home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


August 31, 2000

Billie Jean King

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

RANDY WALKER: I just want to introduce Stan Smith, our Olympic men's coach; Billie Jean King, our Olympic women's coach; and Zina Garrison, our assistant Olympic women's coach. Also, appropriately enough, Andre Agassi and Lindsay Davenport, the defending medalists, are both on Ashe Stadium today. Appropriate day for talking about the Olympics.

STAN SMITH: Our assistant men's coach is on the court with our men, getting them ready for doubles.

RANDY WALKER: Scott McCain, who was our men's coach at the Pan American games in Winnipeg last summer. Questions.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Never seen such a shy media in my life (laughter).

STAN SMITH: Need some warm-up questions.

BILLIE JEAN KING: We have to plant a couple of questions.

Q. What are you going to do for preparation when you get together?

STAN SMITH: Get together when?

Q. Get the team together.

STAN SMITH: In Australia?

Q. Wherever. Are you going to get together in the US before you go to Australia?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Here is what we have to do, same for both the men and women, we have to arrive in San Diego on the 12th, by the night of the 12th, go through processing on the 13th starting at 9:00 AM, which they say takes from five to six hours. We take a plan from San Diego to Los Angeles on the 13th, leave that night for Sydney, so we get there the 15th, because we lose a day. We'll get there, I think, Friday the 15th. When do we start?

STAN SMITH: We start the 19th. We have three days of practice.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Which isn't very much time because in Atlanta, we had actually the opposite situation. We had Fed Cup, then we had ten days of practice, then we played for almost ten days. It was perfect. It was like having a month with the players, which was exceptional time for all of us because I felt there was a huge improvement going on because we worked on technique. Robert Van't Hof, Lindsay's coach, was there. I always invite the coaches. I'm big on including the coaches. I'm not really their full-time coach. It's great to hear what they have to say and reinforce whatever they're trying to work on with the player. This is different in that we'll only have three or four days.

STAN SMITH: We're having time during the US Open to see them play, to work with them. That's been good. Obviously they're really trying to peak with their games during the US Open. It's both good news and bad news. Let's say Andre wins the US Open, he's going to be playing great, but he's also going to be a bit tired and it will be a bit of a letdown. From the day the US Open ends till the first round, the 19th, is about eight days. Might be the 20th, one of those two days. They have time really to kind of reenergize, but of course they're flying down to Australia. It's good and bad to have the US Open. Everybody has been working really hard, Palmer and O'Brien have been working hard on their doubles, Michael Chang has been working hard, Todd and Andre. The good news is they're getting really ready to play great tennis. They're peaking. The issue is whether they can hold it for the Olympics, or get it back.

Q. With so many pro players who are -- a lot of the players you're taking are experienced, have their own coaches. How is your role different than maybe with the Pan American team or one of these other teams where it's younger players that the USTA is more involved in?

STAN SMITH: Well, we have guys 30 years old. I'm almost younger than the guys on the team, pretty bad (laughter). We have guys that have played the Olympics. We have fellows that have played Davis Cup, all the Grand Slams. They're experienced guys. The key really is -- for us to do whatever we possibly can to just get them to be ready, mentally and physically - may be involving more rest than play just so that they're really ready. Each one is a little different. Each guy likes to practice a little differently than others. We fortunately on the men's side have two doubles players that are actually going to be available to hit with the singles players, Alex O'Brien and Jared Palmer, so we'll be able to fit them in and play some singles sets and work outs. That's good. Andre is going to have Brad Gilbert there. Michael is not going to have Carl there. I'll be working with him a bit. Same thing with Todd Martin and Jeff Tarango. The doubles guys are not going to have coaches, per se.

Q. Only Brad?

STAN SMITH: Only Brad is going to be there right now. It may change. So we have guys that have played. They know what they're doing. They know what they're working on these two weeks - really an opportunity to kind of reinforce and for me to learn a little more about what they're thinking about right before a big match, how they approach it. That's on the men's side what we're looking at.

Q. Stan, has Andre given any indication of how his personal situation that just became public in the last few days might affect his ability to actually be in Australia?

STAN SMITH: Actually, I don't know much more than you do. I know he said in the paper it's going to be an issue. He's going to get through it. I think the more he gets playing matches and gets into the tournament, the better he'll do in that respect. I don't know much more than you do in that regard.

