Q & A With Rafael Nadal

Q.  What are your thoughts about being here during a hurricane, and how will you spend your time?

RAFAEL NADAL:  I don’t know what’s going on, I think.  Nobody knows exactly what’s going on, no?

But having the club closed, all the places in Manhattan will be closed, so not much.  Just stay in the hotel.  Maybe watch some films.  But we will see what’s going on.  I never had an experience with a hurricane.  Is something new.

I think is very bad for the city, for the weekend, for everybody.  But, you know, that’s a new experience, and not enjoyable experience, but we know how is when is hurricane.

 

Q.  How are the fingers?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Much better.  I am able to practice with normal conditions.

 

Q.  Bandages?  No bandages or anything?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Bandages, yes.  The skin is still very thin, but it’s fine.

 

Q.  A lot of people have said you’ve been stymied, you’ve been flummoxed by Djokovic this season.  I mean, do you feel like if you possibly meet him in the US Open this week or next week that you have good chance against him?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, I am here.  You know, I am here at the start of the tournament and you start to talk about a match against Djokovic.  I have to win a lot to play Djokovic.  And probably him, too.  He’s not in the final yet.

I am focused on try to play well and try to have very good practice this week.  That’s what I am doing.  And the good chances against Djokovic, those chances always depends how I am playing, how he’s playing.  Not talking about here, talking in general.

After we will see, no?  I think I played a fantastic year this year.  I had a lot of victories all the year; I am not happy about how I played against him.

 

Q.  Could you talk about exactly what happened to your fingers?  You got burned in Cincinnati at some restaurant, right?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Yeah, I get burned in a Japanese restaurant.  Probably, you know, the Teppanyaki grill was there, probably the plate.  When I arrived at the restaurant the plate was there, so probably the plate stayed there for a long time.  Not inside the grill.  Something like this away to the grill.

You know, when they put the food, I tried to put the plate closer to me and was obviously very hot.  (Smiling.)

Q.         So your pointing finger and two fingers?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Two fingers.

 

Q.  Can you tell us a little bit about this book?  Was it important for you to do something like this?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, it is something that we decided to do.  Was the really first autobiography I was able to do.  Was a good opportunity to work with John Carlin.  We had a very good feeling together.  He speaks in Spanish, too, so it makes a little bit easier everything to talk about the emotion and to talk about, you know…

I think it was a fantastic experience.  I talk a long time with him and remember a lot of things that you normally usually don’t think about the past, no?  So when you start to talk you remember, yeah, few moments of your career, few moments when you were a kid.  Was interesting and I had fun, and hopefully the book will like to the people.

 

Q.  In the book where you talk about your parents’ separation, it seemed like it came out of the blue for you, that you did not realize that they were having any troubles.  Is that right?

RAFAEL NADAL:  I didn’t understand that very well.

(Translation.)  You know, what happened there was ‑‑ but in the book ‑‑ I never talk about my personal things in the press, but, you know, all the changes in your life needs a little bit of time.  That’s what happened.

So after a little bit of time I was perfect, but, you know, at the beginning it’s tough.  But, you know, I am not the only one who has the parents divorcing in one moment of my life.  Only thing is that Mallorca the family is very important, you are very close of the people that your friends, your family.  So any change in this part, these people close to you, affects you, no?

That’s happened.  That’s past.

 

Q.  I understand how it affected you.  What I don’t understand is how you did not see problems between your mother and father.  You did not notice problems between your mom and dad?

RAFAEL NADAL:  I know the problems, but anyway, I gonna repeat you, I don’t want to talk about that now.

 

Q.  How does it feel to come here after having you won it last year?  Do you see the tournament different?  Is it less pressure because you won it once?

RAFAEL NADAL:  The emotions probably are a little bit different, because when you come back after the victory of last year the emotions are higher.  Of course, it was the last Grand Slam for me to complete all four.  Was very, very nice moment of my career, one of the biggest moments of my career.  That makes the comeback a little more special.

But if we talk about the goal, is the same.  Play well, try to arrive to the final rounds.  That’s the same, no?

Pressure?  I don’t feel extra pressure.  I am happy about how I did.  I didn’t play very well during the summer, but I am practicing much better here.  So we’ll see.

 

Q.  Have you been surprised this year by the turnaround, where before it was you and Roger for so long at the top, and now all of a sudden ‑ Djokovic didn’t come out of nowhere, but he really has jumped up very quickly this year.  Have you been surprised by that change?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Djokovic didn’t arrive this year, no?

 

Q.  But he was not playing at the level that you were…

RAFAEL NADAL:  He was No. 3 of the world for three years.  That’s not bad.

 

Q.  But he only won one slam.

RAFAEL NADAL:  Only one, and most of the people never won one.

For me is a little bit strange about the people here from tennis talks about Djokovic, about his big new improvement.  Djokovic was here before, no?  Djokovic played fantastic before.  He had fantastic potential to be where he is today.

He’s doing great.  He’s playing without injuries.  He’s playing very solid, the mental, the tennis.  What he’s doing is something very difficult to repeat.

For me surprise?  I think for everybody surprise see a player that he’s not losing.  He’s only lost two matches during all the year.  For everybody surprising, but for me is no surprise that Djokovic is No. 1.  For me is not a surprise that Djokovic is able to win Grand Slams, because he’s very good.

That’s not from six months ago.

 

Q.  Two questions:  One, you’re 25 years old.  Does it feel strange to have a book about your life at 25?  And second, you seem like generally a pretty private person.  What did you want to tell?  What did you want to accomplish with this book?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, I am lucky.  25 years old and I enjoyed a lot of experiences in my life.  You never know if you can have another book in the future, but I felt it’s a good time to have that one.

Is a little bit of the history of my life.  Is a little bit of the history how I am where I am today.  Just open a little bit more of my life to them, to the fans, to the people who support me, the people who are interested about me.

For me, you know, now I am a little bit more open with the fans with the Twitter with the Facebook, and now with the book.  So I am trying to be more connected with them, and that’s probably a good way to do it.

Mardy Fish Transcript

Q.  What are your thoughts on how you’ll spend the time during the expected hurricane, and what are your thoughts about being here during that in general?

MARDY FISH:  Yeah, it will be pretty surreal, I think.  Obviously it doesn’t happen a lot, but I’ve been through quite a few hurricanes living and growing up in Florida.  I remember maybe going through ‑‑ we had like three or four in one year go through Vero Beach, pretty close to Vero when I was growing up, so we’re used to it.

My wife is a little freaked out about it being from California.  She had the earthquake that I have never been used to, and I’ve got the hurricane that I’m used to.

 

Q.  What’s your advice to New Yorkers who are not used to this?

MARDY FISH:  Well, seems like it’s gonna be like the worst stuff is going to be the floods.  The wind I don’t think will be too much of an issue, although they’re not used this kind of stuff up here.

So if people can stay as calm as possible will probably be the best.

 

Q.  Maria was saying she thought maybe people were overreacting.  What’s your take?

MARDY FISH:  Probably, yeah.  Probably.  I think it’s probably best to prepare for the worst than what it actually is, so…

 

Q.  Were you out and about?  Characterize the mood of the city.

MARDY FISH:  It’s different.  There were still a lot of people out, deliveries of water and things like that to hotels and stuff were out of the ordinary.  Places were closed out of the ordinary.  I couldn’t get my Starbucks this morning, which was annoying.

