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September 2, 2006

Martina Navratilova

THE MODERATOR: Special 15 minutes with Martina. Questions, please.

Q. Billie Jean King said this is only the beginning, retiring, you and Andre (indiscernible)?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I have a book out called Shape Yourself, a health and fitness book I wrote because I wanted to sort of help a lot of people feel the same way that I do. You don't have to be a professional athlete to feel as healthy as a professional athlete can feel.
So I wanted to pass on the knowledge that I've accumulated over the years. I'd like to promote the book more. It came out in April, but then I went to Europe for three months so I couldn't promote it because I've been playing tennis. Now I'll have a chance to do more of that.
I have a credit card called the Rainbow Card, which I started 10 years ago with friends and took over last year. It's a affinity like credit card that raises money for the gay and lesbian community. So I'd like to promote that as well: www.rainbowcard.com. That's really a full time job right there. But I have some good people working for me, so hopefully we'll expand that. We just launched in Canada last month. Been in the U.S. for 10 years. Like to go into Europe next year.
What else? I'd like to do some TV 'cause it's a lot easier talking about tennis than actually doing it. I just see the Tennis Channel got the rights to the French Open. May be knocking on their door as well to get a job, because I think McEnroe has taken over all the big spots (smiling).
I've been talking about a tennis academy. I'd like to do that one day as well, on smaller scale. Something like the Chris Evert Academy. I think that's the right size. Maybe help a player or two along the way.
I'll keep pretty busy. It's not exactly putting my feet up. So like Billie Jean says, I might just be getting started. A lot of people are after me to go into politics because I've been certainly speaking my mind for the last 20 years on that.
Who knows what the wind will blow in. I'll stay pretty busy.

Q. What is the benefit of having your credit card? How does one do it? Is it just like any other credit card?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's an affinity credit card, Sierra Club, where I have best friends, or you can do airlines, whatever. Different groups have these cards to raise money for their group, whatever that is. This one particularly is not we don't have a group. We just appeal to the gay and lesbian community.
A certain part of the proceeds, every time you use the card, go to the Rainbow Endowment, which is a grantor of grants to different gay and lesbian organizations around the country.
If you're whatever organization, you apply for a grant from the Rainbow Endowment and then are given money or not. We've given away over $2 million in the last 10 years. It can be a lot better.
It's a great way for anybody to raise money for the gay and lesbian community without having to write a check themselves. You just use the card. The more you use it, the more money goes to the endowment.

Q. You can use it for anything, just like an American Express card?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's like a regular credit card. Like a Visa card here in the U.S. Just a regular credit card.

Q. This being your second time you're retiring from tennis, is it hard to give it up?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No. No, it wasn't hard to give it up at all.

Q. But you came back.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I came back because I could and I wanted to. That's the biggest reason. I wanted to play again. I wanted to see how well I can do. If I hadn't been doing TV I've said this a hundred times, and I'll say it again: If I hadn't been doing TV at Wimbledon, I would not have come back and played tennis. I was there. I was like, you know what, I can play. I can play doubles and see what happens.
That was in '99. In 2000, the opportunity presented itself. If Mariaan DeSwardt didn't ask me to play, I wouldn't have played. It's that simple. But it just sort of fell into my lap, and then I got hooked. Then I wanted to see how well I can still play better. Then I felt I can still play better than I'm playing right now, so I kept going at it and I had fun. Won a few more Grand Slams along the way. Not too shabby, so...
And now I'm looking forward to, you know, the rest of my life, the rest of everything that I want to do. I got a pilot's license when I retired. I had to let it go because I didn't have time to stay current when I started playing. I'll probably do that again. Have to start over again, but it's okay.
No, I mean, there are certain things I'll miss. Overall, I love being in the moment. I'm very happy what I'm doing when I'm doing it. If I didn't want to do it, then I would be doing something else. I'm sort of retiring on my own terms, which is great.

