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September 11, 1998

Jana Novotna

U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Flushing Meadows, New York

Q. Up 4-1, what went wrong? What went right for her?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I think first of all, I should start this way. I think it was a fantastic match, especially in the first set. I think we both have produced wonderful display of very aggressive tennis, especially from my side. There was a lot of rallies. I was kind of surprised the way Martina started. I think she wanted to move me around, not make any mistake. I was just the better player in the first set. I was very aggressive, successful coming in. I started off really well. But also the first set took a lot out of me. I mean, as I said, a lot of rallies, a lot of running. It was pretty hot out there. Martina started to play completely different tennis in the second set, just started to come in all the time. You know, just played perfect serve and volley game. Unfortunately, everything went just a little too fast for me in the second. Never had the chance to get into that second set, just lost it very easily. In the third set, you know, I would just say that, yeah, I was up 4-1, I had -- but from that moment on, I started to miss too many approach shots, missed too many volleys. You can't simply do that against Martina. I mean, against her, doesn't mean if you are up 4-1 or 5-Love, you still have to continue playing well. And unfortunately, at that time, at that point, she played two easy games. At 4-3, I missed too many volleys. You know, the strategy what was working in the beginning of the set just simply I was missing too many balls.

Q. It seemed like your serve was not quite as on as it used to be.

JANA NOVOTNA: I think that's a very good point. My serve wasn't -- it wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. I didn't get any easy balls on my serve. That's not good. I needed to get some free points, mix it up a little bit, have a couple points where I could serve and volley. I couldn't simply do that because my serve wasn't as strong as it used to be.

Q. Was there something bothering you?

JANA NOVOTNA: I guess it was a little windy, still a little bit windy today. Again, I didn't want to go for huge first serves because, you know, I felt kind of pressure from Martina that she will be attacking my second serve. So it's a combination of things.

Q. What went through your mind from 4-1 through the rest of the set? Was it just a physical difference of not making the shots or were you getting discouraged because you were tired, perhaps?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I was getting a little bit tired, there's no question about it. That's what I said in the beginning, there was a lot of running. We had been out there for almost two hours. There was no question about it that I was getting a little tired. But I don't think it really had anything to do with my mistakes, you know. Simply made the mistakes for different reasons. I can't really explain it. I mean, as well everything was working in the previous matches, my backhand volleys and everything, today suddenly at 4-1 I started to miss most of them. You know, you never know really why it happens. But part of it could be physical. You can be -- you get a little fatigue, then you start to make mistakes which you usually don't do.

Q. During the match, 12 points in a row for Martina, eight points in a row, six points in a row, which is quite strange in an even match like that.


Q. How you can explain that?

JANA NOVOTNA: In the third set?

Q. No, during the match.

JANA NOVOTNA: During the match? You go into the statistics.

Q. 12 points zero, eight and six?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, it felt like, you know, once you get the momentum going, you started to play well, and it was going -- it was very one-sided today. It was like we never played, except the first set maybe, we didn't play the best tennis at the same time. I was playing very well, and was winning easily, or she was winning easily. So, you know, that usually happens. It's very unusual, actually, that this happens in like the semis and especially after the first set when we played so well, that suddenly there would be such differences, when I don't play well at all and she's hitting incredible, then the other way around.

Q. What did you think of the officiating in this match?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I think there were three bad calls. I think two on my part on the baseline, and one on Martina's behalf. So, you know, I had much worse, yeah (laughter). This was perfect. No, it wasn't -- it wasn't bad officiating at all. I think it was a very normal, decent match. I think there were maybe three bad calls, which both of us couldn't agree with. But, you know, that's very normal.

Q. I suppose every Grand Slam semifinalist is pretty emotional. Even though you've been through it before, is that true, that it's very emotional the way it goes back and forth, trying to hold together and all that?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I think that this US Open semifinals are even more emotional for me because it seems like I can't really get past the semifinal. You know. I was looking toward to this semifinal so much because I felt like I'm playing very good tennis, and I felt like I do have a great chance against Martina. You know, finally make that one step further, make it into the finals. I mean, I wouldn't really care what happens in the finals, I just wanted to make the breakthrough, just go through a little bit further here. But, as I said, you know, the best three players got to the semis, and this could have been easily the finals. No question about it. Because it was a great match. In order to get to the finals, to go and beat the No. 1 player and defending champion, that's never easy. I felt like today I was really ready, I had the strength, I had the game, everything to do it. I'm a bit disappointed in that.

Q. Did you feel in control of the match when you were up 4-1?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, you know what? At this point I didn't really think about it because what happens against Martina, you can't really -- you never really feel in control because she's such a talented player, gracious player, she can suddenly change from one game into another. One point can make a huge difference, like it did in this match. So, I really haven't thought about if I'm in control. I just wanted to get another game and another point, just wanted to keep on moving forward.

