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January 19, 2003

Martina Navratilova


THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. As workouts go, how was that?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: As workouts? Not long enough. Closer than the score, but still, we should have been there longer. But it was nice to be on the court with Venus and Serena - again.

Q. You had played the once before in doubles, Wimbledon 2000. How have they improved since then?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think they have a better shot selection now. They see when something works and they do it again. It takes them a while before they do it, but once they do it, they see it works, I think they mix it up better than they did then. I certainly felt off guard on the return of serve because I never knew what was coming. They served I thought very well. I don't think we saw very many second serves. But mostly it's the shot selection. I think they have better shot selection now. They just don't come at you, they actually go around you. So they definitely have gotten better.

Q. Are they learning to play doubles?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think so. They don't cross that much. But they, yeah, they just hit the ball so hard, put so much pressure on you right away. You don't get that many hits on the ball.

Q. Strategy, huh?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, they don't need much. That wing span, yeah. Don't need much strategy. But they do, I mean, they do think out there. They mix it up on their -- on the serve particularly, then also on the second shots, whether they go down the line or cross-court. You know, just keep coming at you.

Q. Do they remind you of any pairing you played in your long career?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, because nobody played like them. This is a new breed of player really, just the combination of the new breed of player who hit the ball harder. And they do it -- they get it in. They don't just hit it hard, but they make it. They got the size. That's the biggest difference, I think, between the players of today and 15 years ago. I was one of the bigger ones out there. You know, I feel dwarfed out there. There's nothing you can do about it. The athletes are bigger now, the football players are bigger, the basketball players are bigger, the tennis players are bigger.

Q. Your own partner hits it pretty hard, too.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: She can smack them. I've been practicing with her. I have to really keep my eyes open when I'm at the net. She smacks it hard. Not too many people can handle it, women or men. So, yeah, she's gonna be a good one. Fun to play with. Really a lot of fun to play with.

Q. How would you have played them in your prime, considering their size and strength?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, like Emilie Loit, only hopefully better. You know, pace doesn't bother me; it's getting to the ball. If I get my racquet on it, I can handle it. I returned okay when I got my racquet on it. But when you get aced, or the ball is too far away, you know... Because once I get my racquet on it, then I'm okay. I think with my game, hitting the slice serve and the slice backhand, it would have been all right. You have to be fast to be able to keep up with them. But if you have the legs and then the variety of shots, you know, you can do okay. I think we would have had some fun matches.

Q. You would have stayed back and sliced, or would you have come in at every opportunity?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I don't think I can serve and volley as much as I did. You'd have to mix it up more. Again, that goes against anybody, because everybody returns really hard and really well. But, you know, I served and volleyed against Monica and did pretty well. She hits it pretty well on both sides. So I think I would be okay serve and volleying most of the time. I think I would have to sort of harness that a little bit and not just come in all the time. But definitely during a rally come in every chance I got, yeah. That wouldn't change at all because, again, people don't see that very much. And that slice stays low. You can't come in off a high ball, but a low ball, yeah, that works every time.

Q. What do you like about the Australian Open?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Almost everything. The people are just fantastic, you know? It's a pleasure to be here in Australia, period. The attitude, for example, being at the airport, going through the security, in the States it has become a nightmare because people have such an attitude about having the power over you. Here, it's been absolutely a pleasure, even at the airports they do it with a smile. And that's a reflection of the country, I think. Just the whole attitude here is live and let live. It's been a pleasure to be here. I mean, I'm thinking about playing here again next year, the reception has been so phenomenal that, you know, it makes it a real joy to be here. And then to play, get the kind of response that I've been getting from the crowd, it's as good as it gets. So they could improve the food here. I always talk about food at the Grand Slams, as you guys know. The food could use some improvement. But everything else is excellent, yeah. That doesn't take much. Apparently, it's gotten better, the food, but they got a long way to go. But everything else... Toilet paper's still not good, though. It wasn't good 13 years ago. Remember, I talked about that (laughing)? Some company sent me a whole big box of toilet paper. So then when I came here and played the Gold Coast tournament, they said, "Why did you really come to Australia?" I said it's mango season, the council sent me boxes of mangos. Every time I say something, I get boxes. Next time I talk about it, I'll talk about caviar I guess.

