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August 28, 2003

Martina Navratilova


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Martina.

Q. Now that you know that Leander is going to make a full recovery, your reaction?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Fantastic relief. I was sort of devastated -- not sort of. I was devastated for a few days. Obviously brings things into perspective. We worry about breakpoints and pulled hamstrings. Here he is with the possibility of dying within a short period of time. That was an eye opener for everybody I think in the tennis world. Just great relief obviously. I didn't want to play in case it was something serious or it wasn't. It was just such a situation that needed some pause. So many people came up to me wanting his number. So many people wanted to call him, wanted to know what was going on, this and that. The concern from the players has been fantastic, everybody wanting to know how he's doing. Everybody is very happy with the situation. This was the best-case scenario. He told me all the different possibilities. I said, "We'll keep our fingers crossed for a bacteria." That is what it was.

Q. Have you talked about when you might play again?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I told him whenever he comes back that we'll play again. Whenever he decides to play again, I'll be playing. Hopefully it will be Australia.

Q. Who do you think is the greatest female player of all time? Do you think Serena has the potential to be the best ever?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, she has the potential. Who I think it is? I don't know. It's not for me to judge. I think it's a close race between about three or four players, and I'm one of them. That's good enough. People always want to know who is the greatest. It's hard to compare different generations, different eras. Who knows how good I would have been if I played in the '20s, if they would have let me play. Who knows how good Suzanne Lenglen would have been if she had been born in the '50s or '60s. Just nice to be in that group. I think any player that could be considered for that will tell you the same thing.

Q. The buzz before that match felt like an Open final. The place is packed.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It was ridiculous. How can you play? No matter what the expectations were, so high, it's amazing. You just have to concentrate on getting the first ball in the warm-up over the net. It's amazing. I mean, I played a tournament in LA. We had about maybe 80 people watching, first match. Second match maybe a hundred. Semifinals, maybe 500 people watching. You get out here, they're waiting for us to show up. It's an honor. It's very humbling, overwhelming really. Then you have to think about just playing the match and winning. The Grandstand is different. I didn't know they changed it. I was just looking around, trying to figure out where I was. I know this is a Grandstand, but it's different. It's a good improvement.

Q. You come to this place, it has changed a lot. Are there certain feelings that this is the US Open, it's completely different than everything else?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, I think for me it's being in America, playing in the States really makes a difference. I mean, when I get a really warm reception in Toronto, I'm still in another country, as fabulous as the Canadians are. It's different being here, being in the States, being in New York. I've had my ups and downs with the crowd over the years. The ups have certainly overwhelmed the downs. I'd say the last 15 years has been phenomenal. It's a treat to be out there.

Q. Does it top like the Wimbledon feeling?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: How you compare feelings?

Q. Sometimes during that match you could kind of see when you looked up on a shot, you could see your mid drift. Your choice of wardrobe.


Q. You could see your mid drift.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That's because the shirt is short. It shrunk.

Q. Is that a way to keep up with the younger generation?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: The shirt shrunk. It's the only one I had of that design. I bought it in a pro shop in Aspen, if you must know. It designed by Stefan Kaylin (phonetic), who is actually a friend of mine. I skied with him. Him and his wife, Stasha (phonetic), have a clothing company. They started with skiing gear, went into golf and tennis. Stasha doesn't even know I'm wearing the shirt. I practice with my good friend and tennis pro at his club, Randy Crawford. I said, "I got to get this shirt." Actually bought it for me because you can't pay cash in that club. It's a very exclusive club. That's the only shirt I have. It's my favorite shirt. It shrank a little bit. I tuck it in. Usually the shirts are a bit longer. It's not a statement. But I do have a flat belly, if you must know (smiling).

Q. Typically it's not supposed to happen?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Typically my shirts are longer. But they make them shorter now. I can't design my own stuff and get it, because nobody designs stuff for me anymore.

Q. What is your opinion on doubles play in general today? Seems to be waning, the interest. Some tournaments draw 50 fans.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, the tournament. It was a bad venue. They moved the venue from a different place. It was just bad attendance, period. Had nothing to do with doubles. The people there, they stayed to watch.

Q. Sometimes doubles doesn't attract as much interest on the men's side. I don't know if this pertains to the women. A lot of people play it, but it doesn't translate into viewership.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think the people watch it. They don't show it. If they show it on TV, people watch. Before I even started playing doubles, I remember people saying, "Why don't they show doubles?" That's what people enjoy, that's what people play. Most of the players that play tennis, more of them play doubles more than singles, or they play doubles more often than they play singles. If you go to a club, watch matches going on, most of the time it's doubles. They just don't show it as much. The media doesn't cover it. It's a footnote. I made big news this year when I won the mixed doubles at Wimbledon. But generally you have this huge article. I mean, like Sports Illustrated, they don't even bother saying who won the doubles. I didn't make the Sports Illustrated. It's like it doesn't exist. If you don't write about it. It's your guys' job, to write more about it. I'm not saying it because I'm playing now. I've been playing it all along, that it should get more attention. It's a different game. You know, in a way it takes more skill to play doubles than to play singles. It's a different skill anyway. I shouldn't say "better." But it's a different skill. I think it's interesting and people enjoy it. But you guys don't cover it much.

