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August 31, 2010

Mirjana Lucic


M. LUCIC/A. Molik
7-6, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. It's been a long time. Must be rewarding. How do you feel?
MIRJANA LUCIC: I feel fantastic. I'm so so happy. I worked so hard to get here. This is my first US Open in, I don't know, seven years or something. Feels incredible.
Like I said, I've worked so hard. Every round in quallies has been tough, and it just feels so rewarding.

Q. Where have you been training?
MIRJANA LUCIC: I have been working hard for a long time. I have been training in Bradenton in United Tennis Academy. You know, when I say I've been working hard, I mean, also playing $25,000 tournaments, quallies of every small tournament there is, and losing a lot of times.
It was really hard. It felt like I climbed the mountain just to get through those tournaments, so I feel really good now.

Q. Alicia was saying after she kind of came up with you, that she really respected how you sort of hung in there. What kept you going, and what sort of kept your sort of dream alive?
MIRJANA LUCIC: First, I have to say playing today was tough against Alicia. She's a friend, and I respect her a lot as a player. She's a great player and she's a great girl. She's my friend, so it was a little bit tough in the beginning. You know, I know that she plays great tennis, and I knew I had to play, you know, really well to win today.
For me, it was just -- I don't want to go into the reasons about everything. It was just unfortunate why I haven't played. It wasn't because I was sick of tennis or anything like that. It was just a lot of unfortunate circumstances.
You know, my dream never died and never went away. I was just waiting for an opportunity. I have it, and I've been living my dream last couple years. I've been improving slowly, but it's been moving forward. So I'm happy.

Q. What was the difference in the game? You said you were losing matches. So why were you losing them? Was it a question of the power of the game or particular strokes that you couldn't play?
MIRJANA LUCIC: No, no, I don't think it was none of that. I think it was really confidence. You know, I was out for almost entire four years, and then you come back. You kind of expect to just start off where you left off, and it doesn't really work that way.
It's just a matter of confidence. I think that's what I found. Once I started winning the matches and started -- because I play very powerful game, and you can't really hesitate a whole lot when you hit the ball like me, and then, you know, it ends up completely not being my game.
That's what I struggled a lot with. Once I started winning and getting a little more confidence and putting some matches together and now qualifying for both Grand Slams, I start feeling better and little more confident and going little more, how would I say, without hesitation after my shots. That's what I think makes the biggest difference for me.

Q. Considering all you've been through in your career, how differently do you look at tennis now? Do you have a different appreciation for the game?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Well, you know, it's funny. Every match I win now, it's like winning an entire tournament.
Before, I was really lucky and blessed to be so good when I was so young. And it was just normal. I grew up winning since I was six years old. I was winning tournaments and it was always normal.
But once that has been sort of taken away for years you haven't had that feeling, you know, it's incredible. Every match gives me such satisfaction. I really enjoy it so much. And just the fact that I have the ability to do it again, I'm really happy out there.

Q. In your mind, did you quit?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Never. Never. I was just waiting for my opportunities. I never quit. I knew -- you know, I'm 28 now. People are calling me a veteran, which is like, Oh, so depressing. I'm like old at 28.
But, you know, I just love it out there. You know, I'm doing what I love, and I know that there is still a lot of good tennis in me, a lot of good results. That's what's pushing me, and that's why I'm doing it.

Q. Does it feel like a rebirth or a like a second coming for you, or how would you characterize, you know, how it feels to be back on tour?
MIRJANA LUCIC: I don't know anymore if I would say that. Since I started playing again couple years ago, everybody has been saying a comeback, a comeback. Yeah, I left, but I never really left.
So for me, it was just -- it's almost like walking blind for years and really struggling a lot to finally being free again and sort of reminding myself of the old ways and how good I can play and that I can play with these girls and beat them.
That's what keeps me going. I still know I can, but it's really important to get out there on the court and do it every week, and that's gives you that confidence.

Q. How much mileage do you think you have left on your body?
MIRJANA LUCIC: I feel great, even though I'm wrapped all over right now. It looks bad, but I feel really good.
I mean, I've always worked hard. Physically I feel strong. But, you know, I've been going nonstop without a week off for a while now, so, you know, I'm a little bit tired.
But I feel great. Physically I can't say I have any problems, knock on wood. Everything is good. I feel like I have definitely some years in me. I feel that it matters the most also as long as I really want to be out there and work hard and do whatever I need to do.

Q. Are you a better player than you were in '99?
MIRJANA LUCIC: I really think so. I know, you know, if -- you know, for anybody that thinks, Okay, she was 30 then, now she's 150, you wouldn't say so. I but I really think so. I think my strokes have improved, I think better out there.

Q. Physically you didn't look that well-conditioned 11 years ago.
MIRJANA LUCIC: Yeah, you know, I hate to answer this question, but, you know, it was a lot of things going on in the past. You know, I was going through difficult time. When you're 17, 18, you know, from 16 to kind of 20, you're a really young girl. Everybody treats you like an adult because of the things you do, but you're still a young girl. You don't exactly handle everything the best, you know.
Today, you won't necessarily go for half a cake. When you're 16, you're a little down, boyfriend doesn't call you, you might do that. It sounds bad, but...

Q. Are you here with a coach?

Q. Who is that?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Jeff Russell with the United Tennis Academy from Bradenton. Been working for a little while.

Q. How have you been able to handle the off-the-court challenges, funding the travel, the coaching? Has that been a challenge for you?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Yeah, I don't really want to discuss that too much. You know, I've said a little bit about that in the past. That's been one of the biggest reasons, but I kind of want to leave that in the past.
Unfortunately, you know, for me I had to go through all these -- all the things I had to go through, people always want to know about it, which I understand. But I just want to focus right now on how good I'm doing and my future and what's ahead. You know, I'm here; I'm doing good. Obviously things are good.

Q. What kind of reception have you gotten from other players?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Really, really nice. A lot of players haven't seen me in a long time.
You know, Alicia, I have to say, was so, you know, gracious today after the match. She congratulated me and wished me luck. She said you deserved it you worked so hard. I got touched by that. When you just lose to somebody, you know, kind words are not exactly what you're thinking about. She's such a gracious player.
A lot of players have been really nice to me, and I appreciate that a lot - from both guys and girls - so it's really nice. Lots of friendly, you know, faces from long time ago. You know, everybody has nice things to say to me. It's nice.

Q. Melanie Oudin last year had her big splash at the Open, and with that success came all these expectations on her shoulders. Can you relate to that in some way, in that when you first came on the tour, you know, you had Steffi Graf talking about you and people really putting some pressure on you?
MIRJANA LUCIC: Uh-huh. Well, I mean, that was the least of my problems always. Because, you know, when I started at 15 I won my first tournament that I ever played, and I started off, you know, winning a lot right away. That kind of pressure never really bothered me.
You know, it was kind of expected, but I expect it out of myself always to win. So I didn't really feel any added pressure. The reason why I went away, the reason my career didn't go necessarily the way I thought it would and I planned it would, was just family issues. You know, very unfortunate. Nothing to do with tennis.
But, you know, the pressure you get, you know, you start winning, people are going to look at you, people are going to expect you to win. You have to be able to handle it, otherwise it's really tough. I understand her. I understand not everybody can handle it the same way, you know.
I know she wants to do her best, of course. She wants to repeat, but it's tough. It's tough. It is a lot of pressure.

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