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August 21, 2002

Billie Jean King

Patrick McEnroe


Q. Tell me what is different about the Williams?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Personalities are very different. Their body types are very different. That's self-evident. Venus is much more to herself. She takes a lot of time off, like at night, she likes to be by herself and not be around a lot of people and not be real social all the time. She's always -- her head is always thinking. It's always -- she doesn't say a lot, but it's always going on there. And as far as Serena, she's much more gregarious and more like her mom and likes to socialize a lot more. Whereas Serena is more like -- they are very different. And that also, Serena, I think her serve is -- she's having the most aces the last three years for the J.B. Morgan Chase give money, I think it's $50 an ace, and she was the winner the last three years of that. So that tells you who's got the big serve and Venus' serve, she has got to work on her second serve. She's not cutting on it. She knows it. And I think now they are a little bit more as individuals, they are not quite as connected at the hip as they used to be. And I mean that literally because in the Fed Cup meeting we had at Stanford two and a half years ago, when they came to the meeting - this is after they played -- I think Serena won the Open - I was wondering how it -- if they are going to still be close or not because Serena, the baby, the younger one won first and all that, well, they sat down in this chair. They had to sit together and you should have seen them trying to sit together in this chair. It was hysterical, but they literally were -- they connected and I think they are still very connected, but I think they are both growing up. They are becoming women and going their own way, and I think that's helped Serena actually psychologically be able to stand trying to beat Venus now. I think before it was a lot harder. I think now it's changed. I think when they go to play now they can play against each other. I don't know how you did it against John, and my younger brother Randy who was a professional baseball player, I don't know if we could have done it, we always talk about it. Maybe you can talk about that, Patrick.

Q. Just on their games themselves, we always talk about their power.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Serena hits a chip -- slice backhand, she can do that, she's worked on that the last two and a half years. She's not afraid to go to net. She enjoys it. Venus is trying to go to net more and more. If you look at her stats over the last two, three years it shows where she goes to net a lot more than she used to. Of course, we have certainly -- at Fed Cup Zina Garrison and I and everybody has encouraged her to go to net a lot more. Both of them should be at net more than even than they even are now. The wing span is there and the vertical jump -- that wing span is incredible. I keep telling her you are the 21st century out there, come on, get to net girl. That's -- but they are both very respectful, very nice, and work very hard when you have them in a situation -- at least from my experience. I think they are more disciplined than they have ever have been. I know Serena definitely has more discipline now than she did before obviously with her ranking. She just puts in the time and the effort now and she really does concentrate better and focus on each ball better than she used to.

Q. The great rivalries of the past, there's always been an element that -- Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe wouldn't necessarily go to dinner after they had a match. How has the rivalry developed between Venus and Serena when they are so close?

BILLIE JEAN KING: I think they worked on trying to just play the ball when they play each other but they know that family still comes first and because they have grown up so close, I think it's very important for them to keep it that way. Also the spiritual part of them is very important, always talks about family.

Q. Do you think their matches will ever be as good as rivalry matches of the past?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Starting to get there. I think it's difficult ---

PATRICK McENROE: I think it's inevitable that it will get better because they play so much against each other.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Yeah, that helps.

PATRICK McENROE: When they played in consecutive Grand Slam Finals I think it just becomes, you know -- I don't want to say old hat because you are always playing for a Slam -- but for them it's going to sort of seem like another match, so I think that will allow them at some point to, you know, I think as Billie said we started to see it a little more at the French and at Wimbledon, they really played good matches. I think it's going to get better.

BILLIE JEAN KING: First year I felt like, okay, it was really -- they played a match and they wanted to beat each other, and other thoughts didn't really enter their mind as much as in the past. I thought this year was a huge improvement. I think, as Patrick said, you know, just playing against each other, they are starting to get used to the idea more and more. Is that the way it worked with you and John?

PATRICK McENROE: That was a lot different so I am not even going to go there. Thank you for trying to include me.

BILLIE JEAN KING: From the standpoint of you -- I am not talking about rankings --

PATRICK McENROE: Much different. I wasn't nearly as good as my brother. Just that simple. It was hard, but it was different. I just think for them they are playing for Grand Slam Championships. We played in one tournament in the finals and the other times first and second round, and -- but I mean, I think you can make -- there are some similarities. I didn't feel like I really wanted to beat my brother badly because I was a younger brother. I wasn't good enough anyway, so -- but I think for them, as I said, they are becoming used to it. They are both clearly the top two in the world, that's clear, so it's not -- they know that even if they lose to each other they are still the best.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Still in the family, so to speak. Also they are not very far apart in age; whereas you and John --

PATRICK McENROE: We had a few more years.

BILLIE JEAN KING: So I think that makes a difference too, they are so close in age as well. But they have always been practicing against each other their whole lives too. They didn't play junior tennis all the time. It is a unique situation, theirs. I don't think -- this is it.

PATRICK McENROE: We should enjoy it.

BILLIE JEAN KING: It's going to go fast.

PATRICK McENROE: It is not going to happen probably ever again.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Rivalries are always good for tennis. Good for sports.

Q. You made an illusion before to their power and how they were -- seemed like there are very few woman who can match that. Is that --

PATRICK McENROE: I think clearly they are overpowering most of the other women, but they are doing it not just with their speed of their shots, but with their movement. And they are extremely quick and agile and that can be overpowering as well. Agassi can overpower you, too, with how he hits the ball and how he moves and covers the foot.