Q. Billie, do you think you have a Dream Team?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Please. I'm a firm believer in the players make the coach. If you have the great players like Lindsay and Venus and Monica and Serena. My job and Zina's job, we always talk about creating an environment that's conducive to what the needs are and make it fun for them. We actually have quite young players compared to what Stan's dealing with. Fun is probably the most operative word that we have to have because when they have fun, it works for them, particularly Serena and Venus. You've got to make it fun. One has a blue fetish, one has a violet fetish. We have to make sure the drinks match up. I make it fun for them. "Don't forget their drinks." Zina and I are always talking. We try to make it fun. We try to teach them some history of the game through photos, contests in the locker rooms. One of the questions I said was, "When was the first time a person of color could play in a USTA event, USLTA event?" They're going, "1910." We just make it fun, try to make it a lot of fun. It's amazing how the players particularly like to work on their technique. Because we have fewer days before they play - remember in '96 we played in July - so they're going to be more tired, as Stan was really talking about right after The Open, we're getting later in the year. Rest is absolutely important. The reason I didn't play Serena in Fed Cup last time is she just won the US Open, she had a horrible cold. She was having a letdown. I said, "Do you know what a letdown means?" She said, "No." Those are the things when you're young, you don't understand that. She was totally having a letdown after winning the US Open. We played Russia right after The Open. It's later in the year, they're more tired. Rest is going to be important. Injuries - injuries. Stan and I were talking before we came in here, we have never had four players healthy for Fed Cup when we start playing the matches ever since I've been coaching since '95. I think injuries are another thing we have to deal with. We have a great support team going this time, which we did not have in '96. We have the support team that we had for Fed Cup, which I think is vital. I think that's going to make a huge difference. We really try to keep the same people together all the time because the support team is just as much of the team as the players. That's something that Carole Graebner and I absolutely believe in and have tried to structure over the last five years, to have that in place, so the players are comfortable, they know these people. Psychologically they're in a comfort zone. That's very important to keep the environment the same. Those are the kinds of things as a coach you try to do. As Stan talked about, Zina and I talk about all the time, we really have to know each player. Each player is very, very different. They feel differently each day. You have to be aware of those things, where are they coming from?

Q. How do you get a team concept when there's such a rivalry on the women's tour? You have players that are fighting right at the top? Stan has players that are far different in ranking.

ZINA GARRISON: I think, for one thing, one thing that I've noticed, even though we have a Dream Team, once they get there, they're very team oriented and they want to become team players. I think it was actually a lot easier than I actually thought. They were very supportive of each other, really looking forward to doing whatever it takes to make the team work. I think the great thing, being an Olympian, is even though coming off the US Open, once you get into that arena, you feel like a part of the United States team. Your enthusiasm and your motivation can sometimes carry you over. I think that's going to be a big part, even though playing the US Open, maybe just a slight letdown once you get into the village, get into the whole atmosphere, want to be a gold medallist, hopefully bringing home a gold. I think it's just excitement and enthusiasm that can carry you through.

Q. If somebody wants to send a message to the team wishing them good luck, how do you do it?

RANDY WALKER: I believe through whoever the official computer sponsor is, they have e-mail messages.

BILLIE JEAN KING: They have a lot of computers in the room that everybody is standing in line to be on. Do you know what the e-mail address is? We should find that out.

RANDY WALKER: I'm not sure. I can get back to you all on that.

Q. Do you have any regrets about how you handled the women's doubles selection? Have you been hurt by the criticism?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Well, it's been very difficult. My one regret is the women didn't vote on March 22nd to have more than four players go. They decided they did not want the matches to count at the Olympics, as the men did say, they would like them to. The men are able to have more than four players. That was the first difficulty because I really did lobby to have them vote yes to have the matches count towards rankings, because that would have allowed us to have more players than four players. I think that's the most difficult thing. I think that the team is actually meeting the requirements of the rules, and that's the top four players, singles players.

Q. Has it been difficult with Lisa --?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Yes, it's been very difficult.

Q. -- Wanting you to fight for her?

BILLIE JEAN KING: I did fight for her. In fact, we asked the ITF on two occasions verbally, I had a meeting with Ricci-Bitti at Wimbledon, to have more players than four. He actually said no. We made an incredible effort to try to make it happen. We were unable to. The ITF really wanted those matches to count towards the rankings. They're very adamant about it. It's been very painful. I think I went through a lot of anxiety and pain about it, trying to figure it out. It's not fun to have to call a player and tell them bad news, which I always do. I never make anyone else do it. It was difficult. I think we should have more than four players.

Q. Do you feel she's right?

BILLIE JEAN KING: No, I don't feel she's right.

Q. That you misled her when you made a statement that you were going to go by the rankings for the singles and rankings for the doubles.

BILLIE JEAN KING: I never said that.