 

Q.  Were you hoarding?

MARDY FISH:  The hotel coffee wasn’t quite as good.

 

Q.  Were you hoarding last night?

MARDY FISH:  Stacey went to shop quite a bit last night, got a bunch of magazines and flashlights.  She’s preparing for Armageddon, I think.

 

Q.  You could kidnap a Starbucks barista.

MARDY FISH:  I know.  That would be a good idea.

 

Q.  Must be a different feeling coming into New York this year than all the years you have been here.  Can you talk about that for a moment.

MARDY FISH:  Yeah, it’s a significant difference for me.  It’s just great.  I mean, look, this is probably one of the biggest events that I’ll ever play, you know, just being in this position right now and coming in playing extremely well.

You know, winning the US Open Series and just coming in on a high and playing great the last two events, as well.  And then also having that week to prepare and rest ‑ I took three days off right after Cincinnati and played golf once and just relaxed.  It was great to get away from everything.

And then got back in here Tuesday and started grinding again.  You know, so, yeah, I’m super excited to start.  You know, it’s one of those where a lot of times you kinda want to work your way into the tournament.  I want to play Monday.  I want to get out there and start, start the whole process of it, because it’s exciting for me.

 

Q.  It’s a question that we’ve asked at several tournaments, but this being the US Open, it must be very different.  What do you feel coming in as the top‑ranked U.S. male and the top ranked U.S. player?

MARDY FISH:  Slight bit more pressure.  Certainly different pressure than I’ve ever felt.  But a good ‑‑ it’s a great feeling.  I mean, it’s just one of those experiences that not everybody can go through.  I can understand just a little bit of what Andy has gone through every single year for the past 12 years, probably, and respect the job that he’s done with it, as well, and how, you know, how well he’s handled the expectations with his play.

You know, for most of his 10, 12 years here he’s done extremely well, and so I can respect that a ton more, you know, and lean on him and James a little bit to ask some questions and, you know, hopefully take away a little bit of the pressure that Andy has had to deal with for the past, like I said, the past few years.

I’m happy to help in that aspect.

 

Q.  What’s the biggest difference in you as a player now than all the other times you’ve been here?

MARDY FISH:  I’ve got a real good grasp on my fitness right now.  Last year I came in, I was extremely fit at the time, but I was almost too ‑‑ I was right around 170 pounds.  You know, I was almost too skinny.

The stamina maybe wasn’t there quite as good.  I sort of ran out of gas at this tournament against Djokovic.  Not that that really would have mattered the way he played that match.

So I’ve got a good grasp on that.  I’ve got a great grasp on how to leave last weeks’ tournaments in last week, you know, leaving Montreal in Montreal and trying to separate myself from that and go to Cincinnati and start over again and hopefully leave Cincinnati there and start over here and sort of forget all the matches I’ve played in, the mental side of it, the mental sort of fatigue you can get from playing quite a few matches to, you know, starting over and trying to get as fresh as possible.

I think I’ve done and am trying more and more, and it’s a good problem to have, obviously, but something that I’m not used to throughout my career.

So I hope that I’m doing a better job of that, as well, just to kind of start over with each week as a new tournament.  Just previous years I would have had one good result and then I would have been pretty content with that result for a while.

So I hope to not do that.

 

Q.  Last summer obviously you had a great run, sort of launched where you are today.  I’m wondering, coming back in in the course of this year if you wonder or had doubts, Do I have it in me again?  Was that in your mind?

MARDY FISH:  No, that certainly entered my mind.  My goal going into the summer was to come into the US Open in the top 10.  That was a huge goal.  To be honest, it was going to be hard to do.  I had all my points backlogged now, you know, and Cincinnati, 600 points for a guy who’s right around 10, 9, 11, 12, something like that, I mean, there is a difference of back to 18 in the world kind of thing.  There is a big difference between 18 and 8, you know.

So the fact that I was able to, you know, do so well in Montreal took a ton of pressure off me for Cincinnati and put me in a great spot to ‑‑ what I didn’t think was possible was to get more ‑‑ you know, to even gain on what I had done last year.  I put myself in a good position in those events because I actually got a bye in those events, as well, which I had never done in the Masters 1000 events.

I was able to get to the final and play the final of Montreal and have that extra day off in Cincinnati, which was huge, as well.

So, yeah, I mean, I pretty candidly can say I didn’t think I was gonna be in this position right now.

 

Q.  Nice up there in first class, huh?

MARDY FISH:  Yeah, it is.  (Smiling).

 

Q.  What’s impressed you most about the way Djokovic has had, the season he’s had, and what are your thoughts in general about it?

MARDY FISH:  I mean, incredible.  Just the fact ‑‑ like I said, just the fact that to win back‑to‑back Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami, it’s just incredible.  And, you know, not to take away from a Grand Slam title in the beginning of the year.

It’s conceivable that, you know, a guy that good can, you know, can win the first two ‑‑ I think maybe he had won maybe two events only before Indian Wells.  Then, you know, you go to Indian Wells and Miami and you win both of those and beat Nadal in both of those, and you’re thinking, Man, this is a pretty incredible run.

But maybe someone has done that before or maybe, you know, Roger, you know, in kind of ’04, ’05, ’06 era was able to play like that.  And then to win Madrid and Rome back to back, it was just incredible to beat Nadal both of those finals.

I think that really ‑‑ you know, I think he won Belgrade in there, too, but that’s his home event and so we expect him to win those.

But then kind of opened everyone’s eyes to, Man, this is a historic run.  You know, who’s gonna beat this guy kind of thing?  Took the greatest player that we’ve seen to do it, you know.

 

Q.  Serve and volley is an important part of your game.  Do you feel that’s a feature that’s coming back into the men’s game a bit more, especially on hard courts?

MARDY FISH:  I don’t think it’s coming back in.  I don’t see much of it from anyone.  They’ve even slowed down ‑‑ they’ve even slowed down this surface, which is frustrating, because this is one of the ‑‑ this was definitely the fastest slam surface‑wise that we’ve had.

Now with it being, you know, much slower out here this year, it’s sort of fit right in with Australia.  There’s really not ‑‑ there is a lot of really slow Grand Slams now surface‑wise.  Cincinnati and Montreal were extremely fast; Montreal was an extremely fast surface.

I would prefer to play on that surface every single tournament, but it’s not how it works out here.  So, you know, that type of court can warrant some serving and volleying and coming forward.  You can’t serve and volley all the time.  Guys return too good, so you’ve got to keep them off balance and off guard.

I will certainly come to the net here, I have to, but maybe a little bit less than there.

 

Q.  What is your sense of how your belief in your game and your ability, how it compares with Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic right now?

MARDY FISH:  On this surface?  Right now I think it’s up there.  Ask me in two weeks, you know.  I mean, hopefully we’re still sitting here and I can have a conversation with you about it because I’ve never done that.  So it’s hard to say, you know, I expect to see myself in the second Saturday of the US Open because I’ve never done that before.

I’ve been close once, but I’d like to get there now.  I’d really like to get there now, because I really feel like I can belong there.  I can get there.  I can get to a really big spot in a Grand Slam.  And if I were to pick a tournament, a Grand Slam that I could do that in, it would be this one.

