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THE LIPTON CHAMPIONSHIPS


March 26, 1997


Mary Joe Fernandez


Key Biscayne, FL

Q. What can be done with that child?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I don't know. I knew after the first point I was in trouble. I hit the ball really well, we had a long point, hit a couple shots that normally would put my opponent in a bit of difficulty, and she just came back with a better shot. It's hard. It's hard to maintain her rhythm. She moves so well and takes that first ball and opens up the court. It's tough. I think you have to -- when she's playing well, you have to play almost perfect tennis to beat her.

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Q. You played so well against Lindsay. Did you come anywhere close to that?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I thought I was hitting the ball well in the beginning. A couple points here and there could have changed the first set around. I had a breakpoint at 4-All, second serve, went for it, missed it. I thought I was playing as well. But it's a different player. Martina, like I said before, moves so well that it's hard for me to get her in trouble. The only thing I think I can do more is come in more. She opens up the court well with her passing shots. I have to come in on a great approach shot to put her in trouble, and that's not always easy to do.

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Q. Mary Joe, what do you think of her anticipation of where the ball is going to be placed?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: It's excellent. She always knows where the ball is going. She knows how to read the point. She's very smart. I mean, I've been playing doubles with her for the first time this week, and even in doubles she's very smart at finding out the other person's weaknesses, taking advantage of her strengths. She knows she doesn't have a huge serve and she doesn't have maybe the power that a Seles or Davenport has, but she's very smart and uses what she has to the best that I've seen.

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Q. When you have your conferences in between points in doubles, is it all business every time?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: No. She's a lot of fun. She's very funny. She has a very good sense of humor.

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Q. Like?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Like, I don't know. We played our first round. I go, "Where should we start?" "Serve to that girl's forehand, her forehand is worse than mine." I'm like, "Oh, yeah, you have a bad forehand." Little things like that. She keeps it very fun on the court.

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Q. Does she kind of prove that power is not necessarily all it's cracked up to be? You can have power, but that doesn't mean you're going to be the best.

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: That's true. The thing that she does so well is she hits the ball early. She uses somebody's power. I've seen her play against the hard hitters. She uses it to her advantage and hits it early, opens up the court. The next thing you know you're the one running around. It's not easy. She plays every point like it's a big point. Doesn't really give you an inch. It's tough. If she's not making unforced errors. Sometimes she tries to go for too much. Today I felt like she played extremely well. I had my opportunities in the first set, but after that she got confident and just really started moving me around.

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Q. Good season for you, three semifinals and a quarter already. What's going on?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I feel very good. I'm healthy, so that's a positive. I'm just getting more confident as the year goes on. Winning always helps to improve my confidence. I started the year off well in Australia. Last week, California, this week, I've played well. I haven't had any loose matches, I've been concentrating well, striking the ball pretty well.

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Q. How much time do you spend training at Bollettieri's?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I was there a couple weeks. I went there a week before I went to Australia, a week before California.

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Q. Nick, who can sometimes exaggerate just a bit, says, "That girl has four or five years left in her."

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Yeah.

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Q. How many years do you have left?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: That's a tough question. I've always said, as long as I'm healthy and enjoying it, I can see myself playing a long time. When the injuries creep up, that's when things get frustrating. It's very tough for me to start over again. I'm someone who needs to practice day-to-day. I can't take a lot of time off. I feel that hurts my game. My timing goes off, I lose a little bit of speed. If I can stay healthy and train all the time, then I feel good.

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Q. Jana Novotna was saying that Martina has a style that's utterly her own, no one can really copy it because it belongs only to her basically. How does she compare in your mind to the other No. 1's you've seen, Steffi, Monica? Do you understand what she's talking about when she says that?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Oh, for sure. I think we were talking about that, she's not a big power player, she's not also just a defensive player, you know, like Arantxa runs down all her balls. She's able to just create openings for herself. I think her biggest asset is that she's very smart out there. I was talking to her the other day about her match against Venus. "How did you play?" "I played okay. I made her play bad." She's thinking out there. She's not like a robot hitting to the corners. I think that's what makes her so good. The biggest comparison to everybody else is that mentally she's very strong. All the No. 1's have that mental edge. She has it at a very young age.

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Q. Does the name Chris Evert ring a bell?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Yes, Martina, Steffi, all of them are very, very tough. I think Monica maybe is the biggest comparison because they both did so well at such a young age. You can see their tenacity out on the court. I think just the belief that they exude on themselves, very positive. You can tell she believes she's the best one out there. That says a lot.

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Q. Is any of it taught, do you suppose? Her mother has apparently done something. Is it instinctive?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I think it's a bit of both. I'm sure her mom has been a very positive influence and has taught her the basics. The rest of it maybe she's learned from watching other great players. You know, some of it is very natural. She's a very natural athlete. Her movement and her anticipation, like people said earlier, is extremely, extremely good.

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Q. Has she invited to go roller-blading or is she too young for you?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: No, she's not invited me to go roller-blading. I don't think I should go roller-blading with my luck. She's very mature for her age; in doubles we have a great time. I find myself learning from her. I think it's great.

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Q. She also seems to wear this mantle of being the best right now very lightly; doesn't seem to weigh on her at all.

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I think she's very content with the way she's playing, the way things have gone. I think she believes she's the best one out there. I don't think there's anybody she sees that she should lose to. That's probably why she's going to be No. 1.

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Q. In your mind right now, is she better than a healthy Steffi Graf?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: It's different. It's a difficult question. I think Steffi at her best and Martina at her best is a great match. Martina has the legs to run down Steffi's big forehands. She's able to come in and put Steffi on defense. Steffi has the big serve, you know, can maybe out-hit her for a while on her forehand side. It's a great match-up. I don't know. I can't say that one's better than the other.

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Q. How about Monica?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Same thing. If Monica's on, it's tough because she can open the court with her angles, has the strength and power to play well. I think if Martina is playing well, it's a tough battle. Monica, for sure, has the capability of beating her.

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Q. You're a wonderful doubles player. Do you find that's unusual for one so young to have a sense for doubles as she does?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I do. I can't remember last time I saw someone so young play so well in doubles. She's been doing it already for over a year. She won Wimbledon last year with Sukova. She just has very good instincts out there. She knows when to cross, knows when to play it low, knows when to go for the big shots. My hat's off to her. She's extremely talented.

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Q. Are there plans to continue this doubles with you and her?

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: We'll see.

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Q. Mary Joe, how did the match get away from you? You said you had a couple opportunities in the first set.

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: After I lost the first set, she just got on a roll. She actually got on a roll at 5-4, played a great game to break me at 5-4. Then picked it up even more. It was tough. You get those close games where you're 30-All, maybe deuce, you don't capitalize, next thing you know you're down 3 or 4-Love.

DEBBI EDWARDS: Other questions? Thank you.

MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Thank you.

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End of FastScripts....

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