Q. Did you sense her frustrations, and did that give you any motivation at 4-1? She kind of sat in her chair and slumped, looked like she really was kind of out of it.

JANA NOVOTNA: Right. Well, you know, that's a very funny thing, because I usually don't see these things. You are there, you can see the both sides of the changeover. You can see me, you can see her. I am pretty much focusing on myself. I really don't have the time during the changeover to look over and say, "Oh, she's really pissed off." Now, it's my time, "Come on." I don't see these things. I usually see these things when I see the match on the replay, when I see it on the videotape, when I watch it later. I say, "Jesus, she was really upset." Once when I'm there, I'm pretty much focused, just concentrating on myself, just not to try to worry if she's mad or she's happy or she's frustrated or no. So, that's all you have to do. But, yeah, every time you see a player who is frustrated, throws a racquet, is not happy, that is always encouraging, yeah.

Q. Will you watch this match on video?

JANA NOVOTNA: Yeah, absolutely. Sure I will. I usually do that after matches like this. I want to go back to it, you know, just go over a few things, just talk about it. You know, learn from the mistakes so next time I play her on a hard court, I know what to do else -- what else to do.

Q. What do you think you will do next time?

JANA NOVOTNA: I don't know. That's just so early to talk about it really. I'm just now pretty much still in this match. I haven't really thought about that.

Q. What do you think Martina will be able to accomplish if she plays like this tomorrow?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I really don't know. I think it will be very hard for her. I think it will be a very difficult final. Especially if she would have to play Lindsay Davenport, because I really feel that Lindsay's playing on top of her game now. She's playing really well. And I really feel that she's really focused. Martina will just have to use all of her strength and experience to win in the finals. But, on the other hand, this match could give her a lot of confidence also. You know, she can play unbelievable tomorrow.

Q. Would you say she was the more mentally tough player today, or was she just physically tougher than you were?

JANA NOVOTNA: I think she was just a little luckier today, you know. That's how I would call this. I think it was not really a matter of being mentally tougher or physically stronger. I think today it could have go both ways. I mean, I could have been easily the winner, but it ended up that she was the winner, simply because I have made a couple mistakes, which in this level, level of tennis, you can't really make. So she was a little luckier. Everything worked out for me really well when I played her in the semis at Wimbledon. I played just flawless, perfect tennis match. And today I made a few mistakes, and she's good enough player to take opportunity of that.

Q. 4-1 in the third set of an important Grand Slam match, did your mind stray back to '93 when you went out to play?

JANA NOVOTNA: No. Yeah, like I said back, "'93 against Steffi, yeah." No. Absolutely, no. You just out there, you competing. There's no -- you look -- you always looking to the future, look into the next point. Nothing like that, looking back, just saying, "Oh, my God." No.

Q. In the first point of game seven, Hingis hit a backhand that hit the tape, popped up; you were right there. It was a pretty wide-open shot. You missed it. The crowd groaned. Seemed like from that point on, she really got going, things started to unravel for you. Does a shot like that stay with you? Is it hard to put it out of your mind?

JANA NOVOTNA: No, it's not hard to put it out of your mind. It's hard to recover from that, there's no question about it. That's exactly what I was talking about, that in the third set, especially in the third set, I remember exactly three very important volleys that I missed today, or I didn't finish them off, you know. That's exactly what I mean, that -- there is a difference between a couple of points in this match, and unfortunately today I have been the one who made the mistakes. Yeah, that was a very easy volley. I went for too much. It was unnecessary. Or maybe I was a little surprised that the ball, you know, came over so fast. And that's exactly pretty much how you can judge this game.

Q. What were the other two?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I think it was when I was up 2-1 in the third -- no. Jesus, I don't even remember what the score exactly was. I remember I had a forehand volley, didn't put it away, she made a second ball passing shot. Then, of course, that backhand at 30-All which I missed.

Q. Is the fact that you play with her in doubles a handicap or an advantage when you play her in singles?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I think, you know, it's pretty equal. I think that this way it helps that you know -- that you know your partner really well. On the other hand, it is a disadvantage because you know that person so well that you sometimes looking for too much, you know. Sometimes you are just overdoing things, which are not necessary, which you would normally not do against the other player. Or it makes you think a little bit more, you know, because since we know each other so well, you going into the match thinking, "Okay, what is she going to do? Is she going to come up with something completely different or she's going to stick to her game or whatever she's going to do?" So it is advantage and disadvantage.

Q. Does it affect your wish to pin the opponent to the back stop, since you're so friendly with her?

JANA NOVOTNA: I don't understand that.

Q. Do you really want to roll over her, beat her?


Q. Because your friends, aren't you?

JANA NOVOTNA: Yes, we are pretty good friends. As I said, always we have enormous respect for each other. I think that's why we are capable of playing, you know, such a high level of singles matches against each other. You know, we could be such a great doubles partners. But it really has nothing to do that I want to roll over her or anything. I just want to win as any other match, and it makes no difference if it's Martina Hingis or whoever it is.

