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June 30, 2011

Martina Navratilova



Q. We want to talk about Petra.

Q. Kvitova.

Q. And being a lefty, doing well here.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I was actually talking to Joel Drucker, who works with me at the Tennis Channel, and we were trying to figure out the fourth best lefty that ever played the came. We couldn't really come up with one. I thought the closest was Monica, myself and then Ann Jones. There's been so few women lefties that are good. Like Dianne Fromholtz, she was ranked No. 4 at one point. But couldn't really come up with one.
I got to thinking now with Kvitova the final, potential winner, she would be the third lefty Czech to win this with Drobny. Really, if you think about the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Hingis came from there originally, Lendl, myself, Kodes won here in '73. It's astonishing. And Berdych was in the finals last year. Now Kvitova potentially winning. Hana Mandlikova. So many great players came out of a very little country consistently.
But I don't know. You know, a lot of hungry kids and opportunities. I think the club tennis makes a big difference. You go to the club and hang out all day, become a little gym rat, a tennis rat. You play a lot of tennis and do other sports. If there's nobody to play with, you kick the ball against the wall, or you play against the wall, play football. Very active.

Q. How do you think she matches up against Sharapova?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: She matches up well. That lefty serve, she curved a few in there today. It was beautiful. I think for Petra, the key has always been to minimize the streaks of bad play. She's very streaky, which is good on the good side, but she's been able to do that for the most part.
I thought she was reliving the French Open when she was up 3-Love in the third, lost 6-3. She had a little bit of a hiccup today, but recovered. She hits such a heavy ball. I think she can match up pretty well. I think she will return better than Lisicki did today.

Q. Will we see a volley?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: She hit a lot of nice forehand volleys. Dropshots, as well. She likes to come in, if she can.

Q. How long have you known her?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I've seen her in the locker room. Spoken to her a couple times. She's very sweet. It's funny because I haven't had that many players that said, You're my hero. It's nice. I thought she was too young for that (laughter). I think she saw me in my 30s.

Q. How big a liability is Maria's serve and how do you think she can exploit it?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Lisicki didn't. She was up 3-Love. Maria double-faulted twice in the next game. That was her opportunity. I think she could have blown the match wide open there. She missed it. She's been regrouping every match. Gets down 3-Love, 4-1.
I think Petra will return better and it will be easier for her to hold serve. That lefty serve will pay off a little bit more. She doesn't hit it as hard as Sabine but gets more first serves in.
It will totally first strike on the ball. I think Maria probably has the best return in the game. With the serves, I think Kvitova will get on top of the rally a little bit earlier than Maria maybe.
It's such a tossup. It basically comes down to who serves better. I thought that was the case today with Sharapova and Lisicki. Maria held her serve enough. Once the ball is in play, Sharapova has an edge. Once the ball is in play, Sharapova has an edge with Petra, as well, but not so big. She hits such a heavy ball.

Q. What are the advantages to the lefty serve?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, I mean, you have to guard against that slice out wide. It just opens up the court a little bit. But it seems that the lefties always have a good slice. The ball moves more and it's not the wind, you know. We just get on the outside of the ball more maybe because we know we can get to the backhand, practice it. You could hit it in your sleep. You practice it, use it more, therefore it becomes better. I don't know.
She has a great slice. She stands over. I don't know if I would stand that far over because you're vulnerable to the down-the-line. She doesn't hit the T serve as much. She hits it so hard, she doesn't have to locate the ball that well. It's still a winning serve.

Q. Kvitova is the best evolution of women's tennis, possible evolution, the best one.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, right now she's riding a big wave. She was in the semis here last year. She's in the top 10, still improving. I've been saying all along the next wave of players will become better all-around players. They'll come to the net more. She likes to move forward. She's not just going east/west, she's looking to go north. It's nice to see that.
I think that's the next step. And also maybe use more spin. The guys put a lot more topspin on the ball than the women do. That goes to strength as well. You can only swing that hard, as hard as the guys do.
Speaking of hard, I've never heard a ball make the sound as when Tsonga hits a forehand. I've never heard that before. It's like, Are you kidding me?