 

Q.  You mentioned the surface being slower here.

MARDY FISH:  Uh‑huh.

 

Q.  Is that something this year in particular or over the years?

MARDY FISH:  No, it was pretty fast last year.  It’s definitely different.  But it’s also playing a lot different out there just because of the conditions.  It’s kind of a strange ‑‑ I mean, it’s almost like it’s just raining out of the sky with no rain.  It’s just so humid.  The balls just get extremely big like that with the humidity.

But it’s playing very strange right now.  Hopefully when Monday comes around and the heat comes back a little bit and you get the humidity out of there just a little bit, maybe it will play a little bit differently.

 

Q.  Who would it favor, the slowness of the surface, out of all the top guys?

MARDY FISH:  I think it will favor Djokovic quite a bit.  I think it will play a lot like Australia, to be honest.

I think at night it will play much slower than during the day.  You know, days when it’s pretty humid it will play much slower.

You know, but Rafa likes those conditions, as well, so it’s hard to ‑‑ I mean, Djokovic is, you know, the No. 1 player in the world, so it’s hard not to say that he’s the favorite.  But certainly some guys that can beat him.  I would say he is.

Maria Sharapova Transcript

Q.  How do you feel going into this tournament winning in Cincinnati?  Must have given you a lot of confidence.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, I came into Cincinnati, you know, asking to play a lot of matches for myself, as many as I could at that tournament.

It was great to win the tournament.  I beat some really good opponents, played some good matches.  You know, the final was a little whacky, but I just managed to win that one.

Yeah, it’s great.  Obviously coming into the Open it’s great to have a title under your belt.

 

Q.  How different are you this year compared to last year at the same time for the US Open?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I’m seeded higher.  I’ve won two titles this year.  You know, I feel like my tennis is at a much better level than it was last year.  Yeah, I’m a better player, definitely.

 

Q.  How do you expect to deal with the expected hurricane in the next 24 hours?  What are your plans and what are your thoughts about being here for this?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I’m a Florida girl so I’m used to this stuff.  (Laughter.)

I think everyone’s a bit overreacting about everything, but of course you have to take precaution and all that.  But, I mean, where are we gonna go?  All hundreds of us?

So I just hope that our hotel is nice and tough and sturdy, you know.  That’s all we can do, right?

 

Q.  What do you know about Heather Watson?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Not too much.  I’ve never played her before.  I saw a little bit of her matches in the past I think at Wimbledon her first rounds.  Yeah, she’s someone that’s up and coming, and those are sometimes dangerous because they’re quite fearless when they go on the court, don’t have much to lose.

It’s not too often that you play an opponent you haven’t played against before, so, yeah, it’s not an easy first round.

 

Q.  You had experience of that obviously at Wimbledon against another British youngster in Laura Robson.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Uh‑huh.

 

Q.  Sort of a similar situation?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, I guess, but they’re two different players.

 

Q.  In the (Head) advertising you were on the court with Djokovic or it’s…

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah.  I was there watching it happen.

 

Q.  You always say you enjoy the process, but now that the process is paying off, where is your level of enjoyment in competing right now?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, it’s a lot more enjoyable when you’re winning more matches, that’s for sure.

Actually it’s a lot easier to go out on the practice court.  I mean, even when you take a few losses it’s a little bit easier to shrug them off because you know you have that level.  You just need maybe sometimes a little time or just a few things to click to get it back.

Whereas when you haven’t had it for a while, you kind of are trying to find it, trying to find it.  You play one good match, and then, Do I have it now?  Do I feel it?  It’s definitely different.

 

Q.  Coming to a tournament now, fourth seed, obviously people think you’re one of the favorites here.  Do you feed off that?  Does it give you confidence coming into a tournament like this?  Do you feel a bit more pressure now that you’ve got more of an X on your back?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I mean, to be honest, I have been seeded a lot lower and I’ve still been one of the favorites, so it’s not anything new for me that people expect me to do well.

 

Q.  How do you look back now on your run to the final at Wimbledon?  What do you come out of that tournament with?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I mean, my opponent played a really unbelievable match.  You know, I had my chances, and it’s quite important in tennis to take them.  She was able to find an answer, you know, in things that I kind of challenged her with.

It was a really great match for her at a big stage.  That’s the only way you can really look at it.

 

Q.  She hasn’t had a great summer since then.  Is that pretty normal when you come off a great breakthrough win like that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, it’s not easy, that’s for sure, especially after your first one, definitely.

Yeah, I think she’s a good enough player to find her form back here.

 

Q.  In all the time since your shoulder problems, how would you compare how you feel now with the process which was discussed earlier?  Getting over that, the surgery, everything till now, what is your feeling now compared to all the times since then?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, it’s just great to still be a tennis player.  I’ve said this many times.  I’m very fortunate to do what I do, obviously, to do it at a high level and to win tournaments and to win big matches obviously.

It gives you tremendous amount of confidence and delight that the work you’ve put in, you know, is paying off.  It’s the time that you spend away from the courts, the time that people don’t see what you put into the sport of trying to get back there.  Just to play a match, and then do it over and over again, not many people experience that feeling, see it.

So to be able to prove to yourself that you’ve put in that work and there you are at that stage again, giving yourself these opportunities to win Grand Slams again, it’s a good feeling.

 

Q.  But your level of play now and your level of confidence, how would you compare it with all the time since your shoulder problem?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I just feel like this year I’ve improved.  Last year I felt like I would play a couple good matches and then I’d play a bad match.  I didn’t have that sense of consistency, and that’s something I felt like something that has changed this year.

 

Q.  Do you have any memories of working out with Freddy Adu at IMG?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  No.

 

Q.  Somebody was doing something on him and said you guys might have crossed paths for a couple weeks.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I think we worked out at the same facility in Florida, but I don’t think I’ve ever ‑‑ I mean, I sure hope I wasn’t doing a soccer workout.

 

Q.  Just one of those questions we needed to ask.  Were you in the city at all this morning?  Could you characterize the mood here?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  This morning?

 

Q.  Yeah.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I left pretty early.  I left at 8:00 a.m., so I’m not really sure if everyone was sleeping in New York on a Saturday morning or if it’s the hurricane effect.  But it was pretty quiet.

 

Q.  You were talking about your chances and things like that.  When you see the news that somebody like a Kim Clijsters is not playing, what goes through your mind?  Do you feel like it opens up another alley?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I can’t really think like that.  I don’t think that’s a mindset of a winner, to be honest.  You’ve got to be ready to face anyone at any given moment.  It’s obviously unfortunate that she can’t come back as a defending champion.

But on the other hand, you know, she is the one that has the memory of holding up that trophy last year.  It’s I have been in that position before.  It’s definitely tough, there is no doubt about it, to not be able to defend such a big title.  It’s sometimes the adversity that we’re faced with.

Roger Federer Transcript

THE MODERATOR:  Questions, please.

 

Q.  How do you feel about this US Open regarding your form and your expectations?

ROGER FEDERER:  I feel good, you know.  I have had plenty of practice.  I wanted to say plenty of rest.  I have been resting a little bit, but I will rest tomorrow more.

