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September 10, 2006

Martina Navratilova

CHRIS WIDMAIER: This afternoon, Martina is going to be inducted, our newest inductee, into the U.S. Open Court of Champions, which will take place on court prior to the men's final, which has become an annual tradition here at the US Open.
She was kind enough to join us late last night for her final championship press conference, about 1:15 in the morning or so, or 1:00.
Thank you for coming back, Martina. I'll open it up to questions now.

Q. What were your thoughts last night when you're leaving this place after your press conference last night? What went through your mind about your career? I mean, was it sentimental? Was it closure?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You know, I took a photo on center court, on the stadium, which I spent about less than 5 minutes doing. They were watering the court, actually. I've never seen it when they watered it. It was kind of funny. I didn't know they cleaned the courts every night. They didn't used to do that.

Q. You were out there by yourself taking a snapshot?

Q. Your own camera?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, a friend that's a photographer, just for posterity sake. But it was her idea.
But, no time to get sentimental. Tell you how lovely and glamourous it all is. After I talked to you guys, I still haven't taken a shower. I put on some dry clothes, had to do drug testing. So I get there and wait about 20 minutes before I could come in, then the urine sample I gave was too clear.
Then I had to so then I lost my place in line, and I had to wait another hour for Kveta Peschke and Martin Damm to do their number and go back in. Finally, I left here about 2:30. The second urine sample was even clearer.
They had a hard time going; I had a hard time keeping it in the legal limits of whatever they need for the drug testing.
I had two sips of beer out of a paper cup. That was my celebration. And drove myself back to Manhattan. That was that. Finally went to sleep at about 4:30 in the morning.
What was funny I will tell this story when I do the induction I called my mom, it was like 4:00 in the morning when I was going to sleep. I called her, knowing she would be up. She sort of didn't say anything. She was talking about what she's eating, what she's watching on TV. Finally, she said, Did they just play really well, or did you guys not play so well? I'm like, What are you talking about? We won.
She read the score wrong. On the teleprompter, she saw Damm and "P" so she assumed it was Damm and Peschke. It was Damm and Paes. So she thought we lost in three sets, because Damm won the doubles in three sets, and she thought it was our score.
So she was very happy. She was like trying to say, Oh, it didn't really matter. It's okay, you know (laughing.) And then she's like, Yeah.

Q. Where does she live?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: She lives in my hometown, Revnice, where I'm from. So she so it made her day. That was pretty funny. She thought we lost.

Q. What time was that?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: What time was that, it was 4:00 in the morning my time. What time was it there? Six hour time difference, so 10:00 in the morning.

Q. Having just won a Grand Slam, is there a part of you that says, Hey, I want to keep going?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, no. I could keep going. I could play another five years. Physically, there is no question about it, you know. I could play beyond the legal speed limit in most places.
But I don't want to, you know. I mean, I've had enough, and it's time to move on and do other things. And, you know, it's nice to be able to leave on my terms playing the best tennis that I have in six years.
And so that's, yeah...

Q. You've been playing longer than most players have been alive.

Q. Is that strange in any way?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, of course. But it ceased being strange a while back. You know, once I became the same age as the players' mothers, then it sort of, you know, took a life of its own, you know.
So I don't really think it. I don't think about the age. I think the players don't really think about it. At first it was like, Oh, God, I don't want to lose to her because she's so old. Six years later, and they're not thinking in those terms because, you know, I'm a peer. I'm not somebody they don't think about the age. Maybe think about who I am in terms of what I've won, but I don't think age came into it as much, because obviously that's not an issue. Because I can still move pretty well, and probably can bench press more than most of the players out there. So that's not been a problem.
So, you know, I've stopped thinking about that, and that's what I try to encourage people to do with their lives, is not to let age define them. And then, you know, follow their dreams, whatever they are.

Q. Did you see any of Maria's match last night? Just your overall impressions of her. And, also, do you feel good about leaving the women's game where it is now, or do you have concerns about the future?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I have concerns about the game, period, in that it's become really a baseliner's game, and a, you know, hitter's game. It's not a player's game. That's for both men and the women.
But as far as Maria is concerned, I just saw how focused she was. She was hardly looking at her father during the match. She was very, very relaxed. She looked very relaxed out there. And I felt Justine never could get going. She couldn't she didn't have enough long rallies where she started using all her shots and mixing it up, and she just couldn't get into the flow of the match.
And Maria has been serving so well the whole tournament, you felt that she was going to hold her serve more than Justine. And that's what happened, yeah.

