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January 16, 2003

Martina Navratilova


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. How much of a gas is it still to get on court here in Australia?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, enough to make my knees knock. The first set and a half I think I was still trying to get my legs to move, although I played pretty well. But I was just really anxious to play well, and of course to win. But just, you know, not having played here for such a long time, it was really odd to be back there again. So, yeah, it's a gas.

Q. You played Margaret Court. Do you remember playing her in 1975?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Actually, it was '74 (laughter). It was before New Year's. The finals were after New Year's. I don't know what date it was actually when I played her but the tournament started in Christmas and ended after New Year's. I sure remember. I think it was one of the precursors to the women moving away from the men at the Australian Open. We were not getting a fair shake at all. I played Margaret, quarterfinals, we were on an outside court. I don't care where I played. But looking back, I cannot believe they put her on an outside court while there was some insignificant men's match going on the center court. And then the women really got -- played a few more years. I think around '78 we split off from the men, went on our own, and, you know, we established the tournament as a big event just on our own. Then the men came back to us and said, "Would you take us back," because we were doing better the than guys. That's another story though. Yes, I do remember playing Margaret. The match before I played somebody, and I had a crick in my neck. I wasn't sure if I could play. Somehow I got that through that match. Then I played Margaret. Thank God it was this way, not that way, I could still serve and see the ball. Actually, hit my backhand better because of that. Maybe that actually helped me win the match.

Q. What's this like for you?

SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: We had a lot of fun today. I think it was very interesting for match and for us and for crowd. I think next time we just have to warm up better before the match. So we were little bit not moving well in the first set, and then the second and third we already start to play much better and get more confidence in our game.

Q. When did you first hear of Martina?


MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: When did you first hear of me? They didn't talk about me much in Russia.

SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: They did, but I don't remember because I was too young.

Q. Is your mom playing tennis or no?

SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: No, she did cycling.

Q. Your grandmother?

SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I didn't ask her. No, she didn't.

Q. What are you learning from playing with Martina?

SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: A lot. A lot of things, like to come more forward, to play better on the volley. My volley is much better from our first match in first tournament. Gain more experience.

Q. Martina, when you see so many players today whose careers are full of injuries, early in their 20s, can you see anyone playing for anywhere near as long as you or Chrissy or Billie Jean played?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Agassi's doing it. He's close to 33 now. It's possible, but I think the players burn themselves out because they play too much on hard courts at a young age. If I had a player that I was coaching, that I was working with, or if I had an academy, I would make them play on clay a lot more and really just get on hard courts maybe once a week. The rest I would have them stay on clay and on grass to get, if possible, to get the contrast, but really keep them off those hard surfaces because it just takes its toll. The joints can't do it. I heard of a girl who is -- who needs both knees replaced and she's 15, because her father drove her so much. He was a hockey player, you know, he wanted more and more and more. If she wasn't playing tennis, she was running track. It's too much. The body can only take punishment. I think the hard courts are harder on the body. The ball is hit harder and that takes its toll on the upper body. Mostly the injuries you see in the legs. So that's what I would do, just play less on hard courts.

Q. What persuaded you to go back on the road? Was it competitive drive or just for fun?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I have to go through this again (laughing)? Well, I decided to play doubles at Wimbledon. In 1999 I was in really good shape and I was doing TV there, as every year. I thought "I could have played doubles here." A year later, Mariaan de Swardt asked me in March if I would like to play at Wimbledon, because we were good friends, I must have been talking about it. I said, "Sure, why not?" I thought, "Okay, I better get ready for Wimbledon." My first match after five or six years after not playing. I thought I'd play Eastbourne, not really enough. I played the French. I said, "Okay, I don't want to start with a first match in a Grand Slam." I played Madrid. That's how it started. I played four tournaments, had so much fun and some decent results that I wanted to keep going. My partner couldn't go, her back was bad, which is why she wasn't playing before. And then it got bad again so I started playing with different people. But had so much fun that I just thought I'd keep going.

