September 2, 2002
NEW YORK CITY
MODERATOR: Questions for Martina.
Q. Can you talk about how much you're enjoying this at this stage of life?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I enjoy playing more than sitting around in the rain. But it's okay. It's part of the game. You know, tennis is a fun sport. It's a healthy sport. I can still do it better than any 45-year-old woman. I can still do it better than a whole bunch of people. Now it's like trying to find the limit for me, what it is now. I mean, I don't know, because I was away for a while. I had no desire to be playing again. But then once I got it into my blood again, it became a lot more fun than I thought it would be. So here I am two years later playing a pretty full-time schedule and enjoying it.
Q. You're not putting limits on yourself right now? You could see yourself going into your 50s?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No (laughter). I can guarantee you that won't happen. It looks like I'll be playing one more year. I do believe that will be it. I'm definitely not going to say no way. Right now I'm leaning to doing it one more year, only because I'm still getting better right now. I'm playing better now than I did at Wimbledon. Until I find that limit, how good I can get, I think I'll keep going. But I think I'm getting close to it.
Q. How are you received by the younger generation?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, from what I hear now, somebody was telling me they're calling me grandma around the players lounge. But I don't know if somebody was just trying to get me going or if that's true. You should ask them that, not me. I haven't heard that one yet.
Q. Is that okay with you?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I just ran into a Czech player that I knew from way back who was really my sister's generation, seven years younger. She was playing against her more than me. I saw her. I said, "What are you doing here?" She said, "My daughter's playing in the Juniors." It's definitely with the age. But I don't want to talk about age. I want to talk about what I can still do on the court. I can still hit some good shots. That's what's fun. The ball doesn't know I'm 45 years old.
Q. What would winning another Grand Slam title mean to you?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Hey, I'm way too far away from that. You hear that "one match at a time." That's definitely the case, especially in the mixed. We beat the defending champions and the No. 1 seed. There's obviously a good team here. But there's a whole bunch of good teams out there. It's a possibility. But it's been a possibility. I only won one tournament in two years. I didn't come here to lose. People say, "You're so competitive, you want to win." Who wants to come out on the court and say, "I want to lose this match." That's not the idea. The idea, people do get too much into the end result. Obviously, if I was into the end result, I wouldn't be here now, because it would only be about winning. That's not what I'm about or what I've ever been about. It was about enjoying the game, enjoying the process, even the practice, doing everything that I possibly can to be the best tennis player I can be. I still do that to that level. I'm enjoying that. Then if I win, you know, that's icing on the cake. But just being able to do this right now is icing on the cake. I have a great life. Tennis is just an extra. It's a treat.
Q. What have you lost from the glory days? Speed that's not quite there?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think it's more difficult to recover from tough matches and be ready to go the next day. You have a great day, you have a great two days, then the third day you cannot find the court, no matter what. It's hard to recover mentally, it's hard to recover physically. Speed-wise, right now I'm faster than I was since probably '87. I'm faster than I was in '92, '93, when I was still in the Top 5, only because of the training I've been doing since March. I'm in really good shape, which was obvious when I played the singles after not having played a singles match for seven and a half years. I still held my own. The speed is there. I don't have as much strength because you lose that with age. I can get stronger, but I don't want to hit the weight room like I used to. I've been in the weight room about 12 times all year. That's not what it's about for me. Yeah, I'm not as fast as I was in '85, but I'm as fast as II was in '90, so that's okay. I think more than anything, it's more mental. Physically it's hard to recover and to keep sharp day in and day out. What you lose is that exuberance and fearlessness, you know, that you had when you're 20 or 25, No. 1. You lose a few matches, and it's so easy to develop not a fear, but when you do something well, it becomes a long time before that becomes a pattern. You lose twice serving for the match, it becomes a pattern. Next time you're serving for the match, "Oh, my God, can I serve it?" That's not just me, that's anybody that's been out there playing for a while. Then start playing careful. You have the shot, but you just want to make it instead of go for it.
Q. You see that when you see Sampras. You can see what he's going through?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yup, definitely. I've seen it even with Steffi and Arantxa and Monica, other older players that played into their 30s. It's hard to overcome that. Like anything else, it's much easier to do bad than good in this world. It's an intangible. Yeah, that's how it does. You have to put in the work. Hopefully it will pay off.
