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August 30, 1997

Mary Joe Fernandez

Flushing Meadows, New York

Q. Mary Joe, was it hard to get a sense for how you're playing in a match like that?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: No. I thought I played well. I thought that I hit the ball better than my previous two matches. I've had really close matches with her in the past, won one, lost one. I knew it was going to be tough for me to win, you know, both sets. Pretty convincingly was a good sign for me.

Q. Mary Joe, you just get more and more confident as you pass that through the tournament?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: This week, I felt a little bit better with each match. So that's always a good sign. Matches obviously are getting better. Now I play the winner of Novotna and Lucic, pretty tough regardless of who I play. I'm just going to have to keep focusing on my game, play even more aggressively, take a little bit more chances. It will be important to serve well in my next match, too.

Q. Is there an adjustment as you go along in the tournament as far as the stadium is concerned, feeling more comfortable each time you play?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Well, I played out in the stadium three, the grandstand today. I love that court. I've always played well on that court. It's a little bit smaller and there's more of a family atmosphere; it's closed in. I like that court. Day before yesterday, I played on stadium. I like that court, too. Actually, I like it better than the old stadium. When you're in it, it's a little closer in. You don't feel as big. When you watch, it's a little bit different. It's much more bigger. The ball sounds really good in there.

Q. Mary Joe, we don't know obviously what's going to happen tonight. There is a chance you're going to be playing a 15 year old player in Mirjana Lucic. What do you know about her? Is it surprising that she has shown so much poise at this young an age?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Well, I first heard about her this year, she's she won a couple tournaments. I played in the little charity event on Saturday with her, a few points in doubles. I got a little bit of a feel for how good she is. She hits the ball very hard on both sides. Like you said, she's very poised. For sure she's going to be a terrific player. She already is. Tonight is going to be a tough match, playing somebody very experienced. I'll look forward to playing either one of them. If it is Lucic, it's more of a challenge. It's something to look forward to. You know, just try to go out there and do the best that I can.

Q. How far along is she for a 15 year old compared with some of the very advanced 15 year olds you've seen?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I think she's very far along. I think she's played three or four tournaments, won two of them already. I'd say that's a pretty good effort.

Q. Just getting back to the stadium situation for a second. Do the players themselves feel part of the history of what's going on here this week?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I think so. This was a big deal for everybody. The ceremonies on Monday night were very special, very moving. It was just quite a sight to see all those past Champions, giving a tribute to Arthur Ashe, opening up the stadium. I think players have realized this is a big deal,. To be part of it is something very, very special.

Q. Do you look forward more to playing more of a known quantity like Novotna or are you more curious and look more forward to playing a youngster?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Either way it's fine. They're both going to be very tough. Like I said, Novotna has been around a long time; she always gives me tough matches. I lost to her at Wimbledon. Never having played someone, there's always that question mark there of how that's going to go. We all know that she's very good and strong. You know, either way, it's going to be really tough.

Q. Monica Seles said something interesting yesterday about the atmosphere in the locker room with Martina Hingis being No. 1 in the game. She said that it's a more sort of laid back, almost friendlier atmosphere because Martina talks the same way to somebody who is No. 100 in the world.

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Yeah, she's great. She's very down-to-earth, very sociable with everybody. You know, she doesn't go hide or go into her own little corner. She's in there laughing and talking, right up till she has to go out to play. It's nice.

Q. Do you have family here?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: My mom and dad are here.

Q. Did you get a chance to see any former champion maybe that you had read about or had been an idol of yours? Did you get a chance to meet anybody?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I wasn't here Monday night. I had to play on Tuesday. I got the goose bumps watching it on TV.

Q. Anybody there that was somebody that maybe you idolized when you were younger?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Well, I mean, growing up I always watched Chrissy and Martina play. They were both there. I ended up playing against them, which I feel very fortunate to have done. But it was just neat overall to see everybody there.

Q. How are you feeling about this year's tournament compared to past tournaments? I know you weren't here last year. But past US Opens, how are you feeling with your game and health overall?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I feel good. I mean, knowing problems I've had, they're with my wrist. So far, knock on wood, it's hanging in there. Otherwise, it's great. I think the facility is outstanding. It's a lot less stressful I think than it used to be in past years. You don't have to walk through so many people. It's just more, I think, peaceful than in the past.

Q. You have extra motivation against Novotna, considering what happened at Wimbledon?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: No. I'll be out there obviously trying to win. We've had a lot of good matches in the past. She is a difficult player for me. She's always attacking. She serves really big. I'm going to really have to be on top of my game, either way, with whoever I play. If I play her, even more so.

End of FastScripts…

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