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June 27, 2003

Martina Navratilova


MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Martina Navratilova.

Q. When you said good-bye to Centre Court, whenever that was, what would you have said the odds were you would be back here running around?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Slim and none, and Slim just left town. I would have given you better odds than Karlovic of beating Lleyton Hewitt in the first round. Nine years later, no way. But stranger things have happened. We had Gordie Howe playing in his 50s, George Foreman is talking about a comeback. What is he, 53, 54? I feel young. To really feel young I went on the balcony yesterday in the member's enclosure, watched our possible opposition, which was Schett-Schnyder and the two English girls. You know, the members started coming over. Laurie Pingnon (ph) came over. He's like twice my age. He said, "I'm still alive." I said, "I see that." "How old are you?" "46." "You're almost twice my age. You make me feel young. That's why I came here."

Q. Do you feel just as young when you're out on court?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, most of the time, yes. I mean, I don't feel 46, compared to other people that are 46. But it's funny because you don't really feel it, but the results aren't the same. You see it. If you run, if you run a hundred meters 20 years ago, and you run it now, I know I'm not as fast. You can't measure that in tennis. You know you lost something, but you don't know how much. It's much easier in track and field because you can really measure exactly what's going on. So I don't know. I know when I play basketball, I can't touch the backboard the way I used to. No matter how hard I try to jump, I just can't get up there. But I can still jump better than most, so it's okay.

Q. Would you consider playing mixed doubles with Peter Fleming?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: He's a big guy to carry. I don't think his shoulder is as good as it was when he was playing with McEnroe. We played mixed doubles once and lost in the finals of the US Open. I need Peter of 20 years ago, yes, or 15 years ago. A Peter of now, I would like to play doubles with me from about 15 years ago, that would be a good team.

Q. Do you consider him the best doubles player of all time?


Q. Yes.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No. He played with McEnroe, remember? It was McEnroe and a whole bunch of guys. I think McEnroe was right up there as one of the best players of all time doubles-wise, if not the best. There is many others that I would put before Peter Fleming, yeah, like the Woodies for example, Roche, Newcombe.

Q. How well do you remember Olga Morosova? In what way was she an inspiration?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I just saw her today. I honked at her. I've known her since about 1972, I think. It was a funny story with Olga. I played the European championships of amateurs. I don't know which one it was. Maybe Warsaw. I don't remember the year. Anyway, that's where we met. My first year on tour I played. In '73, I played my first tournament, was Fort Lauderdale, second one was somewhere. Second one was where, New York? Third one was in hinge ham, Massachusetts. I was in the States for two weeks before Olga got there. She met me the year before. I put on so much weight the first two weeks that I couldn't wear the shorts that I brought with me from Czechoslovakia. When she saw me in the locker room, she didn't say anything. She just went (making big checks.) . "Martina, what happened? You've been eating?" I said yes. She was an inspiration. I like the way she played. She was an entertaining player and a really nice woman, very fair. She was so nice that I couldn't hold the fact that she was Russian against her.

Q. You were playing two British players today in the doubles. Have you got any ideas what British tennis might do to improve our women's game?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, men's game, too. What I've been speaking, other than Henman, there's a dearth. I'd like to know what happens to the money that the LTA puts into tennis. I mean, where does it go? It makes no sense. They've been getting a whole bunch of money every year for a long time now, and it's produced nothing really. From what I hear, there are players that could use some money, some help, and they're struggling to get by on the tour. You know, they're trying to make it. It's very expensive to get started, these days especially. Everybody's got a coach. You need sponsorship. You need really help once you get to a certain level. These players are having a hard time getting any money from the LTA. I'm not sure what they're doing with it. This is just what I hear. I'm sure there are good athletes in this country. It's all about opportunity. It's not in the genes. Slavs don't have any special genes compared to the Brits. No reason why there should be so many great Russian players, Czech players. Opportunity is the key. Again, it's a lot cheaper sport in those countries than it is in England or in the States. You have many more opportunities, but particularly in the States for women and men to go into other sports or do other things. Tennis is an expensive sport. It just seems to me that not enough talented kids are getting the opportunity.

