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July 4, 2006

Martina Navratilova


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please, for Martina Navratilova.

Q. I think you were on a chat show here the other week?

Q. You kind of appeared to say that this is probably the last time.

Q. Is that a firm decision?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Q. Why?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think, you know, now that I'll be collecting AARP discount, it's time to move on with life (smiling).

Q. That, with your per diem, brings you up to the men, right?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, exactly. Uhm, no, I think it's time. It's time. It's enough.

Q. Is it a physical or --

Q. Psychological, emotional decision?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: None. None of that. I just, you know, want to move on to my next life. Spend more time with my one and only, my animals. Devote more time to my businesses, which is trying to promote my book, "Shape Yourself."
And I'm running the Rainbow Card, which raises money for gay and lesbian organizations in the U.S. through the rainbow endowment. I want to spend more time on that.
And do some commentating, if somebody wants to listen to what I have to say.
But, most of all, it's to spend more time at home.

Q. Having decided that this is your last, does that change your emotional state with each match you play, or make you feel more sentimental?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You know, I just came here to win, win a title, and we're still in both events. We have a very good shot in both doubles and the mixed. You know, so I'm just concentrating on that. I can get sentimental when it's over, not yet.

Q. Are you going to play the US Open?

Q. Or just here, this is it?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's open. I mean, I haven't made any decisions one way or the other. But the decision that this is my last year, that is a definite.

Q. At the moment you're not feeling particularly sentimental about it, it's business?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I have a job to do, you know, which is to play well. We did that today. We were a little bit dicey yesterday, but it was much more authoritative today.
And, you know, like I said, I didn't come here for the strawberries and cream.

Q. Your book has a lot of helpful hints, "Shape Yourself," about training and so on. I wonder, do you have any suggestions for the financial fitness of younger players? I wonder if this equal prize money would be helpful to women lower down on the rungs?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Oh, of course. Those are the people that it affects the most. It's for three-quarters of the field, they lose first and second round, and they really count on this money. It could be the Grand Slams are well over half of the prize money that they earn for the year. You know, that's the bottom line. You make $150,000 a year, you take away expenses, overhead, and taxes, and if you are left with $40,000, you'd be lucky. You'd be better off teaching in your local club making more money. That's a player ranked a hundred in the world.
So it is a big issue for the lower ranked players, but most of all it's a matter of principle. Regardless of that, we should be making a lot more money at the Grand Slams. That's the bottom line, is that we're not in a profit-sharing partnership at all with the Grand Slams, and they are raking it in. It's the players that really supported the Grand Slams, made them big, talked them up. In my days, in the '70s, it was really in the '80s that the Grand Slams started meaning that much. Wimbledon, US Open, they were always there. But the French and Australian, people didn't even bother going.
We talked them up, you know. That's what it's about, winning Grand Slams. Then they start making a whole bunch of money, but the players don't see enough of it. When you look at the profits in other tournaments, the percentage is much greater at the regular tour events than they are at the Grand Slams. So we should be making a lot more than we're making, but that's another issue.

Q. Some of the younger players, if you look at their prize money, they're doing as little as 20 to $40,000 a year. How does anybody play on the tour with that?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, they don't. They need sponsors, you know. You lose money. You just try to make it, you know, eventually.
It's an expensive sport, and that's why perhaps you don't see as many kids coming up, and it's a very difficult sport to do well. You know, you can be a world-class snowboarder in a matter of three or four years, but you cannot do that on the tennis court. It's a highly skilled sport, which is what makes it so tricky to entice people to play.

Q. A lot is being made of the dirth of Americans left here and the future of American tennis.

Q. The future of American tennis.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: What was the first part?

Q. No American singles players are left here. The future of American tennis, people are making it out to be dire. Are you worried about it? Is it something as dire as it is being made out to be, and what should be done?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It always goes in cycles. You know, we go through this every year. Sometimes the women are great and the men don't quite step up to the plate, and then it's the other way. Right now, we are very low, obviously. That's stating the obvious. With Agassi stopping. Roddick is sort of floundering, has not been playing up to his potential. And then we had the injuries with Lindsay. I mean, if Serena and Lindsay are healthy, we're in great shape, you know. They'll probably be in the finals. But they're not healthy. We have the players, they're just not playing.
But the new generation is lacking. There is no question about that. We don't have any 18-year-olds coming up.

Q. Why, do you think?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's cyclical, you know. I don't know. I'm not sure what the -- exactly the program is with the USTA. A lot is made about the program here in the UK. I'm not sure how, you know, what the system is in the States.
The academies, I think the European academies are better than the American ones. I like the way they teach tennis. They're better.

Q. You didn't mention getting involved in tennis politics yet. Clearly, you have very strong feelings about this. Is that something you see yourself doing?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I have no idea. If that happens, it happens. I'm not looking for it. Because if I did, then that would be the only thing I would do. So I don't know. I haven't -- I'm not sure. It's possible.

Q. How did you come to decide to play with Huber, doubles with Huber?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, first, you want to make sure that you like the people that you're playing with and that you get along. For me, that's important. And then most of all whether your games complement one another. If, you know, you would be good together, partnership-wise. I need somebody that comes to the net more than somebody that stays on the baseline. And Liezel I think also wants that rather than try to, you know, do the one up, one back. We play better when we're both together at the net.
And we're good friends, yeah.

Q. Okay. So in that case, do you know anything about Africa before Huber?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I've never been to South Africa, but I know a lot about Africa.

Q. You know about Africa before Huber?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Are you talking Africa, the continent, or South Africa?

