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September 5, 1999

Mary Joe Fernandez

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

WTA: Questions for Mary Joe.

Q. Can you tell us what happened on the injury, how did it happen, whether it was related to the wetness on the court or not?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Oh, yeah, definitely related to the rain. Started to sprinkle. Of course, it gets very, very slippery right away. It's very slick. You know, my foot just slid basically.

Q. Do you think they should have stopped the match before that point started?


Q. It was already kind of slick?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Well, as soon as it starts to drizzle, that's it. The lines get very slippery; the court itself gets very slippery. Sometimes if the court is a little rougher, it takes a little longer for it to get slippery. Not this one. This one, right away, you could feel it.

Q. Did you say anything before the point?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: No. I should have. I didn't.

Q. Were you thinking it?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I was. When we stopped earlier, it was kind of the same thing. I dragged my foot a little bit on the court, saw that it was kind of slick. I asked. You know, we stopped. But you know, once you get started, you want to keep playing. I thought, "Maybe it's going to stop." It was too slippery.

Q. You had just hit a really good shot, backhand stab volley to force it to deuce. Did you want to keep that momentum?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Kind of. It's tough coming back out when it's deuce or breakpoint or ad in. If it's going to rain, you'd rather be on a changeover. You definitely want to keep the momentum going. Obviously, I was playing well, in the lead. That's even more of an incentive to keep going.

Q. What is the injury?


Q. How much did it affect you when you came out?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: It was tight. It was sore. I was probably tentative on it. Venus was starting to pick up the pace, play a lot better. You know, against her, have you to be 110 %. You have to be moving really well, being able to take the ball early. I felt a little bit slower than I was earlier in the match. But, you know, she played great. She picked it up. She served a lot better in the last two sets. I had a few opportunities in some games, especially the first two games of the last set. Wasn't able to capitalize. She steamrolled after that.

Q. If you have to play 110%, what do you think you were in that last set and a half after the injury?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Oh, I don't know. I don't want to put a number on it. I definitely wasn't 110%.

Q. The backhands that you missed in the last set and a half, was it because you couldn't put any weight, transfer over?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I was tentative. It wasn't hurting me. It wasn't something that was "Oh" every time I went to step. It was definitely in the back of my mind. It's tough when you hurt something, you're going to think about it; you don't want to make it any worse. Definitely with my movement, it wasn't as sharp as it was in the beginning.

Q. You had ten minutes to continue. During that ten minutes, they call off the match, suspended the match.


Q. Could you have continued within that ten minutes?


Q. Do you think you could have?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: She was going to wrap me up right away, get it nice and tight, give it a go. Probably. That's basically what we did anyway. She iced it for a while, the trainer iced it. We wrapped it up right away. It would have been the same process.

Q. Would it have been better if you kept going?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I don't know. I don't know. Maybe. We won't know.

Q. How different was Venus' game before your injury and what were the biggest changes afterwards?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Well, I think she just started to move me a lot more, obviously. I think my balls were landing a little bit shorter, so it gave her the opportunity to dictate play a lot more. She was more consistent. Just, you know, picked it up. I think her serve particularly was a lot better in the last two sets than it was in the beginning.

Q. Did you consider retiring at all in the third set?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: No, no. I mean, you retire if you can't move, if you can't walk. I could definitely do that. Like I said, I still felt I had opportunities. I just wasn't able to convert. You never know. Against someone like Venus, if maybe you get a 2-Love lead, they start thinking about it, it gets down to pressure tennis. Once she got those two games and got the lead, it was tough to come back.

Q. I'm sure you're going to wonder, "What if the rain delay was called before the injury?"

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: You can't. You can't do that. It happened. Bad luck. That's the end of it.

Q. Now that you've played both of the Williams sisters, talk about the differences in their games.

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Let's see. They both have similar games. They both hit the ball very hard off both sides extremely well. Off the ground, they both have better backhands. It's a similar kind of player. I think up until this point, Venus has probably been the tougher one mentally. I think Serena is probably almost there, in that department. But everything else is pretty much the same. I mean, to say who hits harder, I don't know. Maybe Serena hits the ball a little bit flatter so it goes through the court a little bit more. Venus moves really, really well. It's hard to get by her. Her first serve, when she hits it hard, it's pretty lethal. She probably has the heads up in that department.

Q. Do you think there's a chance that both could wind up in the finals?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Sure. There's always a chance. They've done it before. They're definitely capable of doing it again.

Q. You really sort of befuddled her in the first set, keeping the ball deep, playing a lot to her forehand side. If you had been able to continue doing that, did you see yourself winning that match?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I definitely went out there, you know -- you have to go out there expecting to win. I definitely went out there with a game plan. I don't know, you know. We can't look back and say, "What if." It just didn't happen. You know, I played a great first set. It was good tennis. She made a lot of unforced errors, which helped. You know, definitely for me that's the way I have to play her. I'm not going to overpower Venus Williams. I've got to do the best at keeping the ball deep, coming in when I can, attacking the weaknesses.

Q. Did you feel she was a little impatient with the deep balls you were hitting without a whole lot of pace?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: You know, I think anybody who's tall and has a long reach, they like to hit on the run. They like when they get pulled out of the court. They have good wingspan. If you can keep her kind of in the center, but deep, it gets frustrating because you don't give them angles. That's probably why she made some mistakes in the beginning. You know, Venus, she's smart, she figures things out pretty quickly. She starts hitting a little more spin, hitting deeper, waiting for her opportunity. She definitely was playing better towards the end of the first set and the rest of the match.

Q. Did you feel early on that you had her a little confused or rattled a bit? Did you surprise yourself at all?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I was pleased at how well I was executing, you know, my shots. That obviously was my goal. That was not a bit of a surprise, but I was pleased that it was going well. I knew it was going to be tough to do it for two sets. You know, I did. I felt that I was capable of winning. I mean, when I kept the ball deep, I was controlling the rallies. I felt pretty good out there.

Q. The first game of the second set, you had a few breakpoints.

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: That was a big game. I think I had 15-40 in that game.

Q. And another one later.

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Yeah, another breakpoint later. We had a good point. I went for a lob. Don't ask me why I would have lobbed her. Maybe if I would have dinked it or something, it would have been a smarter play. That was definitely a big game because then I would have gone on the other side with the wind. Like I said before, you know, a couple games like that, you start thinking about it. You start thinking, "Gee, if I don't start playing better or winning these games, I'm going to be in a deep hole." That was definitely a big game.

Q. Is it a strain or a sprain?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I think a strain is what they said.

Q. An injury like that, is the most limiting thing being able to lunge to your backhand?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: More than anything, it's the squatting, putting the weight on it right now. We'll see how it is tomorrow. It was okay. I mean, like I said, if it would have been really, really bad, I wouldn't have played, I wouldn't have been able to play. It was wrapped nice and tightly. It was fine to play out there.

Q. What did she say when she came over to you after you'd fallen?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: She was cute. She calls me Mary, not Mary Joe. She's like, "I'm sorry, Mary. Are you okay, Mary?" I looked at her like, "No, but that's okay, I'll be okay." It was really nice of her to come and check up to make sure I was okay.

Q. At first when you went down, you looked like you were kind of collecting yourself, like, "Is my wrist all right?"

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I didn't know how many body parts I hurt. I knew one. I felt one right away. I'm thinking, "Oh, boy, I fell on my wrist, then my hip." Fortunately or unfortunately it was just one.

Q. No thoughts of, "Why me? Why now?"

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: No. Like I said, I mean, these things happen. It's a little bit unlucky. If this is the worst thing that's going to happen me in my lifetime, I'll take it.

End of FastScripts....

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