Q. There's a really wonderful doubles team, women's doubles team, coming out of China right now. The Chinese are getting pretty excited about 2008. Two questions from that: what makes a great doubles team in your mind since you've been part of so many of them?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, it's changed so much now. You saw the way the doubles finals was. A lot of times there are three people on the baseline. That was unheard of in my time. So it's changed again. It just shows how much the ground strokes have improved because of the racquets, and so the strategy on the doubles court has changed. Even on slow courts, even guys are staying back and winning from the baseline.
So, you know, that's just the game has changed so much. But what makes a great doubles player obviously is the ability to hit all the shots from anywhere on the court and being able to improvise. You only have half the court to work with.
In singles it's so much easier because you have a lot more options, which, of course, can make it more complicated because you have to figure out which one to use. But providing you know which shot to hit, you know where your opponent is. But in doubles, you know, one player that hit the ball is there, but you have no idea what the other guy or woman is doing. You have to really be much sharper and quicker and creative playing doubles than singles in many ways. That's what I've always found challenging and fun.

Q. Have you seen the Chinese play at all? Have you seen any of the Chinese women play?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I've played against them, and I've beaten them (smiling).

Q. What is it like to be looking at this new country emerging in tennis?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, it's great just that tennis has become so international. That's what really struck me in Canada at the Montreal tournament. They had the opening ceremony and they had all the different nationalities. And, here, with all the different flags coming on the court. And it's just, Wow, so many nations. Some flags I didn't even recognize.
It's great that tennis has become so much more international, and hopefully will continue to grow that direction because you want as much diversity as possible.
So it's great to see.

Q. As far as I remember, you played last year's double semifinal later on Court 7 or Court 10, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. As far as I remember, after the game, you lost the semifinal. Some people from the audience shouted towards you, See you later, Martina. You said, a bit angry, No. But you came back again. You just were angry that you had to play the semifinal on that court?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, no, no, no. I was disappointed that we lost, where we lost, how we lost. There was a lot that went into that. Had nothing to do with just that, where we played. Had nothing to do with that.
But I really didn't want to play another year, but I felt I needed to play one more year because I wanted to prove something to myself and to my fans and to the world in general.
And now, I've done it throughout the year, the way I was playing the game. And I was going to quit here no matter what happened. It just so happened that I ended up on a winning note.

Q. You didn't want to end your career on Court 7 or 10?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I wasn't done for the year. I thought I was gonna play the rest of the year. But then things didn't work out with Anna Lena, and I had no reason to play the rest of the year. That was not going to be the end of my career. I think it was fitting the way it ended, you know. It was nice to have a fairy tale endings. And I wasn't getting one, so I created one. I got it (laughing).

Q. Congratulations.

Q. Your concern about too many hitters and not enough players, what Federer is doing, that doesn't make you feel any better about that?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, of course. There are exceptions to the rule. But by and large, you know, you see a lot of players, men and women, they come to the net, and they're not they don't really want to be there. They run backwards or they hit a volley. Now you know why they're not at the net.
You don't see as many all around players. What players can do with the ball, what Roger can do with the ball, Amélie and Justine, etc., is amazing. But, I mean, I'm doing things more with the ball than I did 20 years ago because of the racquets. So I'm playing a different style. Everybody's playing a different style.
And in some ways, it's good, but in some ways it's detrimental, because the game has become more one dimensional and it's made it really, really difficult to succeed at the net. If you come to the net, it's just too hard to be good at it because they dip the ball, you have to volley up, you're a sitting duck. You're done.
So, no. The way Roger plays the game is phenomenal. But we need more, you know, players like him.