BILLIE JEAN KING: It's the movement. It's not the power. Lindsay Davenport hits harder off the ground than they do, for instance. You have to have the movement to match them. You have got to break it down a little more specifically. Capriati hits as hard off the ground as well.

Q. It's not just an issue of power?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Correct. It is not just about power. It's a combination of things, power, finesse, movement, first serves, you know, Serena would win out obviously on the -- big-time on the second serve, with Venus. But it's all of those things, you have to break it down that way. But they have the combination that really makes the difference.

Q. Why do you think that women's tennis has become more popular than men's tennis? Is that a good thing for the sport?

BILLIE JEAN KING: I think when the media talks about it in this country we are talking about American tennis in America and if you are in Spain, you are talking about Spanish tennis. Right now we have so many top players, American women, so that makes -- that's what you are really talking about when you ask about tennis. Like American media always say you are really talking about American tennis, and right now, it is -- but everything goes in cycles. And I know eventually we'll be talking about the guys being -- doing better and having better ratings in this country. It will go maybe back to the women. Women sports, in general, is in its infancy. You should never compare women's and men's sports as apples and apples. It's apples and oranges. Women's sports is very young in the world in this country; particularly in the world. So as far as opportunities, and the way people encourage girls to be in sports in cultures, so we are very fortunate right now I think that we have so many -- like you said -- the top 4 seeds here, but women's sports is really young and in this sport it only started in 1972 with Title 9.

PATRICK McENROE: And you were there.

BILLIE JEAN KING: That's when it really started. That's my age group. But the late 1800s is when men really were involved with sports in a big way. So we are about -- we are almost 100 years behind the men so when you talk about the depth of the draws and talk about that, you have to think about cultures and the rest of the world, do they encourage girls to be in sports, absolutely not. It's just beginning, so they are apples and oranges. That's why the men have more depth in the draw. It's really an expression of what's happening worldwide. We all know that sports is a microcosm of society and it reflects what is. When we get into this depth argument, I don't even want to go there because it's talking about apples and oranges about the whole globe and who's encouraged and who has -- if you look at money, women's professional sports last year for the first time got to a billion dollars in sponsorship - a billion. That's a huge milestone for us - whether it be women's hockey, tennis, basketball or whatever. Men's sports is at 25 billion globally. So the ratio of 25 to 1 gives you an idea of why we still have a long way to go. I am just thrilled that we have American women at the top in tennis. And in other sports as well.

Q. Do you feel men's -- the men's game is lacking a little and what needs to be done to maybe stir more interest in the United States?

PATRICK McENROE: Like Billie said, how about if Roddick and Blake were in the Finals?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Yeah, all of a sudden we are back to American men.

PATRICK McENROE: That's what it's all about in this country. You can't say that there aren't personalities in the men's game. There's Hewitt is a personality, Safin, Federer, these guys are great players, interesting guys. I think what we do need more of is the best guys doing well consistently. I think that has been a problem for the men's game this year. This year Johannson is a fine player, the Swede who won the Australian, but -- that he won a Grand Slam to me was shocking. And Al Costa who is a very fine guy, very good player on clay, he wins a slam. It's like this guy who won the PGA the other day. It's very similar. That's happening -- what is his name?

VOICE: Beem.

PATRICK McENROE: See, I don't even know the guy's name. There you go, I am like a tennis guys, it's the same guy about tennis, who is this guy Costa who won the French. We know him in the tennis world. But -- I would like to -- what I hope happens is that the best -- who I think are the best young players like the Federers, the Safins and Hewitts -- Hewitt I think is going to be there because mentally he's so tough, the Roddicks, the Blakes now; that these guys sort of consistently do well in the big tournaments. If that happens, I think it will get a little bit better. But as Billie said, it's about how the American players do in this country and that's really what drives it.

BILLIE JEAN KING: I think Roddick and Blake are really interesting. Fun to watch, interesting personalities. And Roddick is so hyper, has to be busy all the time and he's just twitching big time and then Blake is, you know, has come a long way working on his backhand and forehand is powerful. Quickness, his backhand has improved a lot from two and a half years ago. It's holding up now where it did not used to hold up in a match.

Q. If Hewitt was a more likable character, would that help men's tennis?

BILLIE JEAN KING: God, I love him.

PATRICK McENROE: What's wrong with how he is? Connors was very much like that.

BILLIE JEAN KING: How can you not love this guy?

PATRICK McENROE: Great competitor. It's more interesting to me.

Q. He don't seem like he's warmly embraced outside the tennis world.

BILLIE JEAN KING: He will be. Everybody catches up late with players. When they are right in front of you --

PATRICK McENROE: How about Sampras, he's too nice a guy. Now everybody loves him because he's struggled.

BILLIE JEAN KING: People love victims. They love it when you are not doing well. How can you not love Hewitt? He's incredible for all of us ones that aren't six feet two, he's giving everybody hope again to play this sport because everybody kept saying the little guy --

PATRICK McENROE: What happened to all the 6'3" guys with big serves who dominated tennis ?

BILLIE JEAN KING: This guy loves it so much he just loves every ball, he's just like give me the ball --

PATRICK McENROE: I still get this comment from people all the time, how come men's tennis is so boring, it's all about serving. I am like, have you looked -- do you understand who is in the Top-10. It's like absurd. That there's this sort of this idea out there that it is a server's game. It's completely the opposite.

BRUCE LEVY: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen and thanks for coming to the US Open Draw.

End of FastScriptsâ?¦.

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