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September 6, 1998

Jana Novotna

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

Q. Can you describe the state of your play right now, whether you're thinking about going into the next match?

JANA NOVOTNA: I think it's very difficult to judge today how everybody is feeling. I'm sure that you heard from players that it was quite windy out there. It was just very difficult to play that kind of game you would like to play. But I think most of all, it's very important that you just go out there and forget about the wind, and just try to win. Don't play any spectacular points, don't play spectacular tennis. Just go out there, do your job, just do it well. That's exactly what I did.

Q. Steffi Graf plays tonight. Obviously you don't know for sure who your next opponent will be. If it is Steffi Graf, can you maybe assess that match-up, describe what you need to do, the way Steffi is playing right now?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I have been talking about it the whole week. I think I'm sure that everybody else did. I think that Steffi Graf is playing her best tennis after her comeback. There's no question about it. Of course, she is facing a tough opponent tonight, Patty Schnyder, who can obviously give her a hard time. I will just watch that match, go back, sit down with my coach, just talk about the match I played against Steffi in New Haven last week. Just try to learn from the mistakes I made over there. Just go into this match, you know, as always.

Q. In the other bracket, Hingis and Seles play. Can you describe what your thoughts are about that match-up, as an observer?

JANA NOVOTNA: Well, I don't know. It's really hard to say because I haven't seen either of the players playing, you know, previous matches. I think it's going to be a very tough battle. There's no question about it. Last time they met, it was in Montreal. Monica was playing really well there, beat Martina in tough three sets. Difficult match-up for Martina, difficult match-up for myself, no question about it. I always said, if you want to go ahead and win Grand Slam tournaments, you have to beat the top players. I think that is what it's all about, once you make it to the quarterfinals, you really don't have much choice. You have to compete against the best players. This will be my attitude going into the quarterfinals. I don't really care who is going to be there. I just want to keep on playing well and just enjoy myself.

Q. How about today? Did you feel you were playing well, not so much?

JANA NOVOTNA: I said in the beginning. It's really difficult to time the ball, and it's difficult. My game is pretty much about timing. I would say I played well enough to beat Spirlea one more time today. I think that the matches I've had against her are getting easier and easier. That is a good step forward. I would just say I played well enough to win today. I really don't care how I played. I know I wasn't serving really big, didn't have that many rallies from the back. Maybe it didn't look that good even, our tennis. But, you know, that's not really that important. Every day is different.

Q. When you're in the process of a match, whether you're struggling or not struggling, do you talk to yourself? Do you kind of coach yourself?

JANA NOVOTNA: I don't coach myself. I talk to myself all the time. Don't want to go into the details.

Q. In which language, in Czech?

JANA NOVOTNA: You know what, that is the disadvantage. I'm spending too much time in the US. I'm talking to myself in English, which is not good, because everybody can hear me (laughter). You know, I just try to support myself and just correct myself sometimes. That's what I do.

Q. Steffi is probably the player who has given you the most trouble in your career. Why is that?

JANA NOVOTNA: I wonder myself. I don't know. I think it's because of the way she's playing. I think it's because she has a pretty strong serve. She has a real weapon. She's moving really well. She just hits the ball very hard. I must admit that I don't like to play much against players who are hitting really hard, because they don't give me any time to create on the court, you see. Sometimes, Steffi, Monica, Lindsay Davenport, they sometimes become very overpowering, they hit the ball very deep. I don't get enough time to create on the court, which is basically my game. They keep me too much back of the court, and I can't really come in. All these three players that I've named, including Steffi, they have a great serve. You know, that's a lot of pressure to deal with.

Q. Why are the matches against Spirlea getting easier? Are you figuring out her strategy or are you playing your best tennis now?

