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August 21, 2002

Jim Curley

Brian Earley

Arlen Kantarian


MERV HELLER: We are going to hold a tennis tournament here this week - next couple of weeks. Good morning, I am Merv Heller, welcome back to the USTA National Tennis Center. I had to get up and leave where I am sitting because Arlen Kantarian was hitting me through that presentation telling me at least 13 times "This is so good." I will tell you what, that's sets the tone for the next couple of weeks and hopefully bigger and better than ever, US Open than we have ever had in the history of the game. Hopefully also, many of you that are gathered here, will stay on the grounds for the next couple of days for the qualifier. We can't forget that one of the largest and most important tournaments that's run in the United States, in fact, the seventh largest prize money tournament in the United States is going on right now. It's called the US Open Qualifier with over a million dollars - a million dollars in prize money just in the qualifier. It has been a great, great year for tennis. And it's going to be a great two and a half weeks in New York. We are looking forward to record setting attendance. We are looking forward to great TV ratings. We are just looking to a great, great two and a half weeks. Our mission at the USTA is to promote and develop the growth of tennis. And we look at the US Open as our most valuable and visible showcase for our year-round efforts. The US Open provides the global platform for the game and serves as the major source of funding for the USTA community development programs as well as our high performance programs our carried on throughout the United States. My personal theme this year was celebrating the American tennis spirit. The theme for this year's US Open is "The USTA and New York welcome the world." You are going to be hearing more and more of that as we go forward in this presentation. We are honored and privileged today to help us in the draw with our Fed Cup captain and tennis pioneer Billie Jean King, along with our US Davis Cup Captain, Patrick McEnroe who will provide you with some great comments and insights as this draw goes forward. I'd also like to welcome a special guest, Captain Thom Yuneman of Ladder 54 of the South Bronx who is here today and he also happens to be a part-time tennis pro here at the USTA National Tennis Center. He is representing the Fire Department. (Applause). We also have some of our best from the NYPD, New York Police Department who just came off doing some ground duty work, so we want to welcome them. It's Dyanne Marzano and Tanya Carr. And you know they do this to me every time, when you get my age and you need reading glasses, I tell these guys give me the big bold print, Tanya, would you say your last name. (Laughter). I also have trouble reading, period. It's those four letter words. Welcome both of you as well. Needless to say, the City of New York with these groups are just representing the fact that New York City is a partner of ours in this US Open. So on behalf of the USTA we welcome all of you. Before we start the draw I'd like to turn it over to our Chief Executive of Professional Tennis Arlen Kantarian, a brief opportunity to do a few things, one is to recognize the hard work and professional staff that has been putting this thing together year-round and so he will do that. But also he wants to -- he tells me take five minutes. Now if you know Arlen, five minutes - we'll put a timer on it. We want to give you an overview of what is new and exciting at this year's US Open. So without further adieu I'd like to ask Arlen to come up and take over the program. Arlen Kantarian. (Applause)

ARLEN KANTARIAN: (INTRODUCTIONS). Before we get into the draw, if we could hit the lights a little bit, we want to talk to you quickly about what is new this year at the Open. And we sat down about a year and a half ago with this new team and identified three or four things we wanted to accomplish with this event and with the sport in general. One is to build the Open into one of the Top-5 sports and entertainment event in the world. It's a status that this event and this sport deserves and we'll talk with about how we are attempting to achieve that. Everything we have done and everything we have put together that's new this year is all done to provide a little more value, a little more excitement, a little more fun, for the players, the fans, the media, and our business partners. Those are our four most important constituencies. You will hear a lot about what we have done to make things more fun for that group. We need to make this event a showcase to get more kids playing the sport and eventually accomplish our mission. Last year at this draw ceremony we announced a ton of new things, trying some new things; seeing what would work, everything from the prime-time women's final to new big screens - first time ever in a Grand Slam event, video screens in a stadium, live radio, entertainment, 32 seeds, new web site, et cetera, et cetera. And as Merv mentioned, it resulted in what we felt or what we saw was the highest attended and highest event ever for the US Open. Now as we all know, about 36 hours after the men's Finals the world changed. So this year as Merv said, we are going to dedicate this year's Open to a theme that says "The USTA and New York City welcome the world." What we want to do is capture that theme in a way that truly celebrates the soul of New York City, to capture the New York spirit, but to capture it in a confident -- show the city as a confident resilient and proud city and in the face of diversity, has kept its attitude, has kept it edge, and frankly, has kept it sense of humor. We are also going to try to show you a brand of tennis that we think helps make and defines New York City and frankly a city that helps to define what the US Open is and what it has become. We are going to have a little fun with that. I want to show you a little film, a little promotional piece that was put together that shows what tennis in New York means and what New York means to the Open. This is a little bit of fun we had with this that we wanted to share with you. (Video played) Still love those glasses.