I had a good hit, no niggling injuries, and everything is under control.  I went right back on the practice courts after my last match in Cincinnati.

Conditions have been somewhat okay here in New York.  Seems a bit slower, the surface, actually, I thought really when I was playing now.  But I don’t want to say it’s a slight adjustment, because it’s not a crazy difference to previous years, but it is slower.  That’s my opinion.

So that has maybe an impact rather than who you play and how you play them.  Other than that, my preparation has been good and I’m excited for the tournament to start.  Clearly it’s always a great event to be a part of.  Was a success here obviously.  It’s nice to be back.

 

Q.  How does turning age 30 affect your outlook and expectations?

ROGER FEDERER:  None, really.  I mean, hasn’t changed anything.  I’m still as professional.  I’m still as hungry.  Everything’s still completely normal.

You know, it’s just a number that’s changed, you know.  So, no, I’m ready to go.

 

Q.  What is it like for you trying to get prepared for the start of the Open and your first‑round matches and having Hurricane Irene bearing down on the city?

ROGER FEDERER:  I mean, I kind of usually always take a break anyway shortly before the tournament.  So, you know, I’m not anxious now having to hit tomorrow, but if my schedule would have been to hit, I don’t know, let’s say noon, it would have rained at noon, maybe then I wouldn’t have gone indoors at all, you know.

Maybe I just go back and relax instead of trying to hustle around and trying to get an indoor hit.  I’m not 18 anymore where that’s the kind of stuff you do then to show how badly you need it, how professional you are, you know.

But at my age you kinda know what it takes, you know, to get ready, and you don’t panic.  So, yeah, I won’t be playing tomorrow.  It’s not an issue, you know.  I’m not even going to try to.  It wasn’t on the plan anyway to do so.

But sure it’s somewhat scarey, you know, because we don’t know how hard it’s gonna hit us.  I’ve got family.  We’re in New York City, you know, it’s not just a regular city.  It’s quite something with all the buildings.

So it’s unusual, but we’ll follow the news closely and we’ll try to stay as safe as we can so we get through it.

 

Q.  Andre Agassi had a lot of success in 30s.  He won Grand Slam title.  Do you inspire from him physically or mentally?

ROGER FEDERER:  Yeah, I mean, well, I played him here in 2005.  I think he was 35, I think, so I was like, Wow, that was his 20th US Open I think in a row.

I’ve got a ways to go.

This is my 13th time here, 12th time maybe in the main draw, so it’s definitely an inspiration seeing guys being around for a long time like Ken Rosewall, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, and then there are tons of other players who were there for a long time.

I feel my game allows me to, you know, still play for many more years because I have a relaxing playing style.  I have almost played a thousand matches on tour and that leaves its toll, but I’m very professional when it comes to massages, stretching, diet, sleep, all of that stuff.

So I have always looked in the long term as well for a long time.  I have never been chasing stuff around since, you know, I turned world No. 1 seven years ago.

That’s why I’m confident I can still play for many more years to come at the highest of levels.

 

Q.  Del Potro came back to the US Open.  Do you think that he’s one of the favorite to win the title, like you, Rafa, Djokovic?

ROGER FEDERER:  I think it would be unfair to put him into one of the favorites position for him.  I think he’s playing well ‑ good enough to win for sure, otherwise he wouldn’t have won here in the past ‑ but maybe does he need a bit more tennis?  Probably.

I think as long as he’s feeling physically fine and gets deep into the tournament, once he gets into the quarters I definitely think he’s a threat to win the tournament.  But to pick him first like that, it’s a tough one.

I really think Novak, Rafa, myself, we’re all playing extremely well at the moment.  I don’t know his draw.  I haven’t checked it.  I think for him it’s really important for him to get through sort of the first three, four rounds without being physically too beat.

I played him last week and he was playing well, I thought.  It was a good match and it was nice to see him back.  I hope he does really well here.

 

Q.  This tournament marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic attacks in 2001.  The final, ironically, will be played on September 11, the men’s final.  Can you recall where you were on September 11, 2001?

ROGER FEDERER:  Yeah, I do.  I was at the National Tennis Center in Biel, Switzerland and working out in the gym.  I heard something was going on.  You know, I was one ‑‑ I don’t know if I got a message on my phone or someone ran down and told me and I started to tell all my friends to turn on the TV and see this incredible news.

That’s how I heard it, you know.  But I was long gone from New York.

 

Q.  What was your state of mind?

ROGER FEDERER:  Because I think it was two days after, and I lost the first week, I think.

 

Q.  What was your state of mind when you saw those images on TV?

ROGER FEDERER:  It’s hard to understand and grasp it, really.  I mean, I couldn’t believe what was happening, you know.  I guess I didn’t quite understand it almost until I came back to America the next time, or when I came to New York the next time, that this is ‑‑ it was such a shock.

Yeah, it was almost surreal that something like this was possible that someone would want to do that.  So that was very heavy.

 

Q.  Does it change your perspective on how you view the world today, especially now that you’re a father?

ROGER FEDERER:  Yeah, I mean, I think you’re never quite safe.  Doesn’t matter what you do.  There are so many car accidents around the world.  That’s something you can control to some degree, right?

But I guess what you try to do in life is try to be as safe as you can be without living in a golden cage, either.  You have to go out there and live life, right?

So then you have unfortunately things like this that don’t help the cause, you know, of getting more frightened and scared of going out and maybe travel and all those things.

For us, it left a big impact, because as tennis players we don’t really have the choice not to travel, right?  We are a part of, you know, the traveling circus with planes and so forth.  We didn’t really like to see it, I think all of us.  You guys need to travel too to come see us.  It was tough, yeah.

 

Q.  What are your thoughts about how Novak has achieved what he has this year and your general impressions of the year that he’s put together?

ROGER FEDERER:  Yeah, I mean, impressive to say the least.  He’s done amazing to have a run like that, especially after losing here in the finals last year.  I think the rebound for him to come back and not to be disappointed about losing against Rafa in the finals of the US Open where he probably figured he had a good chance to win was a tough loss for him.

But the rebound, it shows, you know, when you’re down like that and, you know, take the right decisions and, you know, come back strong and believe you can do it, he made an incredible run this year.  It’s been wonderful to watch, even though I have probably seen just probably guessing 10 to 15 matches of all those 50 whatever matches he’s played.

So for me it’s hard to say how well he’s really played.  I have seen him play some matches and they were all really good, but I’m not courtside for every single match.

The record speaks for itself.  It’s been an amazing run, and he’s still playing really well and he’s definitely one of the favorites here, if not the favorite.

 

Q.  Andy Murray coming into this tournament having won in Cincinnati.  This is also his favorite Grand Slam.  How would you assess Andy’s chances this time?

ROGER FEDERER:  Very good.  I would have said the same regardless of Cincinnati.  So for me, I’m sorry I don’t look at ‑‑ I don’t go day by day or week by week, you know.  You have to look at more of the big picture.  He’s had a good season.  He’s played an amazing Australian.  Unfortunately he ran into Novak, who was just playing incredible tennis, in the finals, I felt.

Meeting Novak in the semis, which I thought was a very close match.  Could have gone either way in some ways.  So I knew how tough Novak was playing and expected Novak to win that, even though I thought Murray was playing equally good, I thought, throughout the tournament.