Q. Did you know anything about Africa before Huber?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I spent five months in Kenya, so, yeah, I know a little bit of Africa.

Q. Just checking.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, just checking. I could probably tell you 40 countries in Africa, unlike most Americans - or most Europeans even.

Q. You and Liezel seemed to be a bit at odds with each other yesterday. Did it go better today?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, there was a -- we had a discussion, and we solved it. You know, that's what happened yesterday.

Q. On the court?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: On the court. It wasn't a disagreement, but it was a discussion. We resolved it. You know, we're a team.

Q. What was it about?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I'm not gonna tell you that. There's no point.

Q. What will you miss about Wimbledon?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: What will I miss? I won't miss it; I'll be here. I'll be back, I just won't be playing. I think I'll just miss the competition, the having to perform under pressure. You know, see how -- and hitting shots that maybe I never hit before, so, yeah.

Q. We won't find this out for sure, but at this point, how long do you think you could continue playing should you have so chosen?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You know, the body's great. I mean, I tweaked my knee in Rome and it's been bothering me, but it's been getting better while I'm playing. So my body is doing amazingly well. I know it will be fine in a couple of months.
I probably could do it another five years if I wanted to, but I don't want to.

Q. Do you practice all the time, or you just --

Q. No? You just wait for competition and you go in?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No. No, you have to get ready for competition, but I don't practice all the time. I never did. You have to play more often when you get older. You can't just take two weeks off and pick it up. But I don't play every day at all, no.

Q. It's been a long time since you took that little vial of turf in your singles. Could you sum up the experience you've had since then, and maybe what you've learned, what the overall texture of it has been for you?

Q. Your experience since then, continuing to play.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Just what I've been playing? Are you talking life-wise or playing-wise?

Q. What you've learned as a person.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Oh, gosh, that's a hard discussion. That's a very personal question.
But I think most of all I've just learned to be a better listener and appreciate every moment and appreciate everything that I've done and everything that I'm still doing. Just be grateful, really. Be grateful. Totally humbled by life. Humbled by Wimbledon. Just try to be a better person, period.

Q. Could I just check, this "CPRM" that you mentioned, is that like --

Q. The thing you mentioned at the start which you obviously get when you're 50.

Q. Sorry. Is that what we might call a pension?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think it's the American Association of Retired People. I think that's what it stands for. You get membership when you hit 50. You get discounts at hotels and stuff like that, like 10% off.
I don't collect social security. I have to wait a few more years for that one. But the WTA pension is going to kick it when I hit 50, so that's pretty funny. I'll be still making money and collecting pension at the same time.

Q. You're not at all tempted to see if you can keep playing until you're 72 or something like that?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: (Laughing). It would be interesting to see what the limit could be, but then that would be all I would be doing. So, no, I'm not, no.

Q. How about coaching?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I'm doing that already. I'm sure that I'll be doing it somewhere. I enjoy passing the knowledge that I've gained over the years from so many great teachers, so many great coaches that I've worked with, and people around the tennis. So I'm looking forward to passing all of it on.

Q. Will you take another vial from this year's tournament, of grass or dirt?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Absolutely. Dirt? I'll find a piece of green grass. Of course it turns yellow, you know, in a few weeks.

Q. You have to go up to the service line to find that these days, right?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, there's no routes to the net. Only on the outside courts where they play a lot of doubles. But there's no middle lane to the net on the singles court. It's pretty funny. I noticed that years ago, that the courts -- the patterns are completely different. And particularly on Centre and Court 1, they don't play any doubles until the later stages. It's not worn out. It used to be the two lines from the doubles and then one in the middle from singles. It was not as worn out behind the baseline. More of the middle of the court was worn out. Now it's totally just behind the baseline and nothing else.

Q. Do you subscribe to the theory that people keep throwing out, the game has been slowed down enough and the grass has been slowed down enough so that serve and volley is impossible to play now, at least on the men's side?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Serve and volley is very difficult because of the racquets and the strings, not because the grass is slower. The ball still stays low enough if you slice it. But it's so easy to get the ball down, dip it, and then you have to volley up.
The racquets and the strings have improved groundstrokes exponentially more than they have improved the volleying ability. That's the bottom line. You have a sweet spot like this. You see people hitting passing shots 10 feet behind the baseline going backwards and they still get it by people at the net. Impossible with a wooden racquet. That's the shame of it, yeah.

Q. That aside, you've played here long enough, do you feel like the courts are slower than 10, 20 years ago?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It doesn't feel that slow. I feel like the slice bites. The slice stays low. But the topspin doesn't. Yeah, it's slower. I think it is slower.

Q. In general do you subscribe to the theory that the general homogenization of surface in the game, that clay is faster, grass is slower, hard courts are maybe --

Q. Even in the U.S.? You do?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's a bad thing. It's a bad thing, no question about it.

Q. You think they use more sand in the paint in U.S. hard courts today?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everything's slower. All the courts are slower. I mean, Indian Wells, forget about it. You hit a great volley and, you know, the person's got five minutes to run it down and hit it by you.
So it's frustrating, yeah. You can't play a normal game. It should be equal. A great serve and volleyer - of the same ability - should play against a great baseliner and it's like half and half. Half the time this one, and half the time that one. So on this court, this one's slightly favored; on this court, that one's slightly favored.
Now the ball has gone completely in favor of the baseliner. It's a shame.

Q. Are you playing some tournaments leading up to the US Open?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, I'm planning on playing Montreal. Let's see, San Diego, Montreal. That's it. Depends on how the knee responds after Wimbledon.

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