Q. Do you feel a competitive drive as strong as you did?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That never goes away. But some people have it more than others. People say, "You're so competitive." I'm competitive with myself. I want to see how well I can do, whether it's play tennis or playing hockey or snow boarding or playing hearts, you know, card game. I mean, I just want to get better, whatever I do, and see how, you know, what that's good enough for.

Q. I am from Belgian television. Who's your favorite for the women's title?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You said Belgian television?

Q. Yes.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Kim Clijsters (laughter). No, actually, Kim does have a very good chance of winning. I pick Serena, which is not really going out on a limb, since she won the last three and she's still going strong. But Kim is playing I think the best tennis of her career right now. My pick would be between those two, actually.

Q. Something you said at the Gold Coast, what are your thoughts on the second serve?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: About that being abolished? I already see baseliners -- I think that might not be a bad idea for Wimbledon or grass, for men. I think that would make for fascinating tennis, just one serve. Then you can still serve and volley. But you have to pick your spots. But then again the other guy's always hitting the second serve so you can chip and charge more. I think you would see more service breaks obviously and would make for more rallies and more interesting tennis. That's pretty radical, I don't know that that can ever be done. But second serve, for the women, it would, you know, you can't serve and volley. The guys can hit such a heavy kick serve, they can still serve and volley. Women, no. So then that would take that away so that's not a good solution.

Q. Would you like to see different rules?


Q. Rules.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Rules? That would be pretty difficult. But I don't know. I mean, that's pretty radical, second serve. I would rather see them go back again to smaller racquets, less in the -- less in the size of the racquets and take away the sweet spots. Pictures in the locker room of Ken Rosewall and Roy Emerson, Margaret Court, all the great Aussies, you see the racquets they were playing with. The sweet spot was about this big. So then that takes away the power of the return, and the serve can still be pretty good and then you can do more with the ball. So I'd rather see them change the equipment than mess with the rules that much. The let, that's a given. That just doesn't affect anything other than speed up the game and take away the necessity of putting the computer thing on there. But the rules, I would keep that, or maybe play a tiebreak at 5-all instead of 6-all to speed it up. Maybe more in the Grand Slams could play three-out-of-five, especially if you have the tiebreak, keep the matches more interesting but shorter. But the racquets, something needs to be done. The materials are so ridiculous now. It's like -- it's too easy. The game's too easy with those racquets.

Q. Going back to your comments earlier about burnout, how depressing is it to hear about the other Martina?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Burnout? Did I say anything about burnout?

Q. The effect of playing on hard court.


Q. How depressing is it to hear Martina may not come back?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That's obviously a very -- really bad for tennis, especially bad for Martina. I hope she'll come back and play because she's a lot of fun to watch, adds a new dimension, a different dimension to the game. How much of it is the shoes or what courts, I mean, she played on clay a lot. Her mom really took good care to not overstress her body. But sometimes, you know, the joints just can't take it no matter what. I've been very blessed with my body. So I'm lucky that way. Who knows? I mean...

Q. You're running through the whole gamut of things at the moment, but the WTA has lost another couple of its leading personalties, its chief executive and chief operating officer.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's a done deal?

Q. Yeah, yeah. Can you understand why it is that the top the game seems to be in a permanent state of flux all the time?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I'm not sure what went on there. I'm going to try to find out. I just found out some things the last couple days about the management questions. But basically, women's tennis, the way it's structured, is stagnant. It cannot grow the way it should. The tournaments have too much power; the players don't have enough power. They're controlling where the game's going and they shouldn't. The players are the game, not the tournaments. So something needs to be done now. I've said 15 years ago, they should blow up and start over. I still feel that way. The way the structure is right now, it's not working for the players. So that's a whole other conference. I'm not sure what's going on with the executives. I'd like to find out more.

