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August 31, 2002

Martina Navratilova



Q. Can you comment on last night's match.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, it was fun to win it (smiling). I've played -- I've had some rough draws in the Grand Slams, playing the No. 1 seeds or eventual winners. It was nice to finally get through that one. We lost to them last year here, Max and I, first round. Should have won the second set. With the tiebreak you never know. We lost in straight sets. It worked out pretty well last night.

Q. You seemed to be enjoying it greatly.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, you beat the defending champions, yeah.

Q. You were the most consistent player on the court, too. Did that occur to you?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Thank you, yeah, I thought I played very well. I was very steady, didn't really have any unforced errors. Leander came up with the big shots when we needed them. I was just sort of, you know, plodding along nicely. And then we won the last game, eight points in the match. That was sweet. Break at love, hold at love. Today in the doubles, we had the same score, 7-6, 7-5, and held at Love and broke at Love. It was eerie.

Q. Last night did you get a sense of them gently collapsing? They made an awful lot of errors including returns on your serve, Todd especially?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: He missed the first return when I was serving for the match, but at that point, the pressure's on. He wants to hit a forehand. It's a lefty slice, he better get around. He didn't. So the women's serves give the guys the trouble because we don't have as much pace on the ball, obviously. They have to create it. They don't like that very much. Me being a lefty, that pays off as well. So, you know, I didn't think they played that badly. But I think we returned better than they did overall. That was the big difference.

Q. You obviously are one of the best volleyers in the history of the game, if not the best. Congratulations. Who do you think has the best volley in women's tennis?


Q. Active players.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Probably I would still have to go with Lisa Raymond, with Hingis a very close second. I think she's got a great volley. She doesn't use it enough.

Q. Talk about Lisa and Martina's volleys. Good depth, good form?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Good form. I mean, form dictates everything. If you don't have that, you're not gonna get the ball landing where you want it to land. Most players don't hit the deep volley. They can and they have to feel -- it can go the dropshot or drop volley or the angle volley as well.

Q. We're curious. Does it still feel the same to you to win today than it felt 15 years ago?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's different now, obviously. The expectations are much lower. But I still have high expectations of myself to do well and to play well. I feel I've been playing pretty well all year. The results haven't been as good as they could have been. I felt Lady Luck wasn't exactly on my side all the time. This summer it started to turn around when Liezel Huber and I won a match after being four matchpoints down, ended up winning it 7-6 in the third. Got to the semifinals of that tournament. Then yesterday, I mean, just started to win some matches that I could have lost or we could have lost as opposed to the other way around. Lost a whole bunch of matches we should have won. Jennifer and I also came back in the first round in Montreal, played a good match. I run into a problem most of the time that players play better than they usually do when they play me. They get up for me. Especially now they think they can win, they play better tennis. The next day they can't get the ball in the court. That's always been the case. That's not anything new. It is frustrating when you see players hustling like crazy, concentrating like crazy, then the next day it's like they're all over the place. I guess that's a compliment to me. That's okay too. But it's nice to just be out there and doing my very best every single day. That's all I can do. Yesterday I played really well. Today I played okay - good enough to win. Take them however you can get them, and have fun. I mean, I think people get too serious about this game. I've been saying that for 20 years. It is a game. It is a sport. We are so lucky to be here. We don't have to strike to get where we are (laughter). You know, it's nice to still be a part of the game.

Q. Do you forget sometimes how old you are when you're playing kids who could be your children?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Oh, definitely. No, well, I don't think about it. Age is really... You know, people have been putting limitations on me for a long time. First I was too young, then I was too old. It was a very short period of time I was just right (laughing). Sort of like my mother, one time she says, "You're too thin." She's feeding me, feeding me, feeding me. Next thing I know she says, "You're too heavy." I say, "When was I right, mom?" You can't go based on what anyone else says or did. If I did, I would have never left Czechoslovakia; I would be there. You would have never heard of me. The leaders, the people that succeed, take chances. I'm certainly taking a chance putting myself on the line. That's what life is about. And, yeah, I know I don't play as well as I used to but I still play pretty well. For me the key is not to think, "I should have made that shot. I would have made it 15 years ago." I can still make it now pretty well. Maybe not as hard or good an angle, but I can still make it good enough to win. So, you know, again, in practice I play pretty well. And I've been training really hard, physically, with the trainer, Giselle, she's been fantastic. I feel as fast as I did in the '80s. Why not? I don't think, 45, that's an age, that's just a number. When I was at the Pam Shriver Enshrinement, they have a book on of all the players that have been inducted into the hall. I was reading about everybody. Molla Mallory, she got to the finals of the US Open when she was 42 years old. There was another one, I forget the name, she won something when she was 38. This is 1910, 1915, when the life expectancy was about 30 years less than it is now. So I should be like 55, 60 compared to those women. So, you know, I'm not a pioneer. And I think for athletes, this magic number was 30 for a long time. That barrier has been shattered big time.