Q. How important is relative silence in tennis as opposed to other sports? Could you play in a ballpark environment?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, because you have to hear the ball bounce. Basketball, you're dribbling the ball. You don't need to hear anything. Baseball, you would probably be affected if you don't feel the ball hitting the bat. You react to the sound of the ball hitting the bat. I'm sure it affects the players that way. But tennis, if you put headphones on and you listen to music, play tennis, would you like -- like you were blind, be totally out of sorts.

Q. Have you tried that?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, I have. Well, I've lived it in New York with the planes flying over. You can't hear the ball bounce and you can't hear the ball hitting your opponent's racquet. Even hitting your own racquet it's disconcerting when you don't hear it. You depend on the sound first. You hear the ball, then you react to the flight of the ball. The miss-hit, you don't see it, you hear it. A player swings this way, the ball goes that way (opposite) it's because you miss-hit it. You first hear it, then you react to that. Same with the bounce. You get really out of sorts when you can't hear the ball bounce, which is why I had a hard time with Monica that one year here when she was really loud. You couldn't hear the ball hitting her racquets. Some players today, one I played against, I'm not going to say who it is, but she made such a long grunt that she's still making the sound as I'm hitting the ball. I mean, the ball's already on my side of the court. And I thought she hurt herself. I had this little, "What are you doing?" Now that I've gotten older, it's more difficult for me, so I'm a little noisier than I used to be. Still, it's only really when I'm stretching for a wide ball. You don't need to be making all that noise. As far as the crowd, what happened the other day with the guy yelling out, you have to have quiet, because you depend on that. Otherwise people -- we'll have linesmen carrying whistles, when the whistle blows, then you stop play. Yeah, it's essential to keep quiet.

Q. Maria and Sharapova give you great credit for advising them to go to Florida. Do you remember that at all?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I've told a bunch of people to go to Bollettieri's, if you really want to learn good groundstrokes. That's what I've always said. I haven't seen people come out thereof with great volleys or great serves. I said, if you want to learn how to hit forehands and backhands, that's where you go. I don't remember that particular one, but I've said that to a few youngsters, so it's possible.

Q. You don't recall it?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I don't deserve any credit. They'll ask me a question and I give them an answer, that's it.

Q. In the States, women's tennis is popular now. How do you make men's tennis more interesting to Americans or even tennis in general?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's popular because we have big American names at the top. Serena and Venus brought a whole new crowd to the game, as well as kept the old crowd there. With the men, you got Pete and Andre, and we need new blood. It's possible with now Andy making some inroads, of course James Blake. They got the looks and they got the goods. If they start winning, it's going to be more popular in the States. In America, the game waxes and wanes with how good the Americans are doing. The rest of the world is not as affected by nationality of the top players as America is.

Q. Why do you think that is?


Q. What's the explanation in the message behind the fact that the top prize money leaders amongst the women have earned more than the top prize money leader amongst the men?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, they probably win more.

Q. Why is that?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Because they're really good (laughter). I haven't looked at the prize money charts. I really don't know. At the end of the year, usually the men make a little more than the women. The Top 10 is pretty similar. The men get more because they have more tournaments, more total prize money, more people that can win every week, as opposed to the women's tour. Overall, at the end of the year, it's pretty close. I really wouldn't want to go there right now.

Q. Billie Jean was saying last week she thinks if crowds were a little bit more enthusiastic, it might help players get into the entertainers that lurk in every player, get them fired up for a match. Is it possible to have both, the silence you need but also somehow bring out the entertainer?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Absolutely, we have it in Team Tennis. They're quiet during the point, but they get really excited in between points. There's nothing wrong with that. If the crowd -- if there's a great rally and the crowd gets into it, you never say, "Please be quiet," because everybody is into it. The players get excited. That's okay. But you can't have people yelling "out" in the middle of the point. That's not what it game needs. You get the -- the crowds here get pretty excited when it's on a Monday or middle Sunday that one year, fantastic, because you get the true tennis fans coming out, going crazy.

End of FastScripts….

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