September 1, 1999
U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Flushing Meadows, New York
WTA: Questions for Jana.
Q. I want to ask a question about your opponent. I remember once she beat you in a Fed
Cup match, which was probably one of the most unexpected victories over yourself. Could
you talk to me a little bit about any - I don't know how to say - comparisons of today's
match and that?
JANA NOVOTNA: It's been a long time ago.
JANA NOVOTNA: '96, yeah. It was on clay. We played on my least favorite surface, on
clay. Of course, I wasn't very happy playing her. At that time, I didn't know her. I guess
just knowing what to expect from this player, I lost. But I played a couple times in
doubles. I have learned much more about her. That's why coming into this match I was much
Q. I actually want to, other than ask you about today's match, ask you about Steffi.
What are your thoughts? She was just a little bit younger than you, yet now she's retired.
What was the special quality that she brought to this game?
JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I think that Steffi had many qualities because she's been playing
for such a long time, you know, it's hard to remember all of them. What I can remember
about Steffi, from my very first beginnings on the WTA Tour, she was a great athlete. She
just brought the women's tennis to another level. She played faster than anybody else. She
was very quick around the court. She just pushed and killed all the opponents in half
hour, 40 minutes. I think in a way she has made all of us better. She will be remembered
as probably - I don't know - just for her toughness, mental toughness, for her consistency
over the years, as one of the greatest players of all. I just hope that she will find the
same happiness that she had on the court also off the court, no matter what she's going to
do. I think that's going to be very important.
Q. And personally, what quality in her character did you find most appealing?
JANA NOVOTNA: I think the one thing about Steffi, that she was a hard worker. She was
working, I would say, the hardest from all of the players.
Q. Harder than Martina Navratilova?
JANA NOVOTNA: You know, it's really hard to tell. Maybe this isn't the right thing to
say, that she worked harder than anybody else, because you can't really know. I'm not
there to judge. You don't know how everybody else trains. But she was a very intense
player. Every time she stepped on the tennis court, she gave hundred percent. She didn't
hold back. She just kept on going. She always gave hundred percent.
Q. What did you fear the most when you stepped out on the court with her?
JANA NOVOTNA: What I feared?
JANA NOVOTNA: I feared her overall game. I mean, her forehand, her quickness on the
court, her mental toughness, just the speed and accuracy that she was playing with. I
think that was pretty amazing about her, that you knew no matter what the score was, she
kept going for it. She was just a great athlete who never gave up and just mentally very,
Q. I know you don't like to go back in time, but did she ever mention her win over you
at Wimbledon that time or console you in any way? Do you have any comment about that?
JANA NOVOTNA: You're talking about '93?
JANA NOVOTNA: Yeah, I think she did right after the finals on the court. I mean, if I
can remember well, I remember when I was standing there, she came over and she put her
hand on my shoulder, just wanted to tell me that she feels for me. I've been playing so
well, had a wonderful tournament, but at the end I didn't win it. That was very nice of
her to do. I think that was the only moment that she really showed me, not necessarily
told me, but showed me that she felt for me, that I didn't win the Wimbledon title in '93.
I guess she went through this, as many other athletes, many, many times, when you are up
and you lose at the end. She knew very well how that feels. She was overwhelmed by winning
Wimbledon at that time, but also she felt for me. I think that was a very nice gesture.
Q. Would it be fair to say that you feel older in the locker room than you do on the
court these days?
JANA NOVOTNA: What do you mean by that?
Q. Well, you're the second oldest player in the women's draw here. At age 30, athletes
start to become old.
JANA NOVOTNA: Right.
Q. Do you not feel old on the court, but maybe when you walk in the locker room and
there's 40 teenagers in there...
JANA NOVOTNA: You know what, not at all. I think it's never important how old are you
on the paper. I think it's important how you feel inside. Although I have times when I
feel very tired, and as you said, very old, when I'm playing or after some practice
session or after some of the matches, I still feel very young at heart. I don't think
about it at all, going into the locker room, feeling any older than any other players. As
long as I'm at the top and compete with these players, it doesn't really matter what age
you are, as long as you can do it. If you can't do it, that's too bad and you have to
recognize the sign that you are older and you are getting to that point when they are just
being better and faster and quicker, that you have to think about leaving. But for now, I
don't feel that.
Q. I think you were saying at Wimbledon that you thought the Venus/Steffi match was one
of the best matches you'd seen, at least on grass, that year.
JANA NOVOTNA: That's right.