Q. When you used to come down here, a lot of time it was to come down here and play on grass. Now it's Rebound Ace. This has got nothing to do with today, but do you see grass as a long-term feature in this game?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, I think it needs to be longer than two weeks. I think variety is the spice of life and it is the spice of tennis. And if you standardize the surfaces, then you won't see the variety of the game. I think that's the beauty of the game, is how well can people that really don't want to play on clay, how can they adjust to that? Same token, how well the baseliners do when they play on grass? Then how do they match up on the faster courts, slower courts. I think we need all the surfaces. I know in skiing they've really standardized how many gates they have to be, the length and everything. It's like every race is the same. There's very little variety in what they can do now. I don't want that to happen on tennis. I mean, the tennis court, we already had that limit of the size of the court, so let's not limit it some more by making everything the same. So, again, I talked about this earlier, changing the seasons a little bit, moving the Australian Open back so you have a longer run up to it, hopefully have a longer layoff for the players, everybody's complaining they don't get enough time. We don't really have an off-season, which is why I didn't play here for five years in '90s. I wanted to play here but it was just too much. By the same token, move Wimbledon -- maybe move up the French one week, move Wimbledon two weeks back. You can four or five weeks instead of just two, I think it would really be good for the sport to look at that, and variety is essential. You know, when people have to play on surfaces they don't really like to play on, it makes a little better tennis players. It will help. Even if you don't do well at Wimbledon, it will help you at the US Open, and vice versa. So I don't think grass is an anomaly, it should stay around.

Q. Music to an Englishman's ears.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, I mean... (Smiling). I had to play on clay. Didn't suit my game, but I still won a couple French Opens, could have won a few more. You just have to readjust. You know, the baseliners need to adjust better to the grass. So, yeah, I didn't want to play on clay, but I did. I don't want to stay back and have to dig it out and get in the trenches, but that's what you have to do. So, you know...

Q. But you learned how to play on clay?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I learned how to play on clay but it didn't suit my game. We didn't play on clay except for the French Open. We had Family Circle, Amelia, you had four, five tournaments on clay that you would play. Again, we had more variety. We would play more tournament indoors, on a faster court, than you were -- it was a really good balance between an indoor on a faster court, then you had the clay, then you had the medium-pace hard courts, then you had the grass. So it was a really good mix. Now, there's -- it's either slow hard courts or clay, then you got Wimbledon. That's why now people really aren't used to playing on grass, because they don't have to come in playing on the other surfaces. It pays to stay back. That's why it's such a, you know, change for them and difficult to adjust.

Q. Which is the best surface to learn the game on?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think, again, variety. I mean, I played on clay but in the winter we would play once a week on wood, which is like lightning fast. It was too fast for me. So you can imagine how fast it was. Again, having that contrast was really good. Not that I would recommend people playing on wood, but to be able to adjust and change. If you just play on one surface, then you get stagnant and you see the same ball, same bounce. You need the variety. I would say most of the time, play on clay because movement on it is difficult. And then I would say, like, 75 percent play on clay, and 25 percent on other surfaces, on hard courts and grass. Then you'd be ready for anything. If you can play on clay, you can play on anything, if you play on the other stuff as well. Just playing on clay is no good. Just playing on hard courts is no good. You need to mix it up. I would do about three-quarters of it on clay for the body and for stroke production. I think it's a good surface to play on. It's slow enough, but also the bounces change. So, again, you have to adjust to that. It makes for a better tennis player, again.

Q. Last year Jennifer Capriati was criticized for not knowing about Title IX. It's now under review with the Department of Education. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on that. Talking about rolling it back a bit.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You have to talk to the George W. Bush administration, don't you? I always get in hot water when I do. You know, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Nothing wrong with Title IX, nothing wrong with how it's been working. It's done great wonders for women athletes. It's made the programs in the States, in college particularly, pay more attention to how they spend their money and being more aware of giving equal opportunity to women. You know, it's sort of like taking back Affirmative Action. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Every once in a while there is a discrepancy, maybe it's not fair one way. If you take it back, then it's going to be really unfair the other. So, you know, definitely I can't believe they're even reviewing it. Whose idea was it to review it?

Q. I don't know. It is under review.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I know it is, but why? All the stuff that's going on in our country right now, we worry about Title IX. But then, you know, Roe v Wade is under review as well. It's like going back in time. It's amazing, actually. But that's another story.

Q. What will you do in the next few months tournament-wise?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I'm not sure yet. Not sure, I have to figure it out with Svetlana and see what I really want to do. I haven't thought about much beyond the Australian Open. I'll definitely being playing the Nasdaq-100. Before that, I'm not 100 percent sure.

End of FastScripts….

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