Just got maybe a bit down on himself.  You know, like when I mentioned before about Novak taking the right decisions after losing in the finals, maybe Andy didn’t quite do that after Australia.

But he rebounded strong on the clay season, played well I think on the grass, and then for me was normal that he was going to be in‑form coming into the US Open.

So to me he’s also definitely one of the big favorites, yeah.

A New Martina Hingis Leads The Sportimes back into Action…

She was known as “The Swiss Miss,” and at the ripe old age of 18 dominated the women’s tennis scene, especially the hard courts and tough fans of New York’s US Open. Now at age 32, a reborn, married and healthy Martina Hingis will return to New York and the fans who loved her as a member of the New York Sportimes of World Team Tennis. The Sportimes will begin defense of their 2010 Eastern conference title Wednesday the 6th when they take on The Boston Lobsters on Randall’s Island.

“I love the Team Tennis format that Billie Jean has created, and getting to play on the court in New York, at the beautiful facility John McEnroe has will be a thrill for sure,” Hingis said this week. “I feel great, I am enjoying life, and I want to have a great month for the fans and our team.”

The Martina Hingis of today is much more like the graceful player that stormed to the top of the women’s tennis game and much less like the rebellious twentysomething whose life turned due to injuries, boredom and other off the court issues in the latter half of the last decade. She has a new husband, showjumper Thibault Hutin, a new doubles partner at Grand Slams seniors events (Lindsay Davenport, who she teamed to win the French Open Masters with in May), and a new outlook on life that is refreshing in a sport that usually casts off its former stars for long periods of time. “I have my horses, my tennis and a very nice balance right now, especially not travelling 30 weeks a year playing,” she added.

Hingis will be a Sportimes mainstay for their matches this coming month. Fans can catch her no less than five times at the beautiful Randall’s Island facility, playing singles (including a match with the Washington Kastles Serena Williams) and mixed doubles with team captain McEnroe.

More importantly for tennis, it appears that one of their former bright stars is back and enjoying the game, and will bring that joy to the fun-filled world of WTT starting on Wednesday. For all the details visit newyorksportimes.com.

Aussie Kim Gets Aussie Win

She did it.

Kim Clijsters goal of winning a Grand Slam outside of the US Open came to fruition with a three set win over Na Li, 3-6 6-3 6-3.

“Yeah, [the Grand Slam wins are] all emotional,” Clijsters said. “Obviously, you know, I think what overwhelms me is that it’s so intense up until, you know, that last shot, and then all of a sudden it’s finished. Then it’s just like a big relief.

“Yeah, you know, the disbelief maybe a little bit too it’s over and that I was able to turn it around is what makes it all so special.”

It looked like the day wasn’t going to go Aussie Kim’s way as Li took the first set rather handily, but the Belgian roared back to take the crown.

“She did everything better than me in that first set,” Clijsters said. “I mean, obviously her groundstrokes were heavier, deeper. She served better. She returned better.

“So I think, you know, she was playing really, really well probably the best that I’ve ever played against her, or that she played against me.

“I tried to just, you know, think after that first set, you know, like, What can I do differently so I can maybe break her rhythm a little bit, try to make her think out there a little bit more? So I tried to mix it up a little bit, put some slices in, also hit a few higher shots that, you know, kind of just made her make some unforced errors.”

“Yeah, I saw her get a little bit aggravated, and just tried to hang in there.”

The win allows Clijsters to achieve the goal she set out for herself after winning in Flushing Meadows back in September. Because of her dominance at the US Open, she was gaining the reputation of a hard court specialist, who couldn’t win on the slower courts. She said at the time, Melbourne was the place she though she had her best chance of winning, and with her only dropping one set the whole tournament, she proved her point.

“Obviously, I mean, you know, if I could win another US Open it would also be nice,” Clijsters said. “But, no, I do enjoy this win, especially here in Australia, as well. It’s been a country where I’ve always loved coming to and where I’ve always been very well received.

“Yeah, I’ve been close to doing well, you know, a few years in a row, so it’s nice to finally get it this year.”

Now Clijsters will set her eye on the French Open and Wimbledon. She has gone one record saying she will probably either retire or reduce her schedule again after the 2012 Olympics. Yet, that’s so far away and there are other Slams to win.

“I’m not going to sit here and be like, No, that wouldn’t be nice,” she said. “But to be honest, I really haven’t thought about it. It’s a little early I think to already think ahead, focus on those kind of things.

“I’ve been really focused on this last month, you know, two months, to try and be ready for the Australian summer. And now I kind of just need a break from that whole, like, goals and preparing and all that.

“But, no, obviously the French is a Grand Slam where, you know, I would like to do well, as well. All of them, of course. But, uhm, again, yeah, I’m just excited that I won this one. Like I said, not really thinking in those kind of ways yet.

:That will probably happen after Fed Cup when I’m done and home for a few weeks. I’m playing Paris. Once after that, I’ll probably have time to sit together with the team and kind of just relook at the whole kind of schedule for later this year.”

Yet, that seems so far in the future. Right now, Clijsters is just going to enjoy her win with her husband Brian Lynch and daughter Jada, who seems to be getting used to mommy winning titles.

“She’s always excited,” Clijsters said. “Although when she saw the trophy, she was like, Who is that trophy for? And then she’s like, Did you win that? I’m like, Yeah.

“I mean, to her, she knows I play tennis, but that’s it. She doesn’t know everything else that comes with it, winning, losing. You know, obviously, I mean, she’s seen me like a little bit disappointed and stuff.

“She asks, Why are you disappointed? I explain to her that I lost. But, I mean, it’s not a big deal for her.”

Rather it’s a bigger deal for mommy who is rolling along in her second tennis career.

Peachy Kellmeyer to be Inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame

NEWPORT, R.I., USA, January 27, 2011 – Fern Lee “Peachy” Kellmeyer, who was the very first employee and director of the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) in 1973 and still serves the organization today, has been elected for induction to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Christopher E. Clouser, chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum announced Kellmeyer’s induction today at a WTA Alumnae & Friends Reunion at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia.

Kellmeyer is the sole 2011 inductee in the Contributor Category. She joins Recent Player inductee Andre Agassi, whose induction was announced last week. Together, Kellmeyer and Agassi will be the International Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2011. The Class of 2011 Induction Ceremony will be held on July 9, 2011 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, R.I. The Ceremony will be held in conjunction with the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, an ATP World Tour event.

“Professional women’s tennis players, young female athletes and the sports world in general should be grateful that Peachy Kellmeyer chose to apply her dedication and leadership skills to women’s tennis, because her tireless work has played a critical role in the growth of the game and in improving rights for female athletes across all sports,” said Christopher E. Clouser, chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum. “We are delighted to honor Peachy for her contributions to tennis with induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.”

Kellmeyer, 66, of Wheeling, West Virginia, became involved in the game as a talented junior player, went on to be a star collegiate athlete, and then launched an administrative career in tennis. During her career with the WTA, Kellmeyer has led the WTA’s operations, player and tournament relations and has been at the center of all major policy decisions. Kellmeyer currently serves as WTA Operations Executive Consultant. She is also a member of the ITF Fed Cup Committee and oversees the WTA’s alumni program to ensure that past players and tournament directors remain engaged with the WTA that they helped build.

