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June 28, 2000

Martina Navratilova


MODERATOR: Good evening. Martina Navratilova and Mariaan DeSwardt.

Q. What was it like to walk out on those grass courts again? What was the feeling?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I've been on the grass for a couple weeks now. I haven't been on this club yet. It was nice, obviously. I'm glad we got to play. I'm glad we got to finish. I'm glad we got to win. We've had a bunch of matches interrupted so we've not been able to play like a three-set match in one day or one go. Always had interruptions, either rain, delay overnight twice. It's been sort of a stop-and-start run, uphill putt, so I'm glad we got to finish. All of a sudden we have to go on in 15 minutes, sort of scrambling, which is just as well, didn't have time to get nervous.

Q. Any emotions attached to it when you walk out there?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, you know, again, of course. I'm been waiting for this for a couple months since Mariaan sacrificed herself and said she'd play doubles.

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: I'd hardly call that sacrifice.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I've been thinking about it a long time. Once you get out there, you bask in the applause for 30 seconds, then you have to play a match. You don't have a chance to sit and relax and enjoy it very much. Doubles moves pretty fast. You've got to get on with it. Of course it was fantastic to be out there again. That's what I've been waiting for.

Q. Is this the reason you came back? The tournaments you've played, is Wimbledon and trying to get the 20 titles the reason that you've come out of retirement?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I'll say this again. I did not come out of retirement. I just haven't played here for four years. I've been playing Team Tennis. I never said I was not going to play doubles anymore or mixed. Just so happened I got in shape. I almost played last year. I realised when I was practising here that I could have played, so I thought if next year presents itself, I'm still in good shape, feel like playing, if I get a partner, I'll play. Mariaan didn't have a partner. The first time I thought about the record of 20 titles is when I read about it in the newspaper, that I came out of retirement to break the record. We'd have to win both events. Not bloody likely.

Q. How much did you come to miss those 30 seconds of public adulation?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I don't. I don't really. When it's there, it's great, but it's not what I live there. If I had been serious about breaking the record, I would have been playing. I would have kept playing doubles and mixed here over the last four years. But that's not what it's about for me. I came out to play one more time at Wimbledon. I may play next year, I may never play again, I don't know. I'm not feeling one way or the other, just like I haven't felt before that I knew this is the last time. Probably I thought it was the last time I played in '96, but I never said, "I definitely won't play," because I didn't know. I knew I didn't want to play singles.

Q. After one match, is it too early to assess how the grass court game is?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: The grass court game is fine. I played better in practise than the match. Once you get into the match, it's a different thing. We both play better in practise than the match.

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: I've been struggling to get points off her in practise. She'll beat a lot of people if she still wants to play singles. She's playing great.

Q. Were you disappointed that you weren't on the show court today?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No. Well, you want to be on Centre Court or Court 1 eventually. We have to earn it. It was nice that we were scheduled on there. I told Mariaan quite frankly I'd just as soon play on the outside court, get a match or two under the belt. Of course, we could have lost. That wouldn't have been that much fun. If you're going to lose, better lose on the big court. We have to earn it. Hopefully if we keep hanging in there, we'll get there. It was not a disappointment at all.

Q. How did you guys come to be partners? Did she call you and ask you? If so, what did you think?

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: She hounded me. No, I'm just kidding. I think we spoke a couple times. We keep in touch with e-mail. We've played Team Tennis together a couple years, so we know each other. We've always played pretty well. She wanted to play. She called me. I said I wanted to play ten tournaments. I got just one line back, "No way I'm playing ten tournaments."

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: She wanted to play ten tournaments.

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: I wanted to play ten tournaments with her. She said, "There's no way I'm doing that." I really couldn't find anybody because most people are -- they've got their regular partners for the year. I was struggling a little bit with my back. I called her again and said, "I'd love to play, but we can play just a couple tournaments, maybe a tournament before the French, then try and get ready for Wimbledon."

Q. How did you experience the reception that Martina got when she walked out on court?

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: Well, I think being one of the greatest players of all time, I'm playing with Martina, I think I know that every match, people are going to applaud her. You know, most of the time, unless maybe we're playing an English team or in Paris when we played a French team, the crowd will be a little more to the other side. It's great to play with her because I know most of the time, people have so much respect for her. She's given them so much pleasure. They're going to be on our side. It's kind of expected whoever plays with Martina.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: There's a lot of pressure on Mariaan. She has to hold me up.

Q. Do you feel more pressure?

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: I've been shaking in my boots. You get used to that. I just come out on the court now to play. In the beginning, I was scared to make any errors. I just kind of accepted, I'm going to screw up a lot, and hopefully she won't get too mad, just play tennis, just watch the ball, forget about the rest.