JANA NOVOTNA: I think she's just getting more and more devastated, you know. I know how that feels when you play somebody, and you can't beat them for a while. I've been playing against Spirlea now for the sixth time, and she's never beaten me before. I know how frustrating it must be going into matches like this. Basically all she can do is to hope I will have a bad match. But for me as a top player, a player who is in charge of the game, on top of that, it's very good. I'm going into the match already very confident knowing that in order for her to beat me, she will have to come up with something completely new or something different. I know that that's not her game. That's how it feels.

Q. Where in the world do you find the most pleasure in playing, just playing the game, apart from winning or losing?

JANA NOVOTNA: That is such a simple answer. With us tennis players, it's usually like this. I mean, wherever you do well, that's where you really like it. I played my best tennis in different parts of the world. I like to play indoors. I like to play at Wimbledon. There's no question about it. I just like the Grand Slam tournaments in general because I just think that that is what it's all about. That's what the tennis game is all about, playing Grand Slam tournaments. So pretty much like this.

Q. You said this is not your favorite tournament. Are you liking it any better now?

JANA NOVOTNA: You know what, I really think that I have learned how to like this tournament more and more every year. I think that the facilities and the centre court and everything else improved a lot. I think really for now, last two years, I do enjoy myself much more on the hard court in New York than I ever did before. But nevertheless, really I still must say that I'm still consistent, getting to the quarters or semis, that's really consistent. I think I do need to change my attitude a little bit and say, "I love this place." It will come back to me.

Q. When you're at a new Slam, how much do you think of Wimbledon still in your day-to-day life? On the court, no, but outside, at the hotels, does it flashback through your mind?

JANA NOVOTNA: No, not really. The good part was that I had some time off Wimbledon, and I could just absorb everything, what's been going on during Wimbledon. I'm getting the flashbacks when I'm still getting some congratulations from other players or people that I haven't seen since Wimbledon. So this would be the flashbacks, or I'm seeing some pictures from there. But pretty much nothing else. You know, it's still in me. I do feel that enormous confidence, enjoyment. You know, I just have a different feeling inside me after Wimbledon. I seem to carry that with me the whole day, if I'm on the court or not on the court. That would be the only difference. Now I'm pretty much looking forward.

Q. When you say you're more confident off the court, you're more confident in your dealings with people?

JANA NOVOTNA: No, I don't think that has anything to do with it. I'm just enjoying myself so much more than I did before. It's no longer that kind of talk, you know, "Come on, Jana, you're so talented, it's just the matter of winning a Grand Slam anymore."

Q. You don't hear that anymore?

JANA NOVOTNA: No. It's like, I've done it, it's so great. So this would be the only difference. It's the inner feeling inside of me that gives me that kind of self-confidence, just pleasure.

Q. When you look at the list of players who are still in the tournament, how all the seeds have done so well, what are your thoughts on what type of second week of tennis this is going to be here?

JANA NOVOTNA: Very interesting, I hope. You know what, I haven't seen the draw just like it is for a while now. I would need to take the time to look at it. Nevertheless, I think all the seeds did extremely well in this tournament. Most of the time players got through the second week. That's what I said in the beginning of this week, that this is the most important thing for a seeded player. Just get into the second week, I think that's when we usually start to play much better tennis than we do in the first week. Now it's up to competing and just doing well in individual matches.

Q. Kournikova said yesterday she expects that a new face will win this tournament. Do you expect the same thing?

JANA NOVOTNA: Absolutely (laughter). Oh, I don't know. It's so hard to say. I mean, it would be really nice. I mean, it would be really nice. But the question is, Who do you consider a new face? Somebody who never won a Grand Slam before? Somebody who didn't win this title for some years? You know, it's going to be really interesting. I think this is going to be a very interesting week. I think there is not that often in the history of tennis you have such a large number, such a wide-open draw, where you can't really tell who's going to win it. Because at this moment, nobody is like so dominant or so overpowering that you can point at them and say, "This is going to be the winner." I think that's what makes it really interesting. Is it going to be somebody new? Is it going to be somebody who is a little bit older? Is it going to be a brand-new star? That kind of guessing game is even interesting and very exciting for the players itself.

End of FastScripts…

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