March 19, 2003
KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA, T. MARTIN/M. Zabaleta 6-4, 6-4
THE MODERATOR: First question for Todd, please.
Q. Todd, in the conditions, you must be pretty pleased with that, I should have thought?
TODD MARTIN: In what...?
Q. In the heat, in the first round.
TODD MARTIN: Well, typically, I haven't played well here, and I would say today, the conditions are about as good as they can be for me. It's hot and humid, and that's not necessarily great for anybody's fitness, but at least the ball goes through the air. And when the ball does that, I feel like I stand a better shot against the guys who play six feet behind the baseline and play with a lot of spin. You know, it's nice to see. It's nice when I'm here and feel like the ball's not one of the larger citrus fruits (laughter).
Q. Where are all the volleyers going? Not necessarily just the serve and volleyers, but what's happened to the art of volleying in this game?
TODD MARTIN: Well, I think in the let's say late '80s, early '90s, when wide-body racquets became popular, companies were making racquets that really were as stiff and as strong as possible, it benefitted the players who played hard and flat, like me. Granted, most of us only used a wide-body racquet for a couple of years, but now the technology, there are a lot of quick racquets being made, quick through the air, very aerodynamic, easy to generate a lot of racquethead speed. There's a couple companies making polyester string, which puts, you know, seems like three times as much spin on the ball as gut. And, we're playing in an era where everybody out here, except for the guys over 30, probably learned with a racquet other than wood. So contact, you know, optimum contact to the ball, hasn't been a focus of theirs. It's been about, you know, stroke production and they all do it very well. So in answer to your question, the better all that gets, along with the fact that the ball is much slower than it was five or eight years ago, and the courts are being monitored much better, I mean the courts are so much more fair than they used to be, that being said, when these balls get like the grapefruits that they can, it doesn't match up very well for the volleyers, for the guys who like to attack. The balls sit there, and if a ball's hittable out here, pretty much everybody can hit it.
Q. It's often been said that what goes around comes around. Do you think with technology as it is today, that's not likely to happen? Or if so, not as quickly this time?
TODD MARTIN: I'm not sure if I understand.
Q. I said it's often said, sort of, trends in the game disappear, then come back in. With the modern technology, do you think that's going to be less likely this time?
TODD MARTIN: I think, you know, if the powers-that-be understand that there's probably been an overcompensation with the ball, you'll see the opportunity for guys like Henman and Federer and, granted, they're both at the top of the game right now, but I think you'll see more guys like that do well, and then do even better. I think one thing you'll probably see is since the style of play will become more and more rare, it's gonna be tougher to play the guys who play that way, just because it's not too common.
Q. What does that mean for a young volleyer like Taylor Dent, who comes to the court with a weapon that not many players have anymore, young players have anymore, and he maybe can make some young players who like to sit back behind the baseline and whack the ball, maybe can make them feel a little more uncomfortable when he's up there at the net?
TODD MARTIN: I think the difference with Taylor is that, yeah, he volleys very well, his game is predicated upon being at the net, but he's got a weapon in his serve that is at the very top of the game. You know, it's the guys like - I can't believe I'm saying it - but it's the guys like me who have average serves that are going to have a tough time. Five years ago, I was a server who had to volley occasionally. Now, I'm a serve and volleyer. I mean, today it didn't happen because the court, the conditions were quicker than usual here. But typically, I'm having to play a lot of volleys now.
Q. You came into this tournament outside the Top 100 for the first time I think in a while.
TODD MARTIN: I hope so.
Q. And you defeated someone who was ranked 36th coming in.
TODD MARTIN: That means I should be at least 35.
Q. How encouraging is that?
TODD MARTIN: Well, having played for as long as I have, and having tried to inch my way up into the Top 100 and so forth, I've learned that rankings mean very little. They get you into tournaments, they get you seeded, they might get your name into the paper, but it's really just evidence of what you have accomplished in the last year; it has nothing to do with what you're able to accomplish tomorrow or today.
Q. Is your wife and new baby here with you?
TODD MARTIN: Yes.
Q. They are. How has life been different since the birth of your - is it son?
TODD MARTIN: Son, yep.
Q. Your son?
TODD MARTIN: Life has been better in every way.
Q. Has it affected your tennis at all or your schedule?
TODD MARTIN: Well... Note to self, don't lean forward and speak louder (smiling). I didn't go down to Australia because Amy was due in the middle of January, and I didn't want to miss out on that experience. So it changed my schedule there. But I was pleased that it gave me an extra month to prepare for the season and get fit. But having a long break, it's difficult to get the competitive -- the competitive juices are flowing, but sort of figuring it all out again takes a little while. This was probably the best match I've played as far as being mentally present point in and point out. I mean, there were times I went out to lunch, but for the most part, my intensity and focus was much better.
Q. Are you more tired now?
TODD MARTIN: No, you know, at home I'm exhausted. But, you know, Jack's sleeping a lot better than he had been and Amy was nice enough to take the middle-of-the-night feed last night, so I didn't have to get up until 6:45 or 7 this morning.
