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March 22, 2002

Billie Jean King


BILLIE JEAN KING: Today we're doing a Mentor Appreciation Award for Mercedes Paez. She's been a great mentor to Magui Serna, and now she's also helping Maria Emilia Salerni of Argentina as well. Mercedes, I've known her for a few thousand years now (laughing).


BILLIE JEAN KING: No, not really. She was always such a wonderful player on the tour. She won a couple of WTA singles titles, she won 23 doubles titles with various partners, so that shows that she's such a great doubles player. Some of them were with, let's see, Terveni (ph) and Sabatini, just to name a couple of the people she's played doubles with. She's also been a Tournament Director in Argentina. Also now she's in business. She has the only McDonald's franchise in her local city in Argentina. So she's just been such a great example and been so helpful. And our program, Mentors for Success, was the first one to be started in pro sports. Obviously, it's to help the generation coming up, to help them through the trials and tribulations and also some of the joys of starting out on our Sanex WTA Tour, which is not easy. It's a difficult process for players to come through. We're the first ones to do that. In fact, the NBA has copied us, and they started their own. So we're very proud of this. It really stems from when we started the WTA, that we need to be like family, we need to help each other, and it's a responsibility of each generation to help the generation coming up. So it's really wonderful that Mercedes Paez has been so good for doing this. So we just wanted to congratulate you. Of course her mentee, Magui Serna of Spain, has been a great player as well. I'll turn it over to Magui to talk to you about Mercedes Paez, her mentor.

MAGUI SERNA: Well, I just wanted to say a few words. I actually have written them down. I would like to thank you for all your support these last four years. As you remember, when the Sanex WTA Tour told me I would be receiving a mentor, I was very excited but also nervous. Once I began working with you, my worries vanished. You helped me so much by talking and E-mailing with me, and sharing your many years of knowledge. I will never forget that time I was in Australia and experienced a very tough loss. I was very upset and a bit confused. But then I received a message from you. You told me not to worry, that it was the beginning of the year, that it was one match, but I had many ahead of me. I wanted you to know that this moment was very important to me and showed me how much you were there to support me. Congratulations on this award. You deserve it. Thank you also, Partners for Success, for giving me this great mentor. Thank you, Billie Jean, for spending time with each of us and a mentor, our mentor. Finally, thank you, Mercedes, for being my mentor and friend. I look forward to keeping in touch with you for many years.

MERCEDES PAEZ: Thank you. Well, this is very beautiful. Very nice. Good memories. I would like to thank the WTA for giving me the opportunity to give something back to the tennis and also to give something back - I mean to help a little bit Magui's career. At the beginning I was also very nervous, because it was my first time doing this and I didn't know my ability to do this. But then Magui, it was very easy going because we spoke the same language and we became friends very easy. So really you make my job very easy. I enjoy very much doing. And also I would like to thank you, Billie Jean, because you were one of my inspirations. I remember in Hilton Head when you seat us in the room and you said that you had to be a leader in this game, you must make the difference. So, for me, it really was something that wake me up, and I still remember. So thank you for all you give back to tennis and also for being the leader of this mentor program. I think it's very good for the upcoming players. Magui, I know that you didn't give your best yet. In Argentina, I'm watching you every week. I know we're going to see much more. I wish you the best luck in your career. I know you're going to go farther, and one day you will become a great mentor also. So good luck, Magui.


BILLIE JEAN KING: Just so you know what this says, it says, "Knowledge and experience are earned. As a mentor, you have shared these priceless gifts. Partners for Success, Sanex WTA Tour." So that's what the inscription is on this. This is really nice (smiling). I'm going to have to steal this. No, I'm kidding. You know who would die for this, don't you? Zina Garrison is a crystal freak. I don't know if you all know that. All you have to do is put crystal out in front...I always tell her, "Zina, if we win this, crystal." She goes, "We'll win." So, anyway. That's pretty funny. Do you have any questions for our mentor or our mentee?

Q. Can you describe in more detail what the important components of what Mercedes has done for you have been? Was it more the help she gave you technically?