Q. You're known, Martina, for lifting the serve-and-volley game to a kind of art form, giving it predominance. Now with the retirement last year of Novotna and Tauziat saying she's hanging it up, there are really no more true serve-and-volley players at the elite level. Can you reflect on that? Are you sad to see that development? What does it say about the game?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's become just a little more one-dimensional than one would want. One would want to see more variety. It's great to see the Hingis-type player with all the different shot making, not relying on just pure power. But, you know, it would be nice to see somebody serve-and-volleying more, being more comfortable. Nobody seems to be able to handle the first volley. That's why they're not coming in. Once they're playing doubles, they're at the net, or the second volley, they're okay. It's that first volley that people -- I don't know if they don't practise it.

Q. Isn't taught or coached?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, I don't think so at all. Maybe they teach the split step and the good first volley. I mean, the serves are there, my God. They have some serious guns. If I had some of those serves that some of the women had, I'd still be playing. I'd just be walking in. I don't know. That first volley is giving them trouble.

Q. Do you see any woman out there who you think, "She should be playing the way I used to play, really improve her chances"?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think both Venus and Serena have the potential to do that, and Mauresmo definitely. That's about it. I mean, Hingis, she's got the volley, but she doesn't have the serve.

Q. Pierce has the serve.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Pierce has the serve. She doesn't have the volley. Doesn't have the hands really. Really a long way down for her.

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin are two girls coming up.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Alicia Molik, she could potentially be good. Just takes longer to develop. You don't come out with a great serve-and-volley game at 16. Takes a long time. Look at Pete Sampras.

Q. What about Stevenson?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: She's trying. She wants to come to the net. Her first volley is decent. She also plays a little tall. She needs to get lower and become more athletic. She has the potential for that. I didn't mean to omit her.

Q. There's been talk about Tauziat's book, allegations that the WTA is favouring the young pretty girls over the more established champions. Any thoughts on that, the condition of the tour right now?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I haven't been around to really comment on that. I don't know. I think for a while the WTA was pushing the hetero-sexism a little bit. I think they've sort of backed off that because we don't need to do that. We don't see the guys posing with just the flag in front of their body, the important parts. You know, we have a great product out there. We have the personalities, we have the games, we have the athletes. We can push that plenty. You've see it across the board, not just tennis players. You see the soccer players doing it, volleyball, they have to play in a bathing suit about this big (indicating). Guys don't have to do that. There is a double standard. Always has been. Hopefully we're pushing it out of the way a little bit at a time. We certainly don't want to be helping that perception that we have to be sexy in order for people to come watch us play tennis. We play a damn good game, period. If we're sexy on top of that, fine. Should not be the priority.

Q. Is it harder for you to play tennis or to commentate?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Oh, man, it's so easy to talk about it (laughter). Piece of cake. I never miss a shot up in the booth. Kidding? "How can she miss that?" Much easier to talk about it. Now I was in the locker room, the girls were watching the TNT feed. Of course, they don't go off commercials here. Now I need to know I need to watch what I say when we're not on the air. I want to say how great it's been to be back with the fans. The fans have been great, very enthusiastic. "Glad to see you back," blah blah blah. Giving the old people hope. It's nice.

Q. How has life been since you last played at Wimbledon?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: How is life? Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. I guess that's why I didn't really feel the need to play. I didn't have anything planned for a couple months, "I'll play Wimbledon." I have a great life from the tennis, doing a lot of different things. I'm able to spend a lot of time with my friends and family, work at being a better human being because tennis doesn't really lend itself to that so much. At the same time it's nice to be so narcissistic about one's body, stretch, say, "I can't do this, I have to play a match."

Q. Was it good training, playing with your favourite hockey team out in Colorado?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Absolutely. Hockey is a great crossover sport. It's a pretty safe game to play. I think it's a lot safer than basketball. Great, great workout - you have the hand-eye; got my legs strong. It was great.

Q. How did the Mother Puckers do in the league?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: We won the state championship.

Q. What position are you playing?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: The right wing. Hopefully I'm working to centre next year. The only thing I do on the right side.

Q. What do you do to stay in good shape?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Hockey helps. I snowboard and ski in the winter. In the summer I play more basketball, not really tennis, golf doesn't help my shape. What else do I do?

Q. Are you still doing one-on-one, full court?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, or two-on-two.

Q. You've obviously spent a lot of time here. What are Wimbledon's strengths as a tournament? What are the weaknesses of this tournament, the way it's run?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I haven't seen the food yet. I always seem to talk about food. I have to check out the cafeteria, so I can tell you about it once I check it out. I think the new facility is just phenomenal. They've done a fabulous job. The gym could be a little bigger, but that's about the only semi-negative thing I could say. They've really gotten better I think with the players, making them feel welcome. It can still be a lot better across the board for the Grand Slams. I mean, the players, when they have their friends and family here, they work for 20 years to come to Wimbledon, they're struggling, begging, stealing practically to get their friends and family on the court. I think that's up to the WTA and ATP to do better by the players. I'd say for the media, it's a great facility, and the locker rooms are fantastic. We're spoiled rotten here.