Q. But sometimes you do get up, right, in the middle of the night?
TODD MARTIN: Sometimes, yeah. It's a partnership.
Q. Is it nice to have him to come home to now?
TODD MARTIN: He's beautiful.
Q. Is she going to be going with you? Are they both going to be going with you to a lot of tournaments?
TODD MARTIN: As many as possible that are -- you know, we don't intend to raise our child as a gypsy.
Q. That doesn't change your focus on tennis in the future or anything? I'm just wondering.
TODD MARTIN: Well, I'm in, you know, constant introspection about my career and what the next step is and how long the step I'm taking will last. I have no preconceived notions of what the next step is, but I think about it.
Q. Is there another Jack in Amy's family or your family? Why Jack?
TODD MARTIN: We both liked the name. It's Jackson, actually.
Q. You mentioned earlier the "powers-that-be," could you give us a little flavor of the meeting last night and how you see the current status of the ATP and what it's attempting to achieve vis-a-vis the Grand Slams?
TODD MARTIN: Well, I think it's very important -- it's a very important time for professional tennis in general, both for the Grand Slams and the ATP. It's an opportunity for the players at this present time to -- the opportunity has always presented itself for the players to come together and act as a singular voice. To this point, that hasn't happened. But the current group of players is very united and it's a very reassuring thing for the player leadership. Hopefully, it will provide good things for professional tennis.
Q. In light of what is happening in the Middle East, tournaments, sporting competitions won't continue as scheduled. A, do you believe they should go on as scheduled? B, as an athlete, do you feel safe in a venue like this?
TODD MARTIN: I'll answer the second question first: Yes, I feel safe. I feel like our country has done what they have been able to to prepare for whatever might come next - if anything does come next on our soil. And with regard to should we be competing and should we be doing this, absolutely. It's important that we all understand the gravity of the situation in the Middle East, the predicament and the challenge that is ahead of our military forces and others. But it's important that we go about our business and show them that our world's not stopping because of a conflict.
Q. Did you notice any changes in security today going about your business?
TODD MARTIN: No. The security's always been very good here, as it is at most of our events. Like I said, I'm really not -- I'm not typically a cautious person, except for the last eight weeks with my son, I've been a little cautious (smiling). But I have not noticed a change, and frankly, I don't believe there needed to be a change. If they want to pick it up a little bit, that's great. The more, the better. But I do feel very secure here.
Q. What would your next tournament be outside the country?
TODD MARTIN: There's a challenger in Bermuda in a few weeks that I might play; I'm not sure yet.
Q. Do you at all have any concern about leaving this country with a war going on?
TODD MARTIN: Well, you know, if I had to leave tomorrow, I would have concern. But since my next prospective trip is at least three or four weeks away, and my next definite trip is a couple months away, I'm comfortable with making plans and, if need be, changing them.
Q. Could you perhaps give us a gist of what the players would like, what the message is coming from the players, as a body, to tennis?
TODD MARTIN: I think fairness. It's important that -- and I believe the Grand Slams are interested in treating us fairly. It's just a matter of finding out what "fair" is.
Q. Given that there is an economic recession in many countries of the world, perhaps a world-wide economic recession, do you think it's the right thing from a public relations point of view for players to be seeking to improve their financial situation now?
TODD MARTIN: If it's fair, yes. If it's unfair, no, absolutely not.
Q. How do you define "fairness"?
TODD MARTIN: Well, I don't think I have the right to define it myself, but I think the two organizations together can come up with something that is fair.
Q. Is there a feeling then that the current situation isn't fair?
TODD MARTIN: Yes, I believe, amongst the players there is.
Q. In what particular aspects?
TODD MARTIN: I don't think it's necessary to get into. I think it's just, you know, we're at the beginning of a step in the right direction, I think, for professional tennis, and we have to see where that step takes us.
Q. Are you still - I'm sorry, I don't know - you're an assistant coach for USA High Performance Tennis here?
TODD MARTIN: Player/coach.
Q. What's your role with that?
TODD MARTIN: Well, the correct title is Special Advisor Player/Coach. There's probably some other punctuation in there, too, but I'm not sure (smiling). My role is basically to be, one, an advocate for USA Tennis High Performance; two, to, when my schedule permits, be a part of some of the young guys' careers, if they welcome that; consult with the USTA coaches, possibly represent USA High Performance at a board meeting, and also, if I'm in a training week at home, have some of the guys come and visit me.
Q. Is that your way of giving back? I'm not sure if this is a paid position or not. Is that part of giving back to tennis? Why do you think that's important, as far as working with some of the younger players?
TODD MARTIN: One, yes, I mean, this is not the primary reason. But, yes, it's a good way for me to give back and it's not fully -- I mean, I am being paid. Two, very selfishly, I love it. I love sharing my ideas on things, but more than anything, on how the sport of tennis is played and how it can be played better. So I really am intrigued by it. And when the opportunity presented itself, it was a no-brainer for me to accept.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.