Q. You did say it.

BILLIE JEAN KING: I said I'd take everything into consideration. Absolutely we took everything into consideration.

Q. You did say that you'd go by rankings for singles and the doubles players.

BILLIE JEAN KING: That's true, I did. But the rules are, we have to take -- I didn't understand this at the time, but we did have -- we have to take the four top singles players, according to the rules, the governing body.

Q. Yet, have the rules changed? How did Gigi Fernandez make the team in '92 and '96?

BILLIE JEAN KING: The rules have changed every year. If you go back through history, they were different in '88, '92 and '96. There's no precedent that's been set. It's been changed every single Olympics.

Q. How much of a factor was Venus' contentment and well-being in your selection?

BILLIE JEAN KING: I don't understand your question.

Q. There were reports that she would have been reluctant to play at all had Serena not been chosen.

BILLIE JEAN KING: If you read the transcript, she didn't know. For me personally?

Q. Yes.

BILLIE JEAN KING: When somebody asked me about that, I could care less. If Venus said she wouldn't go without Serena, I'd say, "Who are the next two players?" If you know my coaching style, you can ask people around me, I'm very adamant. I said, "If that's the deal, those two aren't going, fine." It worked out differently. I think this is the strongest team.

Q. Your founding of the Virginia Slims Tour is being remembered with Valerie Ziegenfuss' daughter Alison Bradshaw having reached the third round here.


Q. As you look back on that, do you think women's tennis would have reached its current state had you not founded that tour?

BILLIE JEAN KING: No. I don't know what would have happened. It probably would have happened eventually, but there were nine women who were willing to take a chance. We had a very clear vision that we wanted to be international, have little girls when they grow up, when they're born, dream about being a professional tennis player, that they had a place to go. We also talked about women's sports. We didn't even leave it just at tennis. We used to dream about how could we help all of women's sports by being the leader. Gladys Hellman, Joe Coleman (ph), CEO of Phillip Morris at the time, the support we got. We were very fortunate that things fell into place. There were nine of us that signed a $1 contract with Gladys Hellman. We were very clear on our intent, also on our vision. We were willing to do anything to make that happen. I don't think it would be the same as it is today if we hadn't had the courage to do that.

Q. Is it just a matter of personal regret, that great former champions as yourself, you were never able to play the Olympics?

STAN SMITH: It would have been fun. To be in the greatest sporting event in the world, to represent the country in that event, with the other athletes in other sports, I think would be interesting. This is what's interesting for me, to be involved in the Olympics, in an event which has all the other Olympians from other sports, to see how hard -- I've had some friends in other sports that have worked hard for Olympics, some made it, some haven't. The commitment that these athletes show that don't get the recognition that we as tennis players get is amazing. I think that's going to be an inspiration to our tennis players when they go down there to see these other athletes that they will meet, to see what they've done to prepare for the Olympics, and how little they get financially, but the satisfaction of really working towards this every four years hopefully will be a lesson to our tennis players, a reminder that we're very fortunate in our sport to have such great opportunities.

Q. Any explanation why the women are so enthusiastic regarding the Olympics, less with the men, that you had to go down the list?

ZINA GARRISON: Well, I think for one thing, not that the men haven't had a lot of success, but we've had a lot of success. And we also have really talked about the friendships that we've made, good friends with Carl Lewis, Gail Devers, Jackie Joiner-Kersee. These are people I met at the Olympics. The friendships you made, understanding what it takes, like Stan says, for a professional athlete to get to that level, play for their country. You feel the same thing that they feel. It's very interesting because once you get down there, they're very interested in meeting you, as well. That camaraderie all comes together. It's just a great feeling. I was able to play, and these guys weren't. There's no other feeling, the other tournaments that we play are individual accomplishments, but once you see - I know for myself - remembering NBC putting up all the gold medals, knowing that myself and Pam were one of those, for me, I sat in my room and I cried. It was like amazing. Nobody in my hometown knew what the Olympics was. Nobody had -- I should tell you, no one in my neighborhood knew what the Olympics was, nobody had any idea what Wimbledon was. For me, it was more exciting. It's a special thing for everybody because you're doing it for your country with a lot of other great athletes.

Q. Will the team stay in the Olympic village?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Yes. It's close to the tennis this time. It's not an hour and a half away. It's about 10 to 15 minutes.

Q. Both teams?

BILLIE JEAN KING: I don't know about the men.

STAN SMITH: Some will and some won't. They're making their minds up right now.

Q. That's their option?

STAN SMITH: Their option.

Q. Their loss?

STAN SMITH: We have a hotel very close.