“This is a tremendous honor, and I’m so grateful for the recognition. I am particularly pleased to have been able to celebrate the news of my induction surrounded by many of my close friends in the WTA Alumnae & Friends Association who have shared the vision and worked with me to grow women’s tennis around the globe,” said Kellmeyer. “From playing opportunities to prize money, to interest in the game, we’ve all worked very hard to reach the positive position that women’s tennis is in today. I’ve been fortunate to have truly loved my work all my life, and it’s a real joy to see that my efforts have positively impacted women.”

During Kellmeyer’s tenure, prize money on the WTA has increased from $309,000 in 1973 to more than $86,000,000 in 2010, and the number of WTA events has increased from 23 domestic tournaments to 53 events in 33 different countries. Attendance at WTA events has increased dramatically with nearly 5 million in-stadium fans annually, and television exposure has increased with hundreds of millions of homes receiving more than 6,000 hours of international TV coverage on an annual basis.

Simultaneously with her efforts to build women’s tennis, Kellmeyer has been a tireless fighter for women’s rights in sports. When she was the Physical Education Director at Marymount College in Boca Raton, Florida in 1966, Kellmeyer spear-headed a lawsuit that ultimately led to the dismantling of a National Education Association rule that had prohibited athletic scholarships being awarded to female athletes at colleges across the nation. The landmark case paved the way for Title IX and contributed greatly to the increase of female athletes in intercollegiate athletics. Additionally, Kellmeyer was a driving force behind the WTA’s campaign to achieve equal prize money for women. In 2009 she was honored with the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Golden Achievement Award for her important contributions to tennis in the field of administration and long outstanding service to the sport.

On court, Kellmeyer began winning junior titles as early as age 11. By the age of 15 she was competing at what is now the US Open, and she was the youngest player at the time to be invited to such a prestigious event. She went on to be a tennis star at the University of Miami, where she became the first woman to compete on a Division I men’s team. As an adult, Kellmeyer was ranked nationally in both singles and doubles, and was a competitor at Wimbledon and the US Open.

Located in Newport, Rhode Island, the International Tennis Hall of Fame has inducted 219 of the greatest players and contributors to the sport since 1955. Inductees are honored in one of three categories – Recent Player, Master Player and Contributor. In recognition for her immense contributions off the court, Kellmeyer joins the esteemed Contributor Category which includes Hall of Famers such as sports marketing pioneer and agent Donald Dell, and former player turned tennis administrator and tournament director, Butch Buchholz.

Contributor Category – Induction Eligibility

Inductees to the International Tennis Hall of Fame are elected in the categories of Recent Player, Master Player and Contributor. To be eligible for Hall of Fame induction in the Contributor category, the individual must have made exceptional contributions that have furthered the growth, reputation and character of tennis, in categories such as administration, media, coaching and officiating. Contributor candidates do not need to be retired from their activities related to the sport to be considered.

Induction Voting Process

International Tennis Hall of Fame President and 1970 Hall of Famer Tony Trabert serves as Chair of the Enshrinee Nominating Committee. Annually, the Committee develops the Hall of Fame induction ballot, based on nominations submitted by the public. The ballot is then put to vote by the International Media Panel or the International Masters Panel, depending on the category. The Contributor category, in which Kellmeyer was elected, is voted on by the International Masters Panel, which consists of Hall of Fame inductees and individuals who are highly knowledgeable of the sport and its history. To be inducted as a Contributor, an affirmative vote of 75% is required.

Induction Ceremony

The 2011 Induction Ceremony will be held in conjunction with the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, an ATP World Tour event. Tickets for the Induction Ceremony and its surrounding events are limited. Custom sponsorship and hospitality packages are available. In addition, the International Tennis Hall of Fame is developing additional events and programs to complement the Induction Ceremony and allow as many fans as possible to be part of the celebration. Individuals looking for additional information should call 866-914-FAME (3263) and/or visit www.tennisfame.com.

To learn more about the Class of 2011 Induction Ceremony or about the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, please visit tennisfame.com or call 401-849-3990.

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About the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum

Established in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, inspiring and encouraging junior tennis development, enshrining tennis heroes and heroines, and providing a landmark for tennis enthusiasts worldwide. The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum was recognized as the sport’s official Hall of Fame in 1986 by the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of tennis. The Hall of Fame is located in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, on a six-acre property that features an extensive Museum chronicling the history of the sport and honoring the 218 Hall of Famers; 13 grass tennis courts and an indoor tennis facility that are open to the public and to a club membership; a rare Court Tennis facility; and an historic 297-seat theatre. Annually in July, the venue hosts the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships for the Van Alen Cup, an ATP World Tour event. The buildings and grounds, which were constructed in 1880 by McKim, Mead & White to serve as a social club for Newport’s summer residents, are renowned for their incredible architecture and preservation. The facility was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is supported by Official Partners including BNP Paribas, Campbell Soup Company, Chubb Personal Insurance, Kia Motors and Rolex Watch USA. For information on the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum and its programs, call 401-849-3990 or visit us online at www.tennisfame.com.

Lineup For Indian Wells Announced

With the Australian Open concluding this weekend, the next major stop on the tennis calendar will be the BNP Paribas Open, the most-attended tennis tournament outside of the Grand Slams. Once again the tournament, to be held March 7-20 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, will feature hundreds of the best players in the world, including the top three players on both tours – Rafael Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki (No. 1), Roger Federer and Vera Zvonareva (No. 2) and Novak Djokovic and Kim Clijsters (No. 3).

Nadal, who had an incredible season in 2010 capturing three of the four majors, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, will be in search of his third crown in Indian Wells (2007, 2009), and would join Jimmy Connors, Michael Chang and Federer as three-time winners of the BNP Paribas Open. Wozniacki became the 20th World No. 1 in WTA history last year, and captured six titles. A finalist at the 2010 BNP Paribas Open, she is seeking her first Grand Slam title this week at the Australian Open and is into the semifinals.

Federer, who is the only man to ever win the BNP Paribas Open three years in a row (2004-2006), bookended 2010 by winning the sixteenth major of his career in Australia in January and the ATP World Championships in the final week of the season. A win this week would continue to increase his all-time leading major title record. Zvonareva had a fantastic 2010 reaching the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open, and climbing to an all-time high ranking of No. 2 in the world. The 2009 BNP Paribas Open champion has another shot at a major title this week at the Australian Open.

Djokovic had another strong campaign in 2010, and entrenched himself further into the Serbian history books  by helping his country capture its first ever Davis Cup title with a win over France in December. The 2008 BNP Paribas Open champion is trying to capture the second major of his career this week in Australia, with the first coming in 2008 in the land down under. Clijsters, who has three major titles, including the last two US Open’s, will look to become the only woman to ever win the BNP Paribas Open singles title three times (2005, 2003). She is currently in the hunt this weekend for her fourth Grand Slam title and her first at the Australian Open.

In addition to these six stars, the fields will feature a host of others who have captured titles in Indian Wells including the last six women to win the title – defending champion Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic (2008), Daniela Hantuchova (2007, 2002), Southern California resident Maria Sharapova (2006), Zvonareva and Clijsters. On the men’s side, defending champion Ivan Ljubicic and Lleyton Hewitt (2001-2002) join Nadal, Federer and Djokovic as former champions in the draw.