Q. Despite the fact that this was a semifinal, do you feel like you two were playing for No. 1 for 1998?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I didn't really -- well, of course I knew about this. I would be lying if I said it wasn't on my mind at all that, you know, I did have a chance to become No. 1 player in the world. But, you know, especially since I had such a great year, I knew that everything, whatever I would do, would be like a bonus. So it wasn't like a primary goal or anything. I just simply wanted to win this match to make it into another Grand Slam final, and especially here at The Open where I have never made it further than to the semis. I wasn't thinking about anything else but that.

Q. You only won four of the last 22 points, yet you're ascribing your defeat to luck. Isn't that a bit much, to ask somebody to accept this as luck when you finish so shakily?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, you have to realize when you're playing somebody as good as Martina is, I'm talking about a few points, I'm not talking about all the errors or all the points that I have lost. I'm talking about the points that are crucial or points that really stick out in my mind, that if I would make these points, you know, the next couple of shots would be probably mine. So you can't really look at it as a whole package. You have to say -- if you would see the match, you have to go through it and see this was the difference, there were only a couple of points difference.

Q. Is there always so many backhand slices in your game or was that designed for Martina?


Q. Did your game always have so many backhand slices in it?


Q. Or was that designed for her?

JANA NOVOTNA: No, no, no. I only play slice backhand, right.

Q. Jonas Bjorkman said he and Patrick Rafter, being doubles partners, were not going to talk much about their match. That is going to be the case with you and Martina? Are you going to go over and talk about this some other time?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I think what we will do when we see each other on Sunday during the finals, I think we will talk about probably Martina's final, that's what we will do. We may go back to our match saying, "You remember that point, that point? How did you get to the dropshot? How you finish that point?" But we are not going to talk about it at all. No. I, think we have both of our coaches to talk about this. You simply don't go out there and discuss your game or your mistakes with your opponent.

Q. When you're out there in the heat of battle, a big match, does it ever strain your relationship with her, would you say?

JANA NOVOTNA: If it does what?

Q. Does it ever make things tense between you and her?

JANA NOVOTNA: Not at all, no. I think -- no, not at all. I think no matter how tough -- how tough match we had today, it makes really no difference. We just go out there and we will do the same thing like we always did.

Q. After you your breakthrough win at Wimbledon, being up 4-1 here, do you see this as sort of a little bit of a setback?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I would say I really wouldn't go back into it being up 4-1 or 5-Love. You know, I wouldn't go into the details. I see this -- I don't see this as a setback. I see this -- it's great to get to the semifinals. I think it's very consistent. I see this as a disappointment for not getting any further than the semis, you know, for so many years. I really wouldn't go into being 4-1 up or playing Hingis or playing here. But it is just disappointing that it didn't work out for me this time.

Q. Going back to '93, everyone knows that's probably not very fair given all that you've accomplished since then, there's going to be a lot of people in the public's eye that will at least remember that, perhaps even say, "She did that again." Is that a source of annoyance for you that people might think that?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I think -- if you're not going to write about it, people have nothing to think about, so (laughter). So don't ask me this question, you know, feeling sorry for me. Don't ask, just accept it how it is. You know, what is there to talk about? I mean, I don't have anything to prove. I said that, you know, right after Wimbledon. I said I hope that this will be the beginning of new Jana. I certainly don't think that this match is a reason to go back to what happened in '93 or whenever. You know, I don't think that there's no reason for that at all. I thought that I played a wonderful match. I could have lost, you know, 6-2, 6-2, and everybody would be kind of happy, say, "Okay, she lost 6-2, 6-2, nothing to talk about." But this way we have produced some great tennis. I think it was a great semifinal. You know, whatever happened happened. Martina was a better and luckier player today. I'm not saying that she was lucky lucky, but I just said that she made a number of mistakes today, which in this match I cannot afford to do. Simply she has deserved to win because she was the better player today. It's as simple as that.

Q. Do you think Martina has improved over the past year or do you think she's playing the same level of tennis?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I would say that she's playing about the same level, like she did last year. But she's getting more mature, and she's just -- you know, just a little bit different player than she was last year. Maybe she doesn't, you know -- didn't improve the strength of her shots or she doesn't hit any harder than she did last year. But, you know, she is a more experienced player, and she certainly is using when important moments comes.

Q. At age 29, so many teenagers in the game, what do you feel you do for women's tennis?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I think what I basically do for women's tennis is I'm pretty much proving that even at this age, you can still be very competitive, you can still be very good and you can still enjoy it. I think that's really important. I think that's a very important sign that over my career I have been doing something right, you know, during all these years, selecting the right amount of tournaments, and just staying in a good shape, and still keep on playing. And I think that's really important.

End of FastScripts…

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