Q. I was just wondering how the two of you got together, started playing together?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I called Sveta and I was supposed to play with Tulyaganova. She had a bad shoulder and wasn't sure if she could play singles and doubles here. Beginning of December, I started looking for another partner. Then when Aranxta Sanchez called it a day, I thought, "Huh, that means Svetlana doesn't have a partner." They were playing together. In fact, I lost a match I played with Serena Williams and we lost to Svetlana and Aranxta in Tokyo. They ended up winning the tournament. I knew how well she could play, I thought I'd rather have her on my side of the court. I gave her a call, spoke to Emilio Sanchez, who she works with in Barcelona, and she said yes.

Q. Has Aranxta been a mentor to you?

SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: She was in my mentor program now. In Sanex, they do a program. If you are not 18 and you are in Top 100, you have to choose a mentor. You have to choose one player who's close to you and who's retired. So I was supposed to take someone in US Open, but I didn't find no one. I ask for Martina, other players, no one could help me. So after she retire, she could help me.

Q. Would a role in governing the sport interest you at all, being part of the governing process of tennis?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, yes. Obviously I think I have some experience with what's gone on the last 30 years. Yeah, I think I would like to get more involved, because things are not going as well as they should have been. We had a great meeting in San Diego this summer, and I thought some things were going to change, but I don't think the powers that be really want everything to change because everybody's trying to hold on to their little tournament, their little event, and they're not really looking out for what's best for the game. It's the usual scenario. Everybody's worrying about their own thing rather than looking at the big picture and looking ten years down the road. So, yeah, I think I probably will get more involved. I don't have enough on my plate with just playing.

Q. What would you change?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Like I said, blow up and start over, the structure of the tournaments. There's a limit on how much prize money can go into events. Tournaments that want to put more prize money in are not allowed. There are other tournaments they should have put more prize money in because they're huge events, they get big crowds, big exposure, but they don't want to go up because they don't have to. So we're sort of limited by the way the rules were, I don't know, 20 years ago. The game has not evolved the way -- the game has evolved, rather, but the structure is the same. You have to change with the times.

Q. What about the amount of tournaments?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's not that many. The players, I've said this years ago, we should have about 12 huge events a year where all the top players are playing, and then you have the four Grand Slams, so they'll be playing 16 of those, which I think is doable for everybody. You can have a feedup system like Minor Leagues, Major Leagues. There's a whole different possibility, possible way of going about it. But that's basically it. The top players need to play each other more often rather than everybody playing 20 tournaments, but they don't see each other because one's playing here, one's playing there. You need rivalries, people to play each other more. That's why the Grand Slams are so good, because everybody's playing it. You know, I've been wanting this for 15 years, but nothing's changed.

Q. There is 12 huge tournaments you mentioned, would that include the Grand Slams?


Q. They'd be extra?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That's what I said, 16. Everybody can play 16 events. If they want to play extra, that's okay, but they don't need to. The way the ranking system works, it promotes quantity over quality. That's not good. The people feel like they have to play to keep getting the points that they had a year ago, or if they don't play and somebody else is playing, then they're gaining on them. The average system I think worked better for true performance. Now it's just quantity. And players will play when -- they'll take three weeks off but they don't want to because they're losing points. They get a good draw, move into the quarters, they move up ranking points, can get into the tournament straight instead of playing qualifying. If you had a system where you had the top Major Leagues and Minor Leagues and are in there for the whole year and play as many tournaments you need to play, quality over quantity wins every time. Right now that's not the case.

Q. Is it right that Venus and Serena are the No. 1 seeds in this doubles tournament?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: They haven't really played enough, but when they have, they've lost very few matches. So, you know, you do go on the body of work which is the last three or four years or do you just go on the last year or on the singles? It's a difficult proposition. I didn't think they should be seeded one, maybe three or four. But are they the best team out there? Probably, yeah. So, I mean, it's -- probably don't make a mistake seeding them one. But it doesn't really matter. You've got to beat them sooner or later if you want to win, unless they don't play. So it's not that big a deal one way or the other really.

End of FastScripts….

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