Q. How would you compare it to the other Grand Slams, not in terms of player perks, but in terms of how it's run, the atmosphere?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I don't know. I haven't been at the Australian or the US Open for a few years. Everybody's upgraded, sort of gotten on with the times. Mariaan would be better to tell you what she thinks about that.

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: I think all the facilities have made a lot of changes in the last couple of years. It's really great. They've done an unbelievable job with this Grand Slam. I'm not going to single out one because they've all made huge efforts in making it better for the players, for the fans, for everybody. I think all of them are great.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think really the worst thing for the players is getting tickets for their family.

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: If I have any complaint, it would be that.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I had all of them. It's always a struggle. At the US Open, they're up there in the last row (indicating). "I think the court is over there."

Q. What do you get here for a typical match, how many tickets?

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: Well, I think like on Centre Court -- on 1 today, three tickets each for family and friends. Have my sister, two friends here. Usually my mom and dad would be here. I mean, she has some friends, family. It's tough. Can't get that many tickets.

Q. You're known for your progressive thinking, yet when you think of Wimbledon, you think of Royal Box, tweeds and tea, traditional culture, traditional ways of life. Have you ever thought about your great love for this place and how that juxtaposes to many of your other thoughts? This institution in a way represents a kind of conservatism, if you know what I mean.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's on par with all the rest of the tournaments really. The balls are yellow. They did change that. I mean, the only difference here is that we're wearing predominantly white. Everything else is to par with all the rest. The rules are the same, the rules of the game. The tradition is what makes the tournament special. That takes a long time to develop. They obviously have that here.

Q. On Saturday is the Parade of Champions. You'll be taking part in that. How important is that event to you? What does it mean to you?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's just amazing. I've been in a few now. Every time I get goose bumps. The first one I ever saw was '77. Of course, I hadn't won yet. I thought, "One day I hope to get in one of those." My mother is flying in just for that. She'll be here for a week. When she heard about that, she really wanted to see it. She's never seen me in any of the parades. It's fantastic. You feel the history of the sport. I felt it at the US Open when they inaugurated Arthur Ashe Stadium. You definitely feel it here. It's nice they're including the doubles champions as well, multiple finalists, a lot of people that could have one if a couple balls went their way. A lot of people are acknowledged. It's very special.

Q. As in '77, the only person who is not coming here is Jimmy Connors. Is that disappointing at all to you?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You know, I still can't figure out where he's coming from with that. I don't know why he doesn't make the effort.

Q. Even Borg is coming back.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah. Jimmy's weird (laughter). What can I say? I don't know. I mean, he wasn't at The Open either. He had to play an exhibition.

Q. Never joined the ATP.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: He played the boycott year in '73 here. Well, there is a saying: Those who don't hear the music think the dancer is mad. Maybe he has his own music.

Q. As a team, looking at Madrid, today's match, do you feel you guys have progressed to where you want to be?

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: Yeah. We've really improved since our first match. The first couple of matches we played, we were so nervous, we couldn't move. I think we're getting there. Every match we're getting better. Even last week we lost first round, but we made some huge strides in our match.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: We lost to the eventual winners.

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: Exactly. We had a bit of a tough draw. Every match we play better and hopefully we're going to get a lot of matches because that's the only way we're going to get better if we win and do the things we need to do. I'm very happy of how we're playing and how we've improved since Madrid.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Just need some matches. If we can just keep building on that.

Q. Will you guys play The Open?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I have no idea. I keep getting asked that. Just see how it goes here, how my body feels, heart, all that stuff. I will be at The Open anyway doing some corporate work. Whether I'll play or not, those courts are awfully hard on the body. We'll see.

Q. Do y'all think you can win this?

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's possible. Yeah, of course. Anything is possible.

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: Win every point first, then we'll go with the games, then we'll go with the sets.

Q. What is the one thing you like the best about your partner's game?

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: About my partner's game?

Q. Yes.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: That's a struggle (laughter).

MARIAAN DE SWARDT: There's so many great things. I cannot really single something out. I think one of the things, even now, Martina hasn't played for five years, being around her, I know why she's been such a great champion, why her record is the way it is, because of her incredible love for the game and effort she puts into every practise, everything she does. It's done unbelievable. I know why she's a champion. Then with her game, there's so many things I love about her game.

End of FastScripts…

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