Q. Can you talk specifically about what you're doing to stay fit now? Is it diet? What are you doing?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Food-wise I'm eating the same I've been eating for 20 years really. For example, today, I wouldn't have known to do this if I was playing in all these rain delays. Yesterday I didn't do anything, I took a day off. I didn't even make it out here. I already did like 20 minutes of cardiovascular stuff this morning when I got here just to get the body going again. Now I'm going to do some footwork type stuff on an area that the trainer found to get the feet going quickly. The bike is good for one thing, but it's not making you fast for tomorrow. We need to keep that quickness going because you work up to that. The training is very progressive. You don't do everything all at one time. It's very specific. It's not that time consuming, which is why I'm still doing it. If I had to spend four hours a day training physically, there's no way.
Q. How long do you spend?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Maybe an hour.
Q. How many days a week?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I take one full day off a week.
Q. What brought you back?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I was at Wimbledon doing TV. The first few years after I retired, I really got lazy. I didn't do much of anything. I just wasn't motivated to work out because I had done it for so long, so there was no way I could have played. But then one year I got tired of not being in good shape, really quitting skiing before I wanted to because I couldn't go anymore. I was like, "This is baloney. I want to quit because I want to, not because my body is telling me to quit." It was the other sports that got me back into shape again. In '99, I was doing Wimbledon on TV, I felt, "Damn, I could have played. I'm in good shape. I'm here anyway. Next year if I'm in good shape, I think I'll play." That's how it happened. In March 2000, I decided to definitely play with a good friend of mine, Mariaan de Swardt. She hadn't played for a while because she was hurt. She asked me if I wanted to play some. That's when I came back. It sort of expanded.
Q. You were at the Liberty game last week. Do you follow the league avidly?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I've been watching it on TV, reading about it. I only saw one game two years ago in Detroit. I went to the Garden when they played the Mystics. I went to the second game as well. I went to the one game here.
Q. Anybody who saw the game knows how competitive it is. Their league still has a perception problem when comparing it to the men, whereas tennis is more accepted that women play good tennis. What do you see?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Time. Just give it time. That's all it is. Women's tennis has been here for 30 years at this level. Really with open tennis, it started. It really took off with Virginia Slims in 1970. It's funny that you should say that because in Paris, they had an auction of tennis memorabilia. I went through the program. There was a photo of the program from the 1974 Italian Open. It had a tennis racquet, all these men's names. Nastase, Smith, Bertolucci, Panatta, what names, Ashe. It had eight named men "and some women players." No Chris Evert, nobody else.
Q. Are you saying we are chauvinists?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yes. But especially 1974. "By the way, there will be some women playing." We still haven't caught up in Europe. We still don't get equal prize money. We've had it here 30 years, thank you very much, USTA.
Q. You think it's time?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's just time. Women will never be dunking like the guys. They're not that tall, they can't jump that high. Man, they play good ball. It's like women in other sports, you find women play fundamentally better than the men because they have to. They can't get away with strength, power and jumping. They have to have proper technique and proper tactics. I think the games I saw were fantastic. The women were strong, powerful, very competitive.
Q. It's getting more like the men's game?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I don't know if that's a compliment, honestly, because technically they are just making good, sound decisions. Tactically, they were running plays. It wasn't so much one on one like you see with the NBA.
Q. Are you good friends with Sue? She's been outspoken on issues.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I've met her a couple times at the Women's Sports Foundation Dinner. I've said hello to her. She came up to me after the game and said, "Thanks for coming." I had the pseudo-Liberty jersey on. She said, "What's that?" She took it off and gave it to me. Becky also came over and said thank you for coming. It was an honor for me to be there.
Q. Talking about the women's tennis game today, what's the state of that?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think it's been written about very well, quite a bit. You see it just in the fact that we're getting two women's matches on Arthur Ashe Stadium. It's always been two men's matches and a women's match. The lead-off don't always start with the men and a story about the women. There's more coverage about tennis, a whole lot more coverage of women's tennis. I think the state is fantastic.