Q. Does defying what people generally think of an athlete's life motivate you still? Does the idea of playing into your late 40s and 50s serve as a motivation because no one has ever really done that?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, "defying" is a wrong way of putting it because that's a negative. I've said this before. When I first played again, that was four years ago almost, three and a half years ago. I didn't have any expectations, and neither did anybody else. But I think people enjoyed watching me and I got great response from the media, from the players, and especially from the fans. That sort of motivated me because I motivated them. They motivated me to stay on and keep playing. Now I'm doing better than I ought to be doing. But, you know, that's okay. I don't think about age. You guys bring it up all the time. I don't want -- I guess it is a motivation for me because I want to motivate people to do what they want to do, do what their hearts desire and go after their passion and not pay attention to age or level. You get as much joy out of a good skiing turn, whether you're doing it at 30 miles an hour as you're doing it at 50 miles an hour. It's whatever level you're at. I just don't want people to be limited by their age and thinking, "I'm too old for this."

Q. When you were in Canada, you sort of said good-bye to the crowd. Is that sort of a definite thing?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I definitely will not be playing 2005. 2004, I haven't decided yet. That's pretty much in the air still. There's a possibility I will play next year. I'll see. It's a grind. You know, you're on the road -- I'm on the road more than I thought I would be. Now I have a really great situation with my private life, having the possibility to have a great life. It's hard to give that up to play. But I do enjoy it so much. So I don't know. We'll see. I don't know. But I definitely -- 2005, absolutely out of the question.

Q. Do young players come up to you and ask you for advice?


Q. Does it happen a lot? At every tournament?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Pretty much, yeah. It's free. Why not? I don't charge.

Q. In Belgium it's a big thing that Kim is becoming No. 1. You've been No. 1 so long. Can you tell us what has changed the moment you became No. 1?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, for me I became No. 1 after I won Wimbledon. It was sort of an afterthought. It was, "Wow." I didn't even know I was going to be No. 1 before the match. I was so thrilled with winning Wimbledon that No. 1 was nice, but it doesn't matter whether you're No. 1 during the year; what matters is you're No. 1 at the end of the year. That means you played well the calendar year. Kim being No. 1 now means she's played well the last 12 months. But the bottom line is who is No. 1 at the end of the year. That's the one that counts really the most. It's a great accomplishment, but she's still got some work to do. I think Kim now would like to win a Grand Slam to get that monkey off her back so she's -- so you guys don't say, "She's the only player on the women's side No. 1 without winning a Grand Slam." She certainly came close. There's no doubt in my mind she will win a Grand Slam, it's just a matter of when. Your life doesn't change. You think, "Wow, it's amazing, I'm No. 1." Everybody still has to pay their mortgage. It makes news for one day, then people don't pay much attention to it. It's old news. It's a bigger deal to you than anyone else. But there's still work to be done. You can sit on your laurels when it's at the end of the year, but somehow she's got to keep playing.

Q. McEnroe said his life changed completely the moment he became No. 1. Was that true with yours?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Not at all. My life didn't change at all. I don't know what way it changes. In your head. I don't think people look at you any differently, that you're a better person. You're just a better tennis player.

Q. You're not treated in another way?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I didn't notice any difference.

Q. Does the idea of returning to broadcasting at all hold any appeal?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Oh, absolutely, I want to do TV. It's so much easier to talk about it than to do it. I really enjoy it. I like dissecting the games and seeing what's going on out there. I would very much like to get back into it when I don't play anymore.

Q. You were one of the people who were praised for speaking your mind, being critical when you thought criticism, for lack of a better word, was warranted. Did you ever feel pressure at all to not be as critical about players?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I'm not ever critical of what's going on. I'm giving you a solution to the problem. Being critical, "That was bad." But if I say, "This is the idea that she should be doing or he should be doing," that's not being critical. That's teaching. I don't critique; I teach. I try to say what you should be doing, what I would be doing, or this player cannot do this, she should do that. No, what did I ever say that was bad? If I say she's got a bad forehand, she's got a bad forehand. Fix it. Go back to the drawing board. I've done that with my strokes after I won a few Wimbledons. There's no shame in that. No, I was never told to not speak out. My management company wanted me to take insurance out in case I say something that will make somebody so mad that they'll sue me. I said, "What am I going to say, she's got a lousy forehand, she's going to sue me?" I didn't pay insurance for that.

Q. If you could teach one player, which one would you pick?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That's a very good question. Of the crop today?

Q. Yes.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, Roger Federer. That would be easy. He's got it already. Justine Henin. They both play a similar game. I like the way Justine uses the court. Exploit it further. But, yeah, she would be I think the most fun to coach with her ability and the way she plays the game already.

End of FastScripts….

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