BILLIE JEAN KING: That was the '80s.

ARLEN KANTARIAN: Opening night Monday night 7 PM we'll kick off the event with a special opening night ceremony, Mayor Bloomberg will join us in that ceremony. We will bring out one of the two official Ground Zero heroes flags, this is a flag that flew over Two World Trade Center, captured by one of New York City's finest, signed at Ground Zero by a number of the survivors; brought over to Kandahar; was raised over Kandahar Airport when the United States captured that city. It is being brought back to New York by the Marines and it will fly over Arthur Ashe Stadium for the two weeks of that event. We will be joined by the Color Guard, Police Department, Fire Department, and New Yorkers Tony Bennett and Queen Latifa will sing special renditions of the Anthem and each night thereafter between matches we will recognize some New York City heroes from throughout the year. After 14 days the event will again culminate in our Finals. We'll have again had the prime time women's Finals thanks to CBS - this year it's a half hour later at 8:30. Men's semifinals will begin at 11:00 A.M. this year, similar to past years. Last year we pushed that back to noon. Men's semi is at 11:00 A.M.; women's prime-time final at 8:30. This was an experiment last year. We had a lot of naysayers a lot of doubters. We were concerned we were going up against college football. One of our naysayers and I am going to quote Brent Musberger who was calling the college game, "I really respect what the women are doing in tennis. But folks, tennis against football is no contest. I'd be stunned if football lost to tennis." 22 million viewers, 6.8 rating later prime-time women's final had outrated the football game Notre Dame/Nebraska by 42% which you could remind Mr. Musberger if you see him. We'll precede that match with a John McEnroe/Boris Becker challenge match for charity. We'll have that champions coin toss again and we will certainly have a special Anthem that evening. Very quickly, we are also trying to add a little fun for the fans. We have added a front row to Arthur Ashe Stadium creating a more intimate look. You will see it at courtside. We are offering to the fans through American Express live audio feeds through single channel radios. You can listen now to the feed from CBS and USA, either in your seats or while you are roaming the grounds. For the first time you are able now to up grade your tickets. People leaving early are going to be asked to leave their seats at the box office, for the opportunity for a ticket upgrade. We'll be asking people to donate $5 to the USTA Tennis Foundation in order to get that upgrade. We have new video screens and programming, a couple of new restaurants on sight including Mojito Lounge and we are now putting together an interactive USA Tennis Smash Zone where there will be a lot of interactive games with USTA coaches and so forth. In terms of what we are doing outside the site we will have Jumbo Trons, big video screens in Rockefeller Center airing live the matches from September 1 to September 8. Make a racket promotion - we have asked every New Yorker to bring their used tennis racket to any Modells location in New York City area. They will get a 25% discount on a new racket. The USTA will donate all used racket to the Police Athletic League in the Harlem Junior Tennis League. We are offering all New York City employee ticket discounts, a free ticket with everyone they buy for opening week to over 100,000 New York City employees and transit workers. We are surrounding the metropolitan area with caravan clinics through USTA coaches in over 36 public parks and of course this week we have a free qualifying event. We also looking to promote the sport; not just the event, but the sport in a more aggressive manner. We have put together a plan that equates to a $10 million impact in the tri-state area; a new TV and print campaign. We are in movie theatres, transit posters, buses, radios, five million Pepsi cans and we really think, as I say, this is a showcase to not just promote the Open but to promote the sport. We do have some great ads take I just saw yesterday from a couple of our sponsors, American Express, using some of our players in those adds, very effective. We also have an ad here from USA Network and there are two 30-second ads we would love to show you here . (Video played)

. ARLEN KANTARIAN: Obviously we have the main event and we are going to turn this over to the draw now. This is all about the main attraction which is over 500 players now descending on the National Tennis Center. Over 900 matches to be played. Brian Earley came up with this stat yesterday, 72,000 tennis balls. You know about the prize money, and as Brian Earley reminded me only one referee. (Laughter). He keeps reminding me of that. So at this point we'd like to turn it over to Jim Curley our tournament director, Brian, ask Billie Jean and Patrick to join us up at the desk to conduct the draw.