Q. Do you worry about the gap?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: What gap? I don't think the gap is that big. We didn't talk about the gap until Wimbledon. All of a sudden in two Grand Slams we have a gap. Very quick to jump to conclusions here. But certainly Serena and Venus have been playing better tennis than anybody else. It's not total dominance where they haven't lost to anybody else. Serena lost a couple weeks ago to Chanda Rubin. Venus has had some losses, as well. It's not just to each other they're losing; it's to other people. Steffi Graf dominated when she lost three or four matches the whole year. I lost six matches in three years at one stage. That's dominance. They're getting there, but they're not there yet. Hopefully the women won't let the gap get too big. I don't think they want for that to happen. It's too hard to catch up.
Q. Do you still play for the Mother Puckers?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yes, hockey.
Q. Score any goals last year?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, I played really well in the playoffs. We finished third.
Q. Would you ever play the 45 and overs, like the World Championships? Obviously you're much better than everybody. Would you give those women a shot at you to see where they stand? Would you play the ITF World Championships?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Why would I do that?
Q. Obviously, you're better.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You know what? This wouldn't be much different than me playing in the Gay Games. Somebody said, "Why won't you play the Gay Games?" I was like, "Why would I want to do that?" Obviously, I'm better than they are. Obviously, I could play, if I was desperate for competition.
Q. Just to give people a shot at you.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That has not occurred to me. "I want to give you a shot at me." I'm still playing with the girls here. When I quit this one, we can talk about it.
Q. A lot of other women in that age group would like to see...
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: To see how badly I beat them, whether it's 6-Love, 6-Love or 6-1, 6-1. Bad question, next.
Q. Is there any way you could think of to beat the Williams sisters with that gap existing? How would you go about the best way of beating them?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: There are many strategies. It's what somebody is capable of. I can't put my game onto them. I have to play with what they have. Certainly the ability is there. Again, I think the biggest difference is they get to more balls. It's not that they hit the ball that much better. They might hit it harder, but I think consistently Lindsay has better groundstrokes and Jennifer has better groundstrokes, but they don't get to the ball as well and they don't get as many free points off the serve. That's the biggest difference, serve and mobility. They get so many balls back. If you start the point out of the hand, then we're equalizing it a lot more. But you still have to equalize it more with the footwork. That's where there is room for improvement for everybody. But even they can get better, and that's scary.
Q. Would you say the same about Lindsay and Jennifer, about Martina Hingis? Do you think she still has a chance?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I would like to think that she does because she's still a brilliant tactician, and obviously a great shot-maker. She also needs to be able to get to more balls, be more explosive. Because she is short, she has to make up for that. If she stretches for a ball, and Venus stretches for a ball, Venus probably has this much reach (about a foot). That's a huge advantage if you're reaching for a ball. That means the difference between getting there or not getting there, hitting a defensive shot than an offensive shot. The biggest glaring difference I see is her serve. She doesn't win many, if any, free points on her serve. Her second serve is too much of a love offering. She needs to get more spin on the ball. If not pace, a lot more spin, so it's moving, so it makes it more difficult to hit. But it can be done, definitely.
Q. Would you have ever thought about any 45 years old player capable to beat the No. 22 in the world?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, yeah, it could be done. It was grass.
Q. Could you ever have thought that before?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It was ridiculous for me to win that tournament. I lost a bet, so I had to own up to it. I really didn't think about it. Then when I went on the court, I thought, "Oh, my God, I have a lot to lose here, not a whole lot to gain." I really could have looked like a fool. I had enough confidence in myself that I would be able to hold my own, and I did. After the match, it was like, "Wow." I didn't know what her ranking was until I heard about it afterwards.
Q. Some other girls were a little bit embarrassed.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, again, you're looking at age instead of the person. "Wow, look at this basketball player, he's 38 years old, can still run." It's Michael Jordan. "37-year-old hockey player, beating everybody up." That's Mario Lemieux. You can't discount that. I got upset when they said, "Doesn't say much about the state of women's tennis when somebody like this can come and beat them." Well, it's not "somebody like this," it's me. They're disparaging because it's a woman. I haven't seen anything about the state of NBA when Michael Jordan came back and played well. Nobody questioned how good the guys were. Nobody questioned how good the hockey players were when Mario Lemieux came and dominated like that (snapping fingers). I would like to think it's I'm really good rather than they're bad.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.