Q. Do you think Venus was able to take anything out of it? Does it lead to an advance
in her game or is that maybe something you wouldn't be able to see until this tournament?
JANA NOVOTNA: Well, you know, I think it's hard to tell. Playing on a hard court is
different than playing on the grass. It's going to be very difficult to compare again. But
I think that Venus has improved since Wimbledon again. I think she's much more focused. I
think that she is finally going into this tournament mentally prepared to do better than
she ever did. I know that she's been in the finals here, but she still wants to prove to
everybody that she can play well at a Grand Slam tournament. I think this time she had a
great hard court preparation. She beat Lindsay last week. I think she is just very
focused. That's the only thing on her mind, to finally do well and possibly win a Grand
Slam over here.
Q. I know this is a tough question to answer. Can you sense that she's more mentally
prepared? What is it about her that makes you say that?
JANA NOVOTNA: That she is just focused. I saw her last week New Haven, saw her play
against Lindsay, and I saw her play in previous matches of the tournament. You could tell
that even after, when she won the tournament, she wasn't incredibly excited. She just went
to the net, shook her hand and was just ready to say, "Fine, who is next? I'm ready
to go on." It wasn't like, "Oh, I won, this is so exciting." She was just
very focused. She won, said, "Okay, this was a good preparation, but now I have
something else on my mind." I could be completely wrong, but that was just my
impression. I know that players, when they are like that, instead of being overexcited by
winning, they are very focused, you can tell that she has set her mind on something and
she will go after it.
Q. One last thing about that Wimbledon match. Seemed to me that, unlike her previous
Slam performances where she fizzled in a dramatic way, seems like she rose to the moment,
acknowledged that she lost, sort of handled that match, how big it was. Did you see it
that way or not? Am I seeing too much in it?
JANA NOVOTNA: You're looking too much into it (laughter). You need to take a break, and
that's it, step outside a little bit, and come back. I'm totally just kidding.
Q. I'd be glad to take that advice.
JANA NOVOTNA: You've been hanging around too much. I don't know. I didn't see much of
the interviews she made afterwards.
Q. You played her the year before, am I right? Was that when she melted down at
JANA NOVOTNA: Yes.
Q. In comparison to that match, I saw her not to break mentally.
JANA NOVOTNA: A different person; a different player. She was at her best, you could
tell, and she still didn't do it. I know at the time Steffi was very, very good. But,
again, she maybe has played one of her best grass court tennis and yet wasn't able to do
it. Can she get any better or was it just a bad day, a tough opponent to play? Definitely,
as I said, it's not only that Wimbledon match against Steffi, but it's just the whole
hard-court preparation that she's really starting to be more focused and just trying to
really do well and prove everybody wrong.
Q. Do you think she has the potential, the package, in a year and a half, three years,
to really become a dominant player?
JANA NOVOTNA: I think she is already one. I think she already is. She will continue to
be better and better because she has everything. She has a great serve. I mean, she has
very powerful groundstrokes. She can play at the net. She has proved that she can play on
any surfaces. She has that whole package. Don't forget her physique. She's very tall,
she's very quick around the court. That's what you need to have nowadays in order to play
well. She has that. She just needs to stay focused. I just don't want to sit here and tell
her what she needs to do. That's the easy thing. Serve, do this, do this, it's over with.
But she definitely has the package, and she will become possibly the No. 1 player at the
end of the year. Maybe she will stay No. 2, maybe she will be No. 3. We will see. But this
tournament will be a great step towards something that will give us a better idea of what
kind of a player she will become in the future.
WTA: Last question in English.
JANA NOVOTNA: This was intense. I won 6-Love. Nobody is asking me about that.
Q. How do you feel about the state of your game in this tournament?
JANA NOVOTNA: I don't want to talk about it. I don't feel bad. It's okay. Let's talk
about other players. I love to talk about other players (laughter). I don't want to talk
about tennis. I didn't come here to talk about my game. Look, the Czech press is waiting.
Be nice. It's really hard to tell. I mean, my opponent wasn't very good today. I played
all right match. Still too many double-faults. Going for my second serve too much. Still a
lot of improvements to make. You know, it was quite all right. Another victory, which is
Q. Is your game in the shape where you think you can make a serious run into the second
JANA NOVOTNA: I don't know. We will see. I don't know. Every match is different.
Depends who I have to play in the next round. We'll see.
Q. What were your recent injuries and how is your health?
JANA NOVOTNA: Where do you want me to start (laughter)?
Q. Your call.
JANA NOVOTNA: I just had the ankle sprain, that's it, from Paris.
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