In addition to these champions, numerous other top ten stars such as Robin Soderling (No. 4), Andy Murray (No. 5), Tomas Berdych (No. 6), David Ferrer (No. 7), American Andy Roddick (No. 8), Fernando Verdasco (No. 9), Mikhail Youhzny (No. 10), Samantha Stosur (No. 6), Francesca Schiavone (No. 7) and World No. 9 Victoria Azarenka will also vie for the title. Other American stars that will compete include Mardy Fish, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Sam Querrey, Melanie Oudin, John Isner and the World No. 1 doubles team, Mike and Bob Bryan, who will be seeking to capture one of the few titles that have eluded them in their record-setting career.

One of the new additions for the players and fans this year will be the addition of Hawkeye replay technology and video displays on all match courts. While most tournaments feature Hawkeye replay technology and video displays on one, two, or three courts, none have made it available on eight match courts.

The women’s qualifying draw will take place March 7-8 and the men’s qualifying rounds will be held March 8-9. There will be 48 players in each draw vying for 12 spots in the main draws. First-round play will begin Wednesday, March 9 for the women and Thursday, March 10 for the men. The men’s and women’s singles championship finals will be held on Sunday, March 20. For information or to buy tickets, visit www.bnpparibasopen.com, call the Indian Wells Tennis Garden at 800-999-1585, or visit the box office, 78-200 Miles Avenue, Indian Wells, CA 92210.

An Interview With Mary Jo Fernandez

Mary Joe Fernandez

TIM CURRY: We have on the call with us live from Australia, U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez. It’s 7:30 in the morning in Melbourne, and she’s preparing again today for ESPN commentary duties once again but is joining us to announce the U.S. Fed Cup team that will take on Belgium February 5th and 6th in Antwerp.
This is Mary Joe’s third year as U.S. Fed Cup Captain and she has successfully led the U.S. to the finals her first two years as captain. After introductory comments from Mary Joe, we will open up the call for Q&A. Mary Joe.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Good morning from Australia. Good afternoon there in the states. Just wanted to let everybody know how excited I am to be starting as Fed Cup captain this year. And it seems like when you end the year and start the year it’s very quick, there’s a big gap between the semis and finals, but there’s a quick turnaround between the finals and the first round. But here we go. Right after Australia we head over to Belgium. And I’m pleased to announce my team.
I have the same core group returning with Bethanie Mattek-Sands playing; Melanie Oudin; Liezel Huber, and Vania King will be joining us again, two-time majors doubles winner last year. She’s been on teams before.
And we’re excited to have her return. So we’re looking forward to it. We have our work cut out for us in Belgium against the top players. But we’re going to go give it our best shot. I have great faith in the team and the capabilities. And we’ll see what happens. So I open it up to questions.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?

Q. You mentioned having your work cut out for you. What sort of intimidation factor might there be with Belgium apparently bringing (Kim) Clijsters and Justine (Henin)?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Well, it’s pretty clear. They’re two of the best players to play the game. And Clijsters is still here playing today in the quarterfinals. Justine went out early.
To me, the Fed Cup is very different than a regular tour tournament. And, again, hopefully I can offer some advice when I’m on the court. And you just — you really approach it as this one unique match. And you try to do all you can to disrupt all the great things that both those players do.
It’s not easy. But it’s been done before. And you go out with a very positive attitude.

Q. And you had expected or hoped that Venus Williams might have been able to play this time and I’m wondering when you found out she wouldn’t be able to play?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Yes, Venus was going to play, and unfortunately she got hurt during the Australian Open and just confirmed with her just a couple of days ago about her injury and she wouldn’t be able to go.

Q. Obviously you’ve been to Australia and you’ve been watching Melanie and Bethanie and Vania and Liezel play. How impressed are you with how they’ve all started their years and how they’re looking now in the year?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Well, Liezel just won last night her doubles. She’s going to be playing in the semifinals later today with Nadia Petrova. And she’s been looking her usual prepared self and playing smart tennis on the doubles courts.
Bethanie had a great run down here in Australia winning the Hopman Cup with John Isner and then getting to the finals in a warm-up tournament before. She had a tough first-round match against actually a qualifier named (Arantxa) Rus. Was down a set in the break and fought really hard and came back and started up the match in the third and had a tough time closing it out.
But in the mixed doubles lost her doubles yesterday. So she’s been playing a lot of tennis, which is good. She’s match tough. She’s prepared.
Melanie had a tougher time down under, not winning any matches, and losing a tough three set match here in her first round here at the Australian Open. She’s not as confident. But Fed Cup seems to bring out the best in Melanie time and time again. And she’s practicing hard again this week. And we’ll be ready for her next week.
And Vania won her first round and then lost to (Caroline) Wozniacki in a tough second round. Wozniacki is still in the tournament. She’s in the semis. That was a tough drop for her. But she’s coming from last year playing two major finals and winning them in doubles, with (Yaroslava) Shvedova. She didn’t win here.
But she as well is back at home and starting to practice and get ready. So overall pretty good. They all have played matches and will be ready.

Q. I know obviously until you actually get down there and you are watching the girls play and everything, you don’t really know how you’re going to do it. But obviously Liezel and Bethanie have had a lot of success the last couple of years for you in doubles, yet obviously Vania has had great success at the Slams last year and everything. Do you have any inkling of what way you stay with the combination that’s been working or you go with Vania, or you just can’t even think about that yet?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think about it. The nice thing about having Vania on the team, she’s very versatile, can play both singles and doubles. And I do make my decision sort of towards the end. We’ve changed our double teams a few times right before that fifth match.
Leaning at the start, definitely to go with the team that’s been there before. And that’s played. Having said that, Vania and Liezel have played a couple times at Fed Cup as well. They complement each other very well, too.
We’ll obviously have to play it by ear as it gets to the fifth match. But during the week we’ll have everybody practice doubles with each other, because you really have to be prepared for any situation. But that’s the good news having Vania is she can play many different roles.

Q. You talked about the timing. You also mentioned that. I would imagine having Fed Cup and having to travel on the heels of the Australian Open would not be what most people think is the most ideal timing.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: It depends where you’re playing. It’s a tough flight, obviously, for me because I’m going straight from here. But for the ones that are back at home, it’s not as bad.
And we’re playing on a surface we like. It’s indoor hard. And we went to France last year and played well. So we’re used to it. We’re used to the travel. We’re used to the time changes and getting used to it.

Q. I was wondering if you could talk about Melanie and how have you seen her develop since her run at the U.S. Open a couple of years ago, and how she’s played last year for you at Fed Cup?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Sure. Melanie, not last year but the year before, was the Cinderella story of the US Open and it really started before that when she qualified at Wimbledon beating Jankovic along the way. She has so much determination. She works extremely hard.
In my mind, she’s improving, trying to get better. She’s not as focused on day-to-day results it is about getting better at her game. I think last year was a tough year for her.
I think players figured her game out. She had a little bit more of a target on her back. And I think it was a tough year for her to get used to all the attention, all the publicity and really the expectation of being the next great American.
She handles it well. She has a great head on her shoulders. For Fed Cup, she’s been instrumental, and I couldn’t ask for a better team player because she really puts the team first.
You’ve seen her play. She fights for every single ball from the first ball to the last. That’s what you want to see during team competition.
So she’ll get there again. I think she’s doing the right thing. She’s trying to get, develop a better serve, a little bit more power. She’s trying to become a little more offensive. For me, the important thing is if she can’t get away from her strength, from her movement, from her consistency. I think that’s really what got her the breakthrough and she’s got to have that balance and combination in her game.