Q. Are you not convinced he'll inspire more players to play like that?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I hope to. I would like to start an academy. I would like to have a tennis academy where I would teach kids how to serve and volley. That would be nice.
I think you will see more all around players in the future because that is everybody hits the ball great. I've been talking about this for a couple years now. Everybody hits the ball great so what separates the top players from the average player is the ability to do more. Not just hit the ball great, but also to be able to improvise, come to the net, put the volley away, mix it up.
I mean, even Sharapova yesterday, you saw she charged the serve a couple times, and came to the net. She doesn't really want to be at the net, but she feels she needs to be doing that, and just mixing it up.
So, you know, you saw more variety in that match, a lot more variety than, for example, two years ago with Kuznetsova Dementieva slinging at it. There was one dropshot and two volleys the whole match. You know, that's not the kind of tennis I want to see. As great as those players are hitting the ball, that's not the kind of tennis that will excite people, that will inspire them to want to try to play tennis themselves.
The more we see of the Federers, Henins, Hingises, the better.

Q. What memories do you keep from your very first Grand Slam title? It was a mixed double at Roland Garros in '74.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Is it '74 or '73?

Q. '75?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, it wasn't '75.

Q. Do you remember your partner?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yeah, Ivan Molina. I see him. He's coaching some juniors, so...
I was supposed to play with Pat Cornejo, but the Czech federation wouldn't let me play with him because he was from Chile. I played with somebody else. I played with Ivan, and we won.
I remember winning. I don't remember who we played or anything. I would have to look at the records. Once I see the names, I'll remember the...

Q. You beat Rosie Reyes Darmon and Marcelo Lara.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Oh, there you go.

Q. You're talking about fairytale endings. Is that couple sips of beer and getting to bed at 4:30 in the morning a fairytale ending?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, that's not why I won. That's not what it's about. It was about the process, about getting there, about figuring it out, about playing my best tennis under the most pressure, which I did. Saving the best for last, which I did. I think I lost like two points on my serve, you know, in the whole match. Of course having Bob at the net helps, but, you know, I wasn't serving like that four years ago.
It's nice to put it all together. And, you know, you don't live for that for the couple hours afterwards. If that's all that it's about, then, you know, it's gonna be a very short time to enjoy, and a lot of work. I enjoy the process. I love getting into the nitty gritty, trying to figure out how I can still be a better player, how I can hit a better return, how I can hit a better serve, you know, tactically should I be doing something differently? All that stuff. It's fun.
That's what it means, being a pro, and that's what it means that's why you do it that way, because you love what you do. That's what it's about.

Q. Just to sort of follow up on Roger. If he wins today, he'll have nine Slams passing Lendl, Connors, Agassi. You've seen a lot of great players. Is he the greatest player you've ever seen? Where does he rank?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, he's if he's well, at his best, I think he is it would be fun to have seen him play Sampras, you know, at Sampras' best and Roger at his best. God, depends on what court they're playing. He's a more complete player than anybody that's ever played the game, perhaps other than Laver, who was amazing on everything.
But it's hard to compare eras because, again, the stroke production is so different now from what it was even ten years ago.
But, you know, he uses technology to the best advantage, and he's just a genius with the racquet. So probably he already is that, even if he doesn't win all the Slams, if he somehow gets injured or loses interest or whatever, he doesn't accumulate the numbers. Probably at his best, he was better than anybody else at their best. It would be a close match with any of those guys. Even McEnroe on a faster court at his best, what a match that would be. And Sampras and Laver and those guys playing at the same time, woo, that would have been fun. We'll never know.

Q. At the ceremony, Billie Jean said that you are the best, you are the greatest. By yourself, how you would like to be remembered? For what you are more proud about many things you did, tournaments and your style, your life? For what you are more proud about?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I think, first of all, I wouldn't argue with Billie Jean because, you know, she said a lot of things and they're all true (laughing).
But I think, overall, the body of work is what I'm proud of, and the passion that I brought to this sport and trying to figure out how to be the best player that I could possibly be with the limitations that I have, which is my size. I mean, I would have liked to have been another two, three inches taller, but that's okay.
And probably as far as more personal is just being true to myself and speaking my truth and living it.

