March 14, 1997
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
Q. I'll go right ahead and continue with what I did with Lindsay. She talked a lot at the Olympics about how she didn't want to play you because you're best friends. Obviously that seems to have gone away.
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Yes.
Q. Is that part of what happened in the match? Is it harder to play her?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: No, not at all. She just played too well. She came out firing. She's such a big girl and hits the ball so hard that unless I can somehow dictate the rally, I'm in big trouble. I think she served a pretty high percentage of first serves. When I served, even if I had a good first serve in, it came back harder. I was always on the defensive. I tried to push her around but it was too hard. She didn't make hardly any unforced errors, just really pushed me back.
Q. When you've beaten her, how have you done it?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I've been able to control points a little bit more. I've been able to move her. I kept hearing people in the crowd saying, "Just move her," as if it was that easy to do. That's definitely the way you beat her, you have to attack her mobility, be able to maybe change the pace and attack. But when she's on, that's very difficult to do.
Q. Can you talk a little about this, or will you talk a little about this friendship thing? She said you're talking, still friends, working on it, is that correct?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: It's a long story. It's unfortunate, that it happened. We were good friends and we're not anymore. She's a terrific tennis player, very talented. I think she has a bright future ahead of her.
Q. Does it have something to do with at the Chase Championships? I know basically she said you weren't going to play a full year to the press, then you came in and said you weren't sure about that.
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: There's a lot of misunderstandings. I never planned not to play. In my mind I was always playing. I think she knew that. She said she didn't. Basically, she went ahead and got another partner without telling me.
Q. So that's it?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: That's basically what happened. I read about it in the paper the next day. She still hadn't told me. Put a little damper on things.
Q. So is it uncomfortable? Do you say hello?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: These things happen. Hopefully they don't happen too often. What can you do? It's a competitive world, the tennis world. People look after themselves. For whatever reasons, it happened. You go about your business. We've always said it's hard to have friendships in tennis because you're always competing against one another. It's been proven that's the case.
Q. From what they tell us, it used to not be that way.
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: In the old days. That's what I hear.
Q. Kind of make you sad that it's no longer?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Yeah. You wish there were more friendships out there. There's more pressure these days, more money involved. Girls start out younger, travel with their parents, coaches and agents. They're more secluded. It's tougher. I think in the old days you just had one another to practice with and go out to dinner with. It was definitely more of a friendly atmosphere.
Q. So you're definitely playing a full schedule this year?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Yes, definitely.
Q. Did you feel perfectly fine today?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Yes.
Q. So your assessment of the friendship is a little different than hers as far as talking and working things out?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: We'll see. I mean, time will tell what happens. That's all really I can say.
Q. How do you see the Lindsay and Spirlea match?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Well, Spirlea is a talented player as well. She might be able to do a little better than I did because she has a really good slice. If Lindsay comes out firing and is on her game, I can't see Spirlea hurting her. Lindsay has a big serve and big groundies. I would have to say Lindsay is a favorite for that match.
Q. She's been touted the last couple years, outside of Monica, as the top American. She seems to climb a mountain and slip down a little bit. Has it been mental with her that people expected too much?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Maybe. People forget she's only I guess 20, 21 years old. She definitely has a lot of growing up and maturing to do. People peak at different times. People like Hingis play unbelievable at 16. I think Lindsay has shown she has the potential to do that. For her, it's a matter of doing that more consistently and making that breakthrough at bigger tournaments like this one. I think in time there's pretty much no doubt that she will do that. She's too good of a player not to.
Q. Are you working with anyone with particular?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Greg Hill.
Q. Tell us a little bit about it.
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Greg Hill works at the Bollettieri Academy. We worked out right before I went to Australia, liked him a lot. He knows a lot about the game, hits the ball well, good timing. So far it's been going great. Very motivating, encouraging fun. Things are going well.
Q. He's traveling with you full-time?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Yes, uh-huh.
Q. You go to Bollettieri?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: He comes to Miami, sometimes I train at the academy. Great environment at Bollettieri, everybody is practicing 24 hours a day, a really good fitness program. It's just easy to train there. Everything is set up for you. You want to practice your serve and volley game, somebody out there plays a certain way. Every day you can have an equally good partner that has different game styles, which is great.
