -- does it have to be a Slam?
TRACY AUSTIN: I think at the Meadowlands here when I lost to Chris 7-6 in the third, then because of the Round Robin system, I had to play Mima Jausovec the next day, I beat her 6-4 in the third. Chris got the day off. She was on the massage table when I went out to play Mima. The next day, I had to come out again and I beat her one and two, I don't know, a few games whatever it was. I had to play Martina in the finals. So four days in a row. I'm not perfect on scores in remembering, but I think it was three sets.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, it was. I won the first set 6-1 and lost again.
TRACY AUSTIN: You've got a great memory.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: 6-2, I missed, sorry.
TRACY AUSTIN: I just remember it was three sets. I think it was the combination of Chris, you know, easily. You know, then I beat her three -- Chris three times in eleven days. That was more of a string, but it was quite easily -- just to feel the same match against somebody, you know, up there, and pretty much -- that's where I felt like the game was just flowing and everything was, you know... Those are the days that you practice for. Those are the days that you live for, is when I played Chris those three times in eleven days.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Actually, I have one more match. That would have been beating Chris on clay in Paris, 1 and 3.
TRACY AUSTIN: 1 and 3?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: 1 and 3 in the finals. That's as good as it gets. That was to win four in a row and all that stuff.
TRACY AUSTIN: That's pretty good.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Giving the record of Chris on clay, that was pretty sweet (smiling).
Q. People always talk about how the game changes - yesterday's players, today's players. Basically, you know what your A games are like. When you look at what you see out there today, can you comment on what you think your A games would have been able to do, or perhaps even what you would have needed to do differently to make your A games work.
TRACY AUSTIN: I think what we've seen and what was kind of fun for me to see when Martina played Steffi in the match the other day that CBS showed, was Steffi's serve. Look at Steffi's serve in that match. It was a good serve, but she spun it in a lot on the first one. By the end of Steffi's career, by the end of the last five years of Steffi's career, every first serve she served had the potential to be an ace, unreturnable or hard to return. So it was fun to see that everybody has progressed. I mean, Martina's forehand down the line is better now at 46 than it was when she was playing. It's fun to see that Capriati talks about the fact that Jennifer, No. 2, this time around, is better than Jennifer, No. 1. I think that everybody's game, you know, just progresses with the times and kind of you have to have a bigger serve now; you have to have more power. For me, Hingis' game in '97 when she won three Grand Slams wouldn't hold up today with the Williams sisters. So I think the game just progresses. You know, you stick someone like a Martina in the game today at 25 and her game is gonna hold up because her serve is gonna be better than it was -- I mean, her serve, her backhand, for sure. Martina's backhand at the beginning of her career till the end was a completely different backhand. It was so attackable at the beginning. You didn't want to see that forehand. You wanted to hit to the backhand all the time. By the end, it was so much better. So I think everybody's game improves with time and keeps up with the time. It really kind of clicked in my mind when I saw Steffi's serve. I thought at the time when she played you, I thought, "She has a really good serve." Now, at the end, when she retired in '99, it was a monstrous serve.
Q. This is for Tracy .
TRACY AUSTIN: You didn't answer that.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That's fine. You did.
TRACY AUSTIN: I want to hear what you say.
Q. Martina, in that regard, do you think the stuff you had then would still cut it today?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, in some ways it wouldn't cut it against the stuff that I have now. But, you know, if everybody else is hitting the ball like they did then, then I would have hit the ball differently. I mean, I see my forehand from - and I was winning everything in '86. I'm like, "My God, how did I get the ball in?" So, technically, it's a different ball game. But the racquets are different. Everything's different. The ones coming at you are different. So I think even that game would have been good enough, I think, to hold my own. But, you know, where I would stack up, I don't know. But then you see people hitting the ball with, you know, I'm using my hand a lot more than I ever have now.
TRACY AUSTIN: I have a little western grip.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: We would have all changed techniques, obviously. People, the technique -- as the technique progresses, the strokes get better. But the players are still great athletes. So we would have changed our technique, and we would still be at the top.
Q. Could be a different game?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Chris Evert would have had a better serve because she was gonna have to have a better serve. Everything else was fine; she would probably improve her forehand. Her backhand was stellar. Same with Tracy. Same with -- Billie Jean's forehand was suspect, but if she had those racquets then, see how everybody else hits it, you'd change it.
Q. Tracy, I'd like for you to start off, then Martina could comment, but I think in all sports there's a huge difference between level of play now and where it was two, three decades ago. When we see the replays of the old matches during rain delays in Slams, the contrast in men's, but especially in women's tennis, is just extraordinary. We know racquets, technology; we know new, bigger, human beings. My question is what role did, one, Martina play in the evolution of the game, why it's so much better now; and, what role did the sisters play? And, who do you think has more impact?
TRACY AUSTIN: Oh, more impact?
Q. Compare it.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's too soon to tell.
TRACY AUSTIN: Yeah, one thing that you just hit on is that I think what we've talked about is the bar is continually being raised. I think that, you know, Martina took the physical part to a different level in '81 when, you know, she started training and working out. Everybody realized then they had to get stronger and we had to move to another level, and be stronger and take it more serious with nutrition and stretching and the physical part. I think like Ivan Lendl kind of did on the men's side. I think the Williams sisters took it to a new level as well physically, a totally dynamic level as far as hitting an aggressive shot when they're in a defensive position because they're absolutely so strong. Look what it's done - Justine has gone back in the gym. She's so much stronger. I think both have taken and just moved the bar up. You know, another match that was incredible to watch, one of the rain delays, was Ivan against Chrissy. I mean, they were playing on clay, mind you. But Chrissy would hit a ball and sometimes she wouldn't even shuffle back; she'd kind of walk back. I was like, "Chrissy, come on, move it!" You know? It was literally, her little feminine self, she'd kind of walk back to the center. It was okay, she'd get to the next shot in time. It just shows - in every way, the serves, the returns. The return used to be a shot you got back in play. Now, the kids with these racquets, at eight years old, are realizing, "This return, I can do something with and do damage with if I can get a hold of it." The whole mentality of playing, the way I started and the way my son is starting, is going to be completely different because I started with the wood racquet. So, anyway, that one was really outstanding to me. But I think that Martina was the first one and then the Williams sisters kind of the second one to take, you know, the physical part of the game to new levels.
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