Q. Is there any question that perhaps Andre, in light of what's been going on, might not go?

STAN SMITH: Not as far as I know.

Q. He hasn't said anything to you?

STAN SMITH: (Shaking head.)

Q. Have you talked to him at all about it?


Q. The three teams coming through the semifinal of Fed Cup will also have a strong showing in the Olympics. Can you talk about those girls in particular?

BILLIE JEAN KING: The Russians are very good, with Dementieva, I think one of the most promising, Likhovtseva, always dangerous. Who else?

Q. Spain.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Spain, that's been the thorn in our side with Fed Cup. When I think of Spain, I see Arantxa or Conchita, I go, "Ahhhhh." They're always tough. They always come together very well when they represent their country. They do a great job. You know, when it's for your country, it has a little different spin on it. Some players really rise to the occasion, they prefer it, they like the fact that they feel they belong to a team. Other players fold like a napkin more. It just depends on their personalities which people like those moments. I think one of the big reasons Lindsay won in '96 was she was brought up in that Olympic culture, because her dad was a volleyball player at the '68 Olympics in Mexico City. Lindsay Davenport grew up in a culture, her family culture, that the Olympics was so special. I think that really helped her in the '96 Olympics to win a gold. I know I would have loved to have played in the Olympics, because I grew up in team sports as a child, grew up around other sports. For me, I would have loved to like have met the other athletes, got to know them. That's the charm of the Olympics, building relationships outside your own sport, feeling part of something bigger than your own sport. That's what is so magical about it. I would like to see prize money particularly for other sports. Tennis is very fortunate, as Stan mentioned, and Zina mentioned. I wish they had more prize money for the other sports because a lot of them, this is it for them, this is their one moment in time, literally. Talk about your 15 minutes of fame, this is about it. When you really look at the Olympics, only one or two athletes get longevity from it. You cannot eat your medals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I would like them to have more financial security the way tennis players are fortunately able to have. I would like to see their sports do something. Why isn't swimming more professional? Why doesn't one of the players do something? Stan had to miss playing in the '73 Wimbledon when he won in '72 because they boycotted Wimbledon. They were strong, they were creating something, making progress. Stan gave up probably another chance of winning Wimbledon in '73. That takes an incredible amount of courage from a player point of view. Players today usually won't do it. That's how you get progress, how you make change for the future generations. We do have to consider the generations that are going to follow us. We're laying the groundwork now. It's important. That's what we're trying to instill in the women. I think the women, we've really tried to create a culture, even when we started the Virginia Slims tour back in '70, create the culture that it's important to represent your country. We've always made it a point to try to keep especially the top players together. We know how important that is. I know the WTA, that is absolutely one of our paramount endeavors, is to get the culture back. We have a mentoring program now. In fact, Zina and I are going to go do that right after this. We're really trying to help the next wave of young players coming up, the ones we think are going to be at the top. It's so vital. The American women have always had that feel feeling of being together. I think that comes from generations before mentoring the next generation. What happens if there's a break in that, it's really difficult.

Q. Is one of the reasons that that phone call to Lisa was so difficult is because she has been so supportive?

BILLIE JEAN KING: I have known Lisa since she was 12 years old, spent a lot of time in Philadelphia. I absolutely adore Lisa. I must say that Serena and Lisa were very professional in the arbitration. That was probably one of the most -- probably the most difficult I ever made, definitely.

Q. You were saying before you were trying to get that camaraderie back at the WTA Tour. Do you feel there's too much selfishness now among top players?

BILLIE JEAN KING: We're in a sport that's pretty individual. You're trying to create a sense of team almost and family, yet they're going out and beating each other's brains out every day. It's not that easy as being on a team sport. That's why it's so vital to have Davis Cup and to have Fed Cup. We finally get them together, and it really makes a difference when they're on the same team together. That's where they actually build the relationships is when we have them in a team setting. It takes that barrier away, they get to know each other. When they go back on the Tours, I find they're much closer, more reasonable, more professional with each other. They still keep the good boundaries, you still have to win, but it does change. You'll see them hanging out more in the training room or lounge. It's different, they're more bonded because they have this experience together. I think that's why it's important, this year because of the new format, Zina and I are only going to get to see them in the Olympics and Las Vegas. Previous years we had them two or three times. I miss not seeing them before we go to the Olympics and having their undivided attention for a week.

Q. You say that the Olympics is about representing your country, yet you're crying out for money for athletes in other sports. Aren't those two ideals a bit at odds?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Not to me. It's more about integrity and honesty. You don't think the Olympics are trying to make money? Please.

RANDY WALKER: Thank you.

End of FastScripts….

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297