Q. Are you and Chanda going to play doubles all year together?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: No. She has a partner. She has Brenda Schultz-McCarthy. It was lucky for me that Brenda wasn't here this week.
Q. So right now you are just week to week?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I don't have a partner. I'm waiting to see if anybody gets hurt. It's tough because the top ranked players pretty much hooked up at the end of the year, October, November. It's hard. We'll take it a week at a time.
Q. Did you see Venus Williams play here?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I saw her play a little bit, yes.
Q. What is your impression?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I think she's very good. Last time I seen her play was last year in Oakland at the end of the year. I was impressed with the improvement she had made from a year ago. I thought her mobility was a lot better. I didn't get a chance to see her playing against Lindsay because I was playing doubles. I saw her previous matches. She hits the ball so hard, a little bit like a Lindsay, just takes the first ball and hits it as hard as she can. She has a huge serve. Great athlete. I definitely see a prosperous future for her as well.
Q. A lot of people talk about she's not playing enough, even though she comes out here and does well. A similar thing you insisted upon, finishing high school.
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I admire what she's doing. I think staying in school is very important. I read in the paper today where she says she has all the time in the world to play tennis, the Tour's not going anywhere, there will always be tournaments. I think it's great that she's pacing herself. Obviously it hasn't hurt the way she's playing. She's proven that she can compete against anybody out there. I think this year she's playing more tournaments. You can only think she's going to improve. Taking it easy and taking her time, she won't come up to those obstacles of getting burned out injured. Both sisters are very strong, which is a big plus. It's working for her. I admire that.
Q. Back to your thoughts about the Bollettieri Academy. Is it the atmosphere there just when you walk in?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: It's a great atmosphere. It's funny, I'd never been there before. I'm from Miami. I played one tournament there once. Never trained there. I have friends, really good friends, that live five minutes away from the academy. I love it. It's just a great environment. They have music playing in the afternoons. There's just so many good players to practice with, which is the main thing. It's hard to get that on a day-to-day basis for me at home. It's great. Very routine like: you practice in the morning, you work out, practice again, work out in the afternoon. Everybody's into it. It's hard not to be into it when you're there. It's hard to wake up and say, "I don't want to practice today," because you know everybody is out there.
Q. Did you think at all about Chris' place? I know it's closer to home.
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Not really, just because I found Greg and Greg was up at the academy. If I wasn't with Greg, I probably would have gone down there. It just worked out that he was training there.
Q. Talking about your schedule for this year and the full schedule you're going to play, was there a point last year where you were considering not?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I think I got misunderstood where I said I wasn't going to play more tournaments because of the new rankings. New rankings encourage players to play more, because there's no penalty. I'm not one built to play a lot of weeks. I'm playing my same schedule I've always played, probably 15, 16 tournaments. I'm injury-free. That's it. I'm not reducing it; I'm just not playing more, which a lot of players are playing a lot more.
Q. Do you think there should be some kind of a cutoff? Lindsay said she thought 20, 21?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: I don't like this ranking too much. I don't think it's a fair gauge of the results. I think it promotes quantity over quality. Not every player can play 25 tournaments every year. If there was some way where you could balance it out before you're not hurt by playing more, but you're not hurt by playing less either.
Q. In a few weeks, Hingis will be ranked No. 1, theoretically, even though Steffi will have won three of the last four Slams and other championships. What's your opinion?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: It's a new year. I think everybody knows Hingis will eventually take that spot away from her. It's going to be a little sooner than expected, but she's proven to be worthy of that No. 1 spot. She hasn't lost a match this year, has beaten Graf before. We'll just see. I'd like to see the rankings at the end of the year. I think the beginning of the year, things are getting started. It's more important how you finish than how it starts off.
TONI WOODS: Mary Joe, in Australia you were calling Greg your hitting partner. Are you calling him your coach now?
MARY JOE FERNANDEZ: Coach, hitting partner. He's both, yes.
TONI WOODS: Any more questions? Thank you.
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