JIM CURLEY: Thanks for joining us today. First of all, Billie and Patrick, why don't you come on up. Billie Jean King, our United States Fed Cup captain and Patrick McEnroe, US Davis Cup captain. US Open men's and women's singles championships feature 128 players in each field, 104 direct acceptances, 8 wildcards selected by the USTA, and the 16 players who will emerge from the qualifying tournament currently taking place on the outside courts here today at the USTA National Tennis Center. All of the unseeded players and the places reserved for qualifiers in the tournament were drawn last night by means of a computer program. You have the result of that in your handouts. It wasn't too long ago that this process took nearly two hours to complete but now it's done within a matter of minutes. So without further adieu I'd like to turn it over to our tournament referee Brian Earley of which there is only one; and who will take you through the process placing the seeds in the draw.

BRIAN EARLEY: Good morning. As Jim said, we drew the seedless drew last night by means of a computer and we will buy hand put in the seeds this morning.

BILLIE JEAN KING: One of the things I can talk about right now with Morariu playing against Serena Williams, Morariu most of you probably know had leukemia last year. I had the opportunity to visit her in her hospital bed in about October. She went through four chemotherapies. I can tell you I walked into her hospital room and she had no hair, had fever, she had nurses and doctors coming in every 15 minutes. It was touch and go whether she'd live or not. And she has prevailed, and she's one of the nicest people -- she played on Fed Cup before when we played in Spain. You just couldn't ask for a nicer human being. Now she's become the spokesperson for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society because of that. So that will be a celebration just to be able to be on the court playing and I think in a way it's fitting that she plays against the No. 1 seed so maybe the world will know what she has been through no matter the outcome of the match.

CAPTAIN McENROE: She played my team in Team Tennis.

BILLIE JEAN KING: We are thrilled she's back. It has been very emotional for all of us but obviously mostly for her what she's gone through. Also if you go down to line 57 and 59 we have got Stevenson and Kournikova, if they get through their first two matches, the first match if each one gets through their match -- Pat says we are going to see which one struts more; whether it be Stevenson or -- but Anna could have a touch match with Widjaja because she's tough, she's coming up. That could be a tough match for Kournikova in the first round. I think -- I would choose dark horses in this tournament, ones who have a chance to win and probably no one has been thinking about, a couple of players we should talk about that went through knee operations in January. In fact almost within the same day they had knee operations by the same doctor, that is Chanda Rubin and Lindsay Davenport. Chanda Rubin had a huge break through by winning in L.A. beating Serena and Lindsay Davenport that week. That was a huge break for her beating two top seeds like that. She's worked very, very hard with her coach, come through the USTA junior development. Lynne Rolley helped her a lot when she was a young girl. We are real happy for Chanda.

CAPTAIN McENROE: I think she's due Billie to play Venus I think in the round of 16.

BILLIE JEAN KING: That could be very, very interesting. Then -- I think Lindsay Davenport is -- I think she's seeded what, fourth here? A lot of people wondered why she's seeded fourth and Hingis is 9th and all that. I think the reason is - correct me if I am wrong - Lindsay put in for the six-month period where they wait and give you a certain ranking and decided to rank her at 3 unless all three better ranked players were in a tournament which they are here at the US Open so she would be ranked 4th. Because of that put Hingis down to No. 9 and also she was late entering and so we are very happy she's in, but Hingis is going to be another questionmark just because she hasn't really been playing enough tennis. But you know that if she can get through each match she's going to be tougher and tougher. Of course, she's a real tennis player's player because we love the way she develops points. She's the only one I can look at eye level and actually have a discussion without getting -- you know without getting a stiff neck. You know Fed Cup I am like this with all the tall players like this the whole week.

CAPTAIN McENROE: I am interested to hear what you say about Lindsay. I saw her play some Team Tennis. She looked great after playing a few tournaments, looked in great shape. Do you think she's playing well enough and had enough matches that she could be a threat to win it?

BILLIE JEAN KING: I think she has now because she got to two semis in the summer, she's played a lot. A lot more than Martina. Also I think the questionmark is how is her knee going to hold up. I know she was exhausted. The hard part of coming back it's not just the physical, it's getting our batteries recharged emotionally day after day after day and you cannot do that without playing a lot of matches. So it will be interesting how the US Open unfolds with all these great players. Mauresmo is one of my other dark horse picks.

CAPTAIN McENROE: Bottom half you have got Venus. She has got Chanda, but you never know Chanda could give her some trouble here but I think Venus will be pretty happy with her draw. She has got Monica or Hingis.