Q. Is being a great grass court player more instinct than really learning?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No, it's both. It's both. But I think the best athletes come through more because they're able to adapt to the bad bounce, to awkward shots, to playing an all-around game than the baseliners.
I mean, it's more instinctual in that you don't have as many choices on grass. It's key not to overthink it too much and play by instinct, so maybe you're right. In a roundabout way, it comes to that.

Q. They've talked about they've slowed down the grass. As somebody that played when it was faster, now have experience playing on it slower, how much difference is there?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It bounces higher and bounces slower. Higher bounce always slows the court down because you have more time to get to it. It's not skidding through as much.
The slice now, because you can put so much more spin on the ball, the slice stays low. It's easy to hit a really good slice because of the strings. The ball stays pretty low on the slice. But the serve is not coming through nearly as much.
Yeah, I think they need to speed it up. I think they need to speed up the courts, generally speaking, or lighten up the balls. How good was the French Open with those light balls? It's fantastic tennis. Then the talent comes really through. You can be touchy-feely with a light ball. Good touch pays off. When you have a heavy ball, I can't volley a heavy ball. If you punch it, it doesn't go anywhere.
This light ball, poom, now you can come to the net. Number one thing I would put a lighter ball. Hitting the ball so hard, the heavy ball, it's going to take a toll on the arms. Speeding up the court, you can come to the net and be aggressive.
Nowadays, I couldn't serve and volley. I would have to pick my spots. For me, if I can't serve and volley, something's wrong with it, something is wrong with the game. You're not going to get any variety. If I can't do that now playing the way I played then, you need to even it up somewhere.

Q. What would you answer to Petra if she asked you to help her to become No. 1 in the world?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, she's doing pretty well with her coach. I don't think she needs my help. She's doing a great job. They seem to know what they're doing.

Q. I think you're working with BBC.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: No. The Tennis Channel.

Q. They are passing the finals in three dimension. Do you think this is too much or can it be good for the people to learn?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I haven't seen 3D tennis as much as I would like. I think it brings another dimension to the sport and makes people feel they're on the court. The more fans you can get watching the game, the better. So I think it's great anytime you have something that makes you feel that you're right there.
It's amazing. The big TVs, I love it. I remember watching Wimbledon 40 years ago. It's like you didn't know there was a ball. You just saw people move, so you knew the ball went there only because they moved. It's fantastic.

Q. A Wimbledon final without Venus or Serena is a rarity these days. How important is it for the women's game there's been a changing of the guard this year?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, it's been a strange year because we've had kind of older players coming through. The French Open, Maria was the youngest semifinalist. Here she's the oldest. Maybe this is the changing of the guard. Maybe this is the new blood coming. The Germans have three really good players coming through. Now Kvitova. Azarenka, I think she's going to be a force. Sam Stosur, a little bit of a disappointment this year, but potential also.
I think we're seeing the new players taking charge. Most of all, they're playing to win. That's what I like to see. They're not scared out there. They're playing forceful tennis.
Yeah, you know, it happens eventually. I wouldn't write off Serena Williams quite yet. I think Venus is two years older and it gets harder after 30. I know that well. I think Serena will still be back.

Q. 20 years ago Sabatini and Graf played a fantastic final here in '91. What do you remember when Sabatini was just two points from the title?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, that was a great final. That was one of the best matches. I must say, I was pulling for Gaby because I liked the way she was coming to the net, playing very aggressively. Would have been nice to see her win one. Two great athletes going at it on the grass.
It would be a good match today.

Q. As a Club member, how have you made your views known to the Committee about the weight of the balls?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I have not spoken to anybody about that. I'm just throwing it out there, period. Not just Wimbledon that the balls maybe should be lighter, but the whole tour. We need to have a uniform ball. I think it's ludicrous they're playing with different balls week in and week out. You're playing different continents, different time zones, surfaces, indoor, outdoor. At least have the same ball.
It would make the game better and the players would be very thankful and their bodies would be extremely thankful. You would see better tennis.
At the French Open, players were complaining about a new ball not because it was light but because we hadn't had a chance to play with it. They changed it without talking to the players at all. Here it is, good luck. It took the players a while to get used to it.
Overall it's a good move, great ball. The more the merrier.