Q. Is this going to be the key for her to jump to that top 20 level?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Again, I think her base is how quick she is and how well she can maneuver around the court and defend. For someone that tall, she really packs a pretty big punch with her forehand. She’s trying to learn to use that better and be a little more aggressive. You just can’t come, I think, too much outside your game sometimes and leave the consistency behind. So once she starts figuring out the balance of the two, I think that’s when she’s going to start winning a lot more matches.

TIM CURRY: While we wait for further questions to be queued, I wanted to mention that win or lose, the U.S. Fed Cup team will play their next match the weekend of April 16-17. If the U.S. wins, we will host the winner of the Slovak Repubic/Czech Republic quarterfinal. If we lose, we will be competing the World Group Playoff that weekend, most likely against one of the teams currently in World Group II, to determine our status for the 2012 Fed Cup.

Q. Just curious to get your thoughts on some of the results of some of the young American women, in particular Lauren Davis and Beatrice Capra, Christina (McHale), Coco (Vandeweghe), and if any of them will be coming along as practice partners to Belgium?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Sure. Lauren Davis will be coming along as one of our young players. Won the (USTA) wildcard playoff tournament to the Australian Open and lost to Sam Stosur in the first right here. And playing Juniors and had a tough win yesterday, and I think she’s on court again today. So I’m looking forward to having her there.
She’s won so many matches in the last season winning Juniors and Challengers and everything. So I think it’s something like 35, 36 matches. She’s definitely one to watch.
And we had eight American women in the main draw here that were 21 years old and younger, which was really nice to see, and that included Christina McHale and Coco Vandeweghe. Alison Riske, Jamie Hampton. So it was a nice break-through.
Unfortunately, they didn’t get past the first round. So we still have a lot of work to do. But they’re slowly getting there. I really believe that all these women should be in the top 100. They should be consistently getting into the majors and perhaps going a lot further and breaking the top 50. I think it was a big step to get so many in the main draw, whether it was through qualifying or like Lauren won the (USTA) wildcard tournament and got straight in risk got straight in, and (Irina) Falconi came thru qualifying as well. It’s definitely looking better. And the women are working hard.
I was down in Florida, the USTA Training Center in December, watching a lot of the girls practice and they’re taking it really seriously. And that’s why I really suspect a big jump from a lot of them here in 2011.

TIM CURRY: Many of the top young players that Mary Joe mentioned, including Coco Vandeweghe, Allison Riske and Irina Falconi, will be competing at the $100,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Midland, Mich., the week following Fed Cup as well as some of the young players who have been part of previous U.S. Fed Cup teams such as Sloane Stephens, Alexa Glatch and Christina McHale. Qualifying in Midland actually begins while the Fed Cup matches are being contested.

Q. Did Jim Courier at all stop you or ask for any tips since he’s starting his captaincy and yet you recently did, I was wondering if you guys had any conversation on that?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: We’ve had a few conversations about what a long road it’s been, two South Florida juniors have come through, and he is Davis Cup captain and I’m Fed Cup captain, how nice that is. I’ve known Jim forever. And I think he’s going to do a fantastic job. Tips, no. He jokes around all the time, how do I get to the final my first year. (Laughter)
But, again, he’s a great guy. He’s very smart. He knows his tennis. Strategy. Great camaraderie with all the U.S. men and looking forward to seeing him do great things with the Davis Cup team.

Q. Wondering your opinion on potentially Rafael Nadal can win the Nadal Slam, it won’t be a calendar slam, but it will be a non-calendar slam. Particularly in the men’s game, I know it’s been done in the women’s game, nobody’s done it since 1969. And when Rod did it as a calendar slam, if he does that how do you view that accomplishment?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: I think it would be unbelievable. I mean, for him to get four in a row during a time where the competition is just so high would be outstanding and what I love about Nadal is his improvement, just in the last few years. I mean, every year he’s better. And for someone who just started off as a great clay quarter, you know, now he dominates on every surface. He’s remarkable. So he’s very close. I think he can do it.
And it would be just, it would be great to see because it has been a long time since it’s been done. And I think it would be great for tennis, too.

Q. Wanted to ask how have you treated putting on the different hats or roles of potential coach, friend, mentor, even parent sometimes to these young girls, and if you could talk about a situation where you’ve had to play those different roles?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Well, one of the things I really enjoy about Fed Cup and the week of Fed Cup is learning — now I have a sort of base group that I’m getting to know really well. But their personalities. I mean, everybody’s very different. Billie Jean King was my mentor, Fed Cup and Olympic captain.
And she’s always giving me such great advice about how you really have to treat each individual differently and learn what works with each one.
Some like to be talked to more, some less. When to find those moments. And the most important thing for me is to try to get the best out of them, to make them the best they can be. And it’s a challenge. But for me it’s very rewarding. It’s a lot of fun. And I enjoy following all these American women through the year. And at a time now where we’re really trying to develop the next generation of players, it’s fun. It’s been exciting, and I enjoy, when I watch them practice and see what their intentions are, what their goals are.
So you are, you’re coach, you’re friend, you’re trying to help any which way you can. And they become family, the ones that you deal with on a very frequent basis, and it’s been — I’ve said this before, it’s been a great experience. And one of the favorite things that I get to do.
TIM CURRY: Thank you.

An Interview With Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: Good afternoon, everyone. With me here besides Andre and Anne Marie is Mark Stenning, who’s CEO of the Tennis Hall of Fame. I thought we’d take a minute with Tony Trabert. Tony is the president of the Tennis Hall of Fame. He also chairs the enshrining nominating committee, and it always comes up as we are fortunate enough to announce an inductee, the process. So Tony, will you take just a minute and go through what you and your committee do?
TONY TRABERT: Sure. We have people that are proposed for the Hall of Fame. We go to that group of people, and if we think they are worthy we put them in a book that we call. We have recent player category, we have master player category, a contributor category and now a wheelchair category, and we have an enshrinement nominating committee at Wimbledon each year, at which time we talk about the recent players we think should be on the ballot.
We are 21 on that committee, international, and then we vote for any of the master players we think should be on and then contributors. And then it goes to — we have various panels that vote, and some of the same — some people are on both voting panels, some are not, and you have to get 75 percent of the votes that are returned to be elected.
CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: Tony Trabert was elected in 1970 and serving as our president of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. We are here in Las Vegas at Agassi Prep. We had a wonderful ceremony here with 600 students who now represent kindergarten through the 12th grade. It’s my fourth time back at the school, and every time I come I’m a little more uncomfortable because I know I could never get in here. It’s a wonderful place, and it was an emotional thing.
I said to the group, 25 years ago today there was an announcement that went out of the Tennis Hall of Fame that announced the selection of Arthur Ashe to the Tennis Hall of Fame, and that July 25 years ago, Andre was 15, I was much older, let’s just say way out of college, and I think if