Q. How is Serena's health right now and how overwhelming are Serena and Venus favorites in their respective halves?

BILLIE JEAN KING: I think you guys think more so than probably the players, if you really want to put it on the line here. I think the players feel anything can happen. Serena keeps having her reoccurring tendinitis. She's had this before. She started feeling it in L.A. again. It's something she deals with quite often but she's taking a rest. Hopefully it will be all right. I put a call into her but I haven't heard back from her. It's usually her left knee which is what I see here. There's the injury report, Monica still also, her left foot injury which is always gets close -- it's a stress fracture so she's almost, but not quite with that left foot but this is the first time -- she got through a whole year which is why her ranking went up I think to No. 4 in the world there for -- that's the reason she stayed healthy for a year we had a bet going that -- not a bet, but just an agreement trying to get her to get -- stay healthy for a year and a half and it would be just amazing how well you will do if you will just stay healthy for a year and a half and really be able to work out physically properly. That has always been hampering her in the past. So she's done tremendously well, I think, over the past year. She loves playing here at the US Open as do most of these players. They really get psyched up. They love being on that stadium court or even on the outside court. Pretty magical place to play now. A lot different than when I played back in the old days. It would be so much fun to be playing now if I were them. How could you not get psyched up to play here, walk in with all the wonderful opportunities, and the way we are taking care of and it's just incredible. Every year as we noticed the US Open gets better and better.

BRUCE LEVY: Let's get to the men's draw.