MAGUI SERNA: No, was pretty much when I begin -- when I start playing, I was very young. I didn't know anything about the tour. She taught me a lot of things about the tour and how to get over, like, when you are young and you are coming off matches that you don't play well, you get down really fast. So she helped me a lot with that, getting my confidence back and saying, "It's the beginning. I mean, everybody's going through the same thing you are going through. You're not going to be the only one." So it helped me more like in mental way.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Does she help at all , like -- you know what's, I think, hard when you're coming up is just to know the process, like how to call the WTA office or knowing the Tier I, II, III, IV, V, and also scheduling and getting to know the tournament directors and all that. I think - I would assume, and I shouldn't assume anything - but I would assume that you also are helpful in like, "How do I fill this out, this form even." I mean, it gets down to pretty knitty-gritty little things in a daily way, if you need it. The partnership is only as good as the mentor and the mentee. I mean, if the mentee doesn't call the mentor back, which happens sometimes --.

Q. Or return the calls.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Right, won't return them, or vice versa, then it usually breaks down. But this one has been very strong. Maybe you want to fill them in on some of the things you did.

MERCEDES PAEZ: Yeah, yeah. For me it was great because I was at the end of my career, I was with Magui in Madrid. So for me it was very good. Because then I knew how she was thinking in between points, what were her strengths inside the court and outside. Sometimes, for example, especially the Grand Slam, usually she got a lot of pressure because she want to be good. Sometimes those nerves make her go down. I say, "Come on, this is your first US Open, you have many to come. So give yourself time, it's not going to happen, you must be prepared. Sometimes you will have that."

Q. How are people put together in the program?

MERCEDES PAEZ: It's the WTA. They pick -- I think they see the quality of some of the players. And so then when an upcoming player, she reach the Top 100, they say, "Okay, these are the players that you can choose for be your mentor." So where they found her, they probably have the same language or they feel comfortable to talk with. So then they choose.

Q. The player chooses?


BILLIE JEAN KING: A mentee chooses a mentor. Venus chose Pam Shriver. Serena, Zina, isn't it? Srebotnik, Gabby. So it just depends on the -- the player really chooses the mentor. What we try to do, what the WTA tries to do, is facilitate, though, and ask certain questions. But they'd already played doubles, so that's really probably where that struck a chord for both of them and worked. But a lot of times the WTA will help, Ashley will help or Cathy Martin, who heads up this. They'll always say, "What do you think about this player, that player?" Same language, or they can kind of sense their personalities. But it's an ongoing process. Obviously, we want to strengthen it. We've made a real effort to have these awards now so people at least know what we're doing and can really touch the people who are actually involved in it and committed to it. But we also want to just make it better and stronger and more far-reaching as time goes on. We really want to get back, in some ways - it will never be the same, we don't want it to be the same - but we want us to be able to communicate and stand strong together as one voice. We're working towards that all the time. We think that's very important for our WTA Tour. We had a very good meeting in Australia. Probably most of you weren't there, or all of you. We had a wonderful WTA meeting in Australia this year. I think it was a good start to try to enhance what we've done through the years and become stronger. We had almost every top player at that meeting. We had every ranking player. It was an incredible meeting. Kevin Wolf gave a very good speech, Harold Solomon spoke, I spoke, in trying to get us more cohesive and understand it's the responsibility of this generation to move forward with the next vision for our sport. Like I told them, they're living our dreams. This group now is living the vision that nine of us had back in 1970, that we used to talk about. When Gladys - we signed our $1 contract with Gladys Hellman (ph), we used to sit around and talk about how we wanted our sport to be international; how we wanted any little girl who was born, if she was good enough, would have a place to play professional tennis. That was our vision. These players are now living it. But the next generation -- this generation has to - what is their vision, where do they want our sport to go - it's their turn to create it. It's their turn. We had our turn. They're now living our dream and our vision - international, lots of prize money, over $50 million, 65 tournaments or whatever. That was our vision back in 1970, was we made sure when we started the Women's Tennis Association in 1973, we made sure that we had representation from five continents internationally on our Board of Directors. That was not as easy as it sounds, as it would be today. In 1973, to get an Asian player was not easy. To get a South American player was not easy. We had a few. But we had them, and we made sure that we were truly international in our vision. I don't know if a lot of people understand that, how we started this. Obviously, now it's truly international. In fact, I'm just getting some -- I want to know how many players we had from different countries when we started and how many we have now. Do you know how many countries are involved now as far as players from how many countries? I don't know, but I'm going to find that out. That's one of my questions.

THE MODERATOR: I'm afraid we need to wrap this up because we have players that need to come in for the media. If you want to continue talking to Billie Jean King, we can arrange something. Thank you.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Thank you very much for being here. We appreciate it.

End of FastScripts….

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