Q. Martina, you're not just a tennis legend, but you love a whole bunch of sports. James Blake brought up a pretty interesting

Q. James Blake.

Q. He brought up a pretty interesting comment. He said that ESPN's contention that Tiger and Michael Jordan are the best athletes of our era is not correct; that Federer by far should be the one. He talked about his eye hand, speed, toughness of tennis. Could you reflect on that, on how you think Federer's athleticism compares with, say, Tiger and Michael Jordan.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, it's hard to compare athletes from different sports because, you know, in golf the ball's not moving, but then of course you have all those different clubs to use and different shots. And in basketball, you're only one of five guys, so you can have an off day and still win, or you just take yourself out for a minute, regroup, and go back in.
So it's really hard to compare. But they were best at their sport. I don't know if you can say this one was a better athlete than the other. And don't forget Ali. You know, how good would Ali have been if he had been a basketball player? How good was Jordan as a baseball player? Not so hot.
As a tennis player, who knows how good he would have been? It's so hard to compare. Just like it's hard to compare players from different eras.
So I just say they're one of the greatest athletes of all time, and, to me, that's enough. If Roger played basketball, would he have been able to take Jordan to the hole? I don't know.

Q. Blake's central point was that Roger's consistency and that in tennis one bad day or bad stretch, and you're out of it. Day in, day out, the one on one competition just elevated him.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, again, it's hard to compare. Roger is so good, he can have bad days and still win. In golf, you can have a bad day and still come back and if you make the cut, you're still in the hunt for the tournament. You can have a bad day and still win on Sunday. If you have a really bad day in tennis, you're out of there on Wednesday.
There's so many pros and cons. Some people try to say, I think golf is tougher than tennis, others say, I think tennis is tougher than golf. Anything to be excelling in any sport is amazing. I would just like to leave it at that.
I wouldn't try to say, Well, this one's better, this one's greater; they're all great at their field.

Q. What will you miss most about tennis?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I won't miss anything, but I loved everything that I was doing whether it's just hitting a return just perfect so the ball makes a certain sound. You hear it a lot when Agassi's playing, he hits the ball so square, meaning it's coming at you 110 miles an hour and you hit it back 120. That's fun. Hitting a perfect (indiscernible) dropshot off angle, creating an angle where there isn't one. Hitting shots that I've never hit before, which still happens to me. Of course the competition of having to put it together when the chips are on the line.
It was great while I did it, but I'm glad that I don't have to do it anymore. You know what I'm saying? I love whatever I do, whatever it is that I'm doing, I love doing it; otherwise, I wouldn't be doing it. I love playing tennis, and I will love whatever else I will be doing.
You know, now I can sit back and say, Hey, I won the last one.

Q. What shot haven't you hit? What was your last new shot?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I sort of created this thing, I'll mess around. When the ball comes on the backhand side and I sort of hit it this way, and I hit a little dropshot this way. I haven't done it in a match, I've done it in a practice. Another trick shot that I dreamt about and then I did it during practice that nobody's done before.
Yeah, I hit an angle volley the other day. It was like, Wow, I didn't know I could do that. So it's nice when you can surprise yourself.

Q. Because we will miss you...
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You will? Thank you.

Q. Yes, for sure. First question is, how we will find out about what you are doing? I am living in Italy, not in America. If I want to say something to Martina?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: MartinaNavratilova.com. You will know everything that I am doing. You can ask me questions and I will answer them.

Q. Would you like to do like Connors is doing with Roddick one day?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Yes, I'm sure that I will be involved with a player eventually. How much, I don't know. I've helped some players already on a part time basis. Whether I will do it full time, I don't know, because there are so many things that I'm gonna be doing.
But one of them actually I haven't talked about is Art Grand Slam, which is this collaboration with an artist in Slovakia. We have an exhibition in Prague next month. You can go on my website and find out more about it.
It's a collaboration of tennis and art. He did paintings, and I hit tennis balls on to the paintings and created these fabulous paintings.
Coaching, yeah, I'm sure that I will. I promised Billie Jean that I would pass on the knowledge that she gave me, as well as the knowledge that I've accumulated from all the other great minds that I've worked with over the years, some that I've learned myself. I will want to pass it on because I want to see the game continue to be fun and played for all the right reasons and the right way. So I owe that to the game to pass it on, so I will.
CHRIS WIDMAIER: On that note, we need to bring Martina to the ceremony. Thank you, everybody.

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