CAPTAIN McENROE: I am going to start from the top of the draw just go all the way down starting with the top. Which is extremely interesting with Hewitt and Rusedski in the second round. Rusedski has beaten the top three players in the world the last two weeks including Hewitt in Indianapolis, that will be an early test for Hewitt in the second round. Although I would expect that here he would get through that. Then it just jumps right at you, James Blake is in there to play Hewitt in the round-- in the third round. Blake plays another American Brian Vahaly who is -- they actually played a lot against each other in the juniors. Vahaly has just started to play well. He's right around the top 100 now. He had had some good wins this summer. That will be a little test for Blake but I think Blake will get through there. Looks to have a pretty reasonable second round, so Blake/Hewitt, third round. And I think Blake's got a shot in that match. I really think that Blake, we saw last year what happened and Blake's a lot fitter now, a lot more confident. Hewitt in my mind is still the favorite to win here, but, you know, the men's side, there's really not a clear-cut favorite so Hewitt could easily go down even if Rusedski I don't expect that to happen here in best of five but I think Blake would have a better chance. You get another good first round with Rios and Bjorkman. I wouldn't be surprised if Bjorkman is the minor upset. Rios is still struggling with his knee. He's played well this summer but he's struggles in long matches and Bjorkman is extremely fit. So I think that Bjorkman could win that. The rest of that section is another one, first round jumps out at you Novak who has had a very good year. He's what a lot of public people in the media would call a draw killer, he's not real -- he doesn't have much personality. He doesn't have a big game, but he's very solid and he's a very good player. He has been a solid sort of 10 to 15 guy all year and he plays Krajicek in the first round - Krajicek coming back from his knee problem, his elbow problem, did well at Wimbledon, so I would suspect -- Krajicek beat him this summer and that probably --Novak would win here in five sets. But we'll see. That would set up, you know, if Blake -- if Hewitt gets through the Blake section I think he will have a relatively easy time the rest of the way at least to the semis because I don't think that the Novak or Johannson or Costa is really a factor for Hewitt. I think Hewitt's difficulty is going to come in the second or third round and not necessarily in the fourth round or the quarters. Because you have Costa in there who obviously won the French but is not going to be a huge factor on the hard courts. He plays Norman who is a former top 5 player first round but is still very much struggling with some -- his hip that he had surgery on. I wouldn't be all that surprised to see maybe Robredo come out of that section, a young Spaniard who plays pretty well on hard courts, wouldn't surprise me to see him sneak through that section. You have also got a couple of Americans in there in Mardy Fish who has just won a Challenger in the Bronx. Going to the bottom section of the top half Kafelnikov has done miserable this year; especially this summer. And although he has got a pretty reasonable draw but he could lose to anybody, so Sanguinetti can beat him. You have got Federer in there who has been in my mind a guy that's potential to be No. 1 and has been great the first three, four months of the year and has been just awful the last three months, which is basically inexplicable to all of us that follow tennis because the guy is so talented. He's really struggled this summer, but if he gets hot and puts it together he can win the tournament. He's that good. So I -- I don't think it's going to happen here, but he's in a pretty good section there, Michael Chang sort of floating in there won a couple of matches this summer, but he has been struggling. Moya is in there. He had had a very good summer and he's won a couple of tournaments on clay; then he won up in over in Cincinnati and looked very, very good. So he is a favorite in my mind to get through to the second week. Although Gambill is dangerous on hard courts. Todd Martin against Gaudio will be a good first round match. I am not -- wouldn't be surprised if that's another Todd Martin marathon evening match first or second night. That could be a good -- he could win that. Gaudio is a very good clay court player but Todd in my mind, hard court is a slight favorite in that. Agassi is in a pretty good section for him, I think. Ginepri played Hewitt in Cincinnati when Hewitt was all ticked off at the ATP so he has got his hands full. Very good draw for Agassi. He has got Pavel who is a tough guy, but he doesn't really have a big weapon to bother Andre, so I expect Andre will have a pretty comfortable road, you know, to the fourth round where he -- may be Moya, is favorite. You have Todd in there and Gambill, but Agassi/Moya would be a real test for Andre in the fourth round. Let's go to the bottom half. Henman at the top who started the summer playing very well, but has had some problem with his shoulder, I believe, that he pulled out of Indy, so he's questionable in that sense, although he has a pretty good looking draw. Then it jumps out -- there is Roddick in that section. He has got a very interesting second round with Taylor Dent potentially, although Taylor plays Sluiter who is not a bad player at all. But Dent and Roddick sort of the two I mean, Roddick is certainly the best of the young Americans and Taylor has had a very good summer so he's starting to make a move. That will -- you'd see some serious firepower if we see that match. That would be a lot of fun to see that. It would give the edge obviously now to Roddick but I think Dent is on his way up. It's a good draw for Roddick. Henman is a guy that can bother Roddick because he comes in a lot and will make him hit a lot of passing shots. But I expect that Roddick will get through that and get at least to the quarters. You go to the next section (inaudible) played a lot of tennis this summer and this year, he won the tournament in Canada. He's dangerous. I just don't know if maybe he peaked a little too early this summer. Sampras in that section, he has got a pretty easy first two rounds which quite honestly he needs because he's having trouble winning matches, lost against last night in Long Island, so, actually got a very good draw for him. But in saying that he's lost to a lot of guys that you would look at and say he had a good draw then too. Keep going down, Haas to me is a little bit of a questionmark again with his injuries, had trouble with his arm, he's played great tennis, of course. Most of you know about his parents having that terrible accident right after the French which really you know put him out of game for a while. Obviously he had to deal with that tragedy. His parents are back in Germany recuperating, but he had a great first few months of the year. He deserves a seeding as high as he is. And if he gets it going he's another guy in my mind that could win it. I wouldn't put him as a favorite but I think he's one of the next couple of contenders. Then Ferrero/Wayne Arthurs will be a good first round. Arthurs always dangerous, lefty, with a big serve. Ferrero had a good week in Cincinnati, played well, so he's playing pretty decent on hard court. Watch out for Fernando Gonzalez from Chile, very exciting. He played a great match with Roddick this summer in Cincinnati. He's a lot of fun to watch and he has got a lot of firepower, and I think he can actually get through that section and get, if not to the round of 16, maybe to the quarters, because he's that good, I think, and Ferrero and Gonzalez, I might give the edge to Gonzalez on a fast court. Going down Grosjean is a seed in there but he has been struggling a little bit, the Frenchman, with various injuries, so I think he's shaky. Nalbandian, Wimbledon finalist, he has got a pretty decent draw to get through a couple of matches and then you have got Schalken/Philippoussis which is a good first round match. And then you have got the bottom with Safin, and potentially Kuerten in the second round although Kiefer is a little dangerous for Safin but I think he will win that and Kuerten coming in this year unseeded is shocking because obviously of his injury he hasn't really looked good this summer physically. He may struggle with Boutter in the first round. Boutter beat him at the Australian. It's too bad because Kuerten is such a great personality and player that I don't think he's going to be a factor here. Safin's got a great draw. If Safin doesn't get through to the semis you start to wonder -- you already wonder about him anyway, but he's such a talent and obviously won here two years ago, but his draw is looking very good. And it's some very are -- almost silly to look ahead. That why I focus so much on the first couple of matches because to look ahead in the men's draw is absurd with the depth and what we have seen in the other slams this year. So it's got some great first round matches. And I am going to turn it over to Mr. Heller.

MERV HELLER: Any questions of either Billie Jean or Patrick on the draw that they haven't already covered? We'll have a brief opportunity at the close of this if any of you just want to go up and talk to Billie Jean and Patrick about some other thoughts privately. There will be a photo op that will take place immediately after that.

End of FastScripts….

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