Q. You talked about the changing of the guard. Do you see the next great woman tennis player yet?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: You know, I don't want to anoint anybody here. That would be putting a lot of pressure on somebody. I don't want to take attention away from the players coming through. I wouldn't say any specific player.
But there is a good batch now. I mean, they're good athletes. They're strong and healthy and hungry. They're very positive. I love the attitude. I wouldn't say anyone.

Q. What did you think of Serena's play here, considering what she's come off of? What would you like to see her do this summer to get ready for the Open?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: I'm sure she'll play a couple tournaments. She needs more match play. Nothing gets you more sharp than playing matches, nothing. You can practice till you're blue in the face, practice sets, but it's not the same as playing under pressure, in front of a crowd. You have to have match play.
Especially when you get older, you can't get away with just hitting a hard one into the corner. The women are faster, they're bigger. She needs to play some matches. I'm sure she knows that.
She'll get in great shape. She still did amazingly well. I thought both sisters, considering how little they played, they looked sharp. Then they hit a really good player and couldn't cope.
I'm sure that they'll be a force to be reckoned with at the Open if they stay healthy. Amazing for Serena to be here at all.

Q. Would that have said something bad about women's tennis if Serena won it?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Well, she didn't, so we can't speculate. That being said, if Nadal had been away for a year, he comes in here, he would be one of the contenders. You'd expect him to get to the quarters or semis. You wouldn't say the men stink, he hasn't played for a year, and here he comes winning the tournament. I think that is a bit of a double standard.
I went through it myself when I came back and played, when I won the first round here: How can she beat women that are not that good? There is Mario Lemieux, the hockey player. Comes back after not playing so many years. He scores a goal the first game back. They're never going to say that the other guys don't play so well.
There is a bit of a double standard with the men and the women. The expectations of guys are different than the women. So that being said, Serena is a great champion and I expect her to do well. But she didn't win, so we don't have to talk about that.
I would look at it as both a tribute to Serena's greatness as well as perhaps lack of women believing in themselves that they can beat them. The intimidation factor that the Williams sisters had has gone down a little bit.

Q. We had this year female matches that were really long. Do you think quality is a gender thing or female tennis is as good as male tennis?

Q. Well, to watch.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: To watch. From what I understand, they've done studies here, most people come to Wimbledon wanting to watch the men, but when they leave they enjoyed watching the women more. That's what I've read, okay, that they've done these polls. The guys get more press, more attention, so people are more likely to want to watch them.
Right now it's hard to compare. Obviously the guys have the upper hand. They have four huge superstars playing at the same time. Three guys playing unbelievable tennis. It's hard to compare to that. You have two of the greatest players of all time playing at the same time. It pales. You take away Nadal and Federer, it's wide open a lot more.
With the women, we haven't had the two biggest stars, the Williams sisters, then Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters. We've lost our biggest names. They're not playing for one reason or another.
That being said, it's about quality, not quantity. I think the women are coming through pretty nicely. It's kind of nobody really grabbed that No. 1 ranking. We'll see what happens the rest of the year.

Q. You played with a one-handed backhand. Now we see two-handed backhands all the time.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: It's the way of the future. I would teach a kid a two-handed backhand and one-handed slice and a one-handed volley, of course. But it's just too much power. I think if Roger Federer had a two-handed backhand, he would have won more French Opens actually.
It's the way the game is produced now. The one-handed backhand, you have to have such an unbelievable backhand to be able to compete. An average two-hander is better than an amazing one-hander because of the power and the topspin. You have all that topspin on the ball, you can't get on top of it with one hand. The lighter balls you can a little bit. But heavier balls, you can't compete with this. Also you're crossing your body. With a two-hander, you have the open stance, just get on top of it.
It's the way the game is played now. The two-hander will rule, no doubt in my mind. Unfortunately, it's a beautiful thing that's kind of passe.

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