Q. Are you disappointed in the players or coaches, in the decline of how women play doubles?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Hmm. It's not a decline really. It's different strategies. It just goes to show you how much the racquets have changed the game. That actually players can win from the baseline in doubles, on the men's tour and the women's tour.
You can be a great volleyer and still not be able to win on a slower court against great baseliners. Two people on the baseline, two people at the net, you should win every time. It does not happen.
The racquets help the groundstrokes so much more than they help the volley. If we were playing with the old wooden racquets, or at least smaller head racquets, you would not see doubles played the way it is now successfully. You would have the serve and volleyers very much more successful.
I am disappointed with the direction the game is going, period, not just in doubles but in singles. I'm disappointed that the racquet manufacturers are dictating what kind of tennis we're watching. That's who dictates, it's the people who make the racquets.
They're saying, Oh, this is the racquets we need to be playing with. The powers that be aren't regulating it enough. I mean, you see in golf, you have so many rules and regulations as to the grooves, the size, the shape, the weight, everything, the length. We have so little on the tennis racquets. And the strings, as well.
I can do things with the ball now that I couldn't have done 10 years ago, certainly not 20 years ago. I hit a shot in doubles the other day, I was back pedaling. I was about 15 feet behind the baseline in the left corner. I rolled a cross court forehand dipper into the other corner. I couldn't have dreamt of trying to hit that shot 20 years ago.
So the racquets just really help the baseliner. You know, you're not going to see serve and volleyers that are successful at this level playing with the racquets that we're playing with, playing with the strings we're playing with.

Q. What would you do?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: What would I do? I would regulate it. I would put some kind of restriction on the strings, for sure. Because the materials are getting so much better. They bite the ball so much. It's almost illegal spin that you can put on the ball. You can spin the ball so much.
If you want to put the spin, then you need to make the court bounce slower. You'll be bouncing balls over people's heads pretty soon the way the balls are going.
The racquets, I think they need to be smaller head so the sweet spot is smaller. You cannot anybody can swing and the ball will still go in because the spin brings the ball. So you can swing as hard as you want. You have a sweet spot this size, and the ball will still go in because of all the spin you put on the ball.
It takes less skill to hit great shots or to hit powerful shots because you just bang away. It's almost like racquetball. Tennis used to be more like squash, now it's more like racquetball. Hit the ball as hard as you can, it will still go in.

Q. Do you see any hopes that we'd see more regulation?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, there's always hope. I mean, we are making changes. You look at the Hawk Eye. That's a great step in the right direction. I think they really need to do away with the let. Just be done with it. Just play the ball. There is no reason for us to have the let. That would be another minor step in the right direction.
So, yeah, it can be done. I just don't know if anybody wants to change it, you know. I mean, there's been some letters petitioned and written to the establishment. John Barrett has been involved, McEnroe signed it, I signed it, to try to regulate at least the size of the racquets more so that it's a little more difficult to hit such a great shot.
I mean, if golf regulated their game the same way tennis regulated our game, they'd be hitting 400 yard drives, hooking it left and right, any which way they want to, or keeping the ball straight even though you have a hook swing but the ball still goes straight.
Essentially that's what we have in tennis now. The racquets are just so forgiving, it makes it very easy to hit great balls.

Q. What does that say about a player's natural ability?

Q. What does the racquet, the way they're being made now, what does that do or say about player's natural accident?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, it doesn't say anything about them. They're using the equipment to the best to their best advantage. That's why you see many more bigger players. The smaller guys are going to be a way of the past, and power is going to win.
The players are using the racquets. Their ability is great. It's just let's put it this way: I'm the greatest volleyer that's ever played, and I would have a hard time serve volleying in today's game, so something is wrong. The courts are too slow, the racquets are too powerful, so you're going to see much more one dimensional tennis.
It takes a genius to play really well at the net. Even Federer, he used to serve and volley. Now he's staying back more because it's safer.