Q. Does it make you laugh when you hear people saying that Monica or Pete should retire? Does it seem ridiculous to you?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It is. But you get into a certain frame of mind. A lot of it is more mental than physical. You know, you just get beaten down. Because at the age of 25, you're asked -- once you hit 25, they ask you all the time, "How much longer you gonna play?" Then you get 30, "Do you think you should still be playing" regardless what the results are?" I was still No. 1 getting that question. When you lose a match, it's because you're too old. Not because the other guy played really well, you just had a bad day in the office. When you lose a match at 25, it's because the other guy played well. When you lose a match at 30, it's because you're too old. Then you start wondering. It starts eating at you. You start playing a different game. You start playing a little safe, you don't go for it, you don't have that carefree abandon. You see that with the rookies. It cracks me up. I said this many times before, when they say, "Isn't it great, this rookie, how well they're keeping under pressure." They have no idea what pressure is. You just get out there, it's like, "Hey, I'm in the finals of Wimbledon. Isn't it great?" When you're 30, in the finals of Wimbledon, you're, "Oh, my God, how do I play this?" It's the mentality. It's hard to keep those questions not entering your head. It's like, "Am I too old?" You answer that question every single time you do a press conference. Pretty soon you start believing it.

Q. Do you think Monica's going through that right now? Have you talked to her about it?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, no. I have not. She's been -- she's had so many physical problems since she came back in '95. She's never been quite 100%. For a little while she was, then the body started giving in on her. So every time she gets to a certain point, it beats her back. I would ask her about her training, quite frankly. Her body shouldn't be, you know, doing the things that it's doing. She hits the ball as well as anybody. It's always been a problem for her getting to the ball. If she can do that, then, you know, she can hang with anybody. But she's not moving as well as the other girls above her.

Q. For a stretch at Wimbledon a number of people were saying, "Hey, Steffi's on a roll, will she catch Martina and break her record?" Then of course she retired. Now you're kind of chipping away at Steffi's all-time money record. You've sort of gone from hunted to...

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: What is it? How far am I behind?

Q. Less than a million behind.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Less than a million? At the pace I'm going, I need to play about 20 more years.

Q. Having said that, is it more fun now to be the hunter than the hunted, so to speak?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: To go after Steffi's numbers? Please, this is such a number, by the time I get there, somebody will pass me already because these girls are going at a $3 million clip a year. No, I didn't even know what it was. That's pointless. Certainly not playing -- certainly, did not occur to me to play this game so I can get at that record.

Q. What happened to good lefties in the world?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think they've been -- they try to make them into righties, I don't know.

Q. You used to be Top 10... McEnroe, Connors.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Never been that many women. I think women are converted into righties much more than boys. When a girl picks it up, tries to play lefty, they switch her to righty. Boys, they leave them alone. That's why we don't have as many good left-handed players. Few coming in. I'm really the only woman other than Ann Jones at the top of the women's game that played left-handed. Monica, but she's two-handed.

Q. Were you aware there was a, I don't want to say controversy, but incident regarding Title IX in women's equality in sport, some players not being aware of it? Does that dismay you that players aren't aware of that?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I only learned about Title IX years after it happened. They didn't report on it in Czechoslovakia. But, you know, I don't think it's that big a deal that Jennifer didn't know what it was. I think she knew what the deal is, but she didn't know that's what it was called. Let us not forget that she wasn't born when it happened. For us it's an obvious thing, but people that are born, you know, years after the fact, it's quite possible that I'm not that surprised, quite frankly. Let's keep in mind, I would ask an African American or a person, Chinese, Indian, whatever, "Do you know when marriage among races was made legal in this country," I bet you they don't think it was 1967. That's only five years earlier. They probably don't have a clue there was such a thing. In their life, it's always been there. Title IX is no different. It's like women's right to vote. You always think it's been there. It's not that long ago that it happened. So, you know, I don't think it's anything bad.

Q. Do you love the game the same way now as you did 15, 20 years ago, or is it different?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, I think it just grows, the love for the game grows. The passion is the same or more. I mean, I always loved the game. You know, like Billie Jean says, you never see the ball come over the net the same way twice. There's always something different about it; there's nothing routine about it. It's still a challenge and I love it the same way, if not more.

Q. Czech tennis, is it in crisis?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: There is a whole bunch of players but nobody seems to be stepping up to the plate. I'm not sure why. I think after '89, perhaps the hunger is not as strong as it was before because it was really the only way to get out of the country. Now there's many more opportunities. Maybe the hunger is not the same. But it always goes in waves. So I think, you know, you see maybe in ten years' time there's gonna be three Czechs in the Top 20. I wouldn't worry about it too much.

Q. Do you think you took the game too seriously?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, no, I didn't. I always had fun. I was very serious about it, but I laughed. People always said when they watch me practice, "You laugh all the time." I was like, "Why not?" You work at something, concentrate on hitting the ball, but you can have fun in between points, do stupid stuff on the court, play tricks. Playing the matches, I was always quick to smile and make a joke. I was always worried about being disrespectful to my opponents so I didn't joke around as much as I wanted to on the singles, particularly. In the doubles I would joke around more. It's looser, people don't take it so personally. Women take it personally if you do something. I was always worried about it. People always told me, "Smile more when you play." I'm like, "Have you seen Chris smile lately?" They were giving me a hard time. Yeah, I have a serious look. But whenever the opportunity was there, I would always joke around and have banter going on with the crowd. No, I never took it too seriously that way.

Q. What's your theory of mixed in a couple of sentences? How is a woman successful in mixed?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Theory on mixed? Play like a man. I mean, that's how doubles is played. You serve and volley and you take the net away. Whoever gets to the net first should win. If your volley's not good enough, you're not going to win. If your volley's not good enough, you're not a good doubles player.

End of FastScripts….

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