Q. USTA recently forged an alliance with the Evert Academy. There's talk of bringing champions of the past back to involve themselves with tennis. Are you interested in that kind of a role? Have you been approached by the USTA at all?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Oh, sure. I've not been that involved with the USTA. I mean, coming from another country, I was not really in the cradle of the USTA. But I certainly would be willing to help American tennis any way that I can. I was a Fed Cup team captain. May be campaigning for the job as well in the future. I want to stay involved with the game.
Most of all, I'd just like to see more imaginative tennis, people have more fun on the court, playing a little more by instinct than by rote. That would be fun.
Yeah, I would be interested.

Q. You just talked a little bit about wanting to go out on your own terms. Certainly Andre is taking cortisone shots to go out on his own terms. How important is it to somebody who is a legend to go out with a certain image of going out standing instead of with an injury? How important was it to you, and do you think to maybe Andre, too?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I was worried about it. Both my knees were sore in the late '80s. Then I had the surgery in '90. The doctor said he'd give me three more good years. That was 1990. He lied (smiling).
I was glad that I was able to quit when I wanted to. You just don't want your body to give out on you. Andre has been struggling with his back for a few years now. You just want to quit on your own terms.
If you're not good enough any more, you can deal with that. But if you know that if you are healthy you would be good enough, but you have to quit because you're not healthy any more, that's frustrating.
Yeah, you want to do everything you can. Like Andre said, he doesn't want to do it to the detriment of his long term health. Eventually those cortisone shots are going to catch up and you're going to blow out a tendon or ligament that otherwise would have been fine, because you're deteriorating the tissue every time you shoot it up.
I've had about five cortisone shots in my career total. I think I had three on my shoulder, two in my wrist, one in my heel a couple years ago. That was it. Never had anything in my knee.
It's tricky. But you want to go out on your own terms. If he knows this is the last tournament, he's going for with all guns blazing. With a back like that, it could be happening to you when you're 25. Not much to do with his age. But, yeah, it's frustrating. Hopefully he'll be able to stand up and keep fighting.

Q. Did you watch the match the other night?

Q. Till the end?

Q. What did you think? Did you think he was going to pull it out?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, I did. I figured it was going to go into a breaker and he was going to pull it out. Ended up winning 7 5. I good felt bad for Baghdatis, cramping. It's a shame. He's such a nice guy. I felt sorry for him with the crowd being as one sided as they were.
No disrespect to Andre obviously. You understand why the crowd wants him to win. Baghdatis did a great job, and there was a deafening silence there that I thought was a bit much. I could relate. I did that when I played Hanna Mandlikova in '95 '85. Wrong decade.
It's like, Come on, this is one of the nicest guys on the tour, and he's just not getting any love. I felt sorry for him, especially getting cramps when he got 'em. You know, you wanted it to go the distance.
Andre could barely stand up after the fourth set. Then Marcos goes down, as well. It's kind of strange. But it was a great match. Great drama.

Q. Such determination. This being his last, he wants to go deep into this tournament. Your own motivation, do you feel that fire right now?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I want to win. Yeah, I want to win. Of course I want to win. I want to play great tennis and go out swinging one way or the other. Mixed doubles is more of a crapshoot because of the format with the third set tiebreak.
We won yesterday. But players hate it. The crowd hates it. I don't know why they have it. That's for you guys to ask the USTA. They told me that the crowd liked it. You saw the reaction when I asked them yesterday.
But, yeah, of course I want to win. Yeah, you want to go out on a winning note. I mean, I could keep playing till I win a tournament, so I know I will win a tournament eventually like I won two weeks ago. That's not the point.
I just want to go out here at the Open, in the USA, you know, let it all hang out.

Q. Does it feel poignant to you as you're here this time?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Poignant? What do you mean?

Q. Just being here. What we're watching Andre go through. Are you feeling memories a lot or not quite having gone through this before?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Oh, I am going through all of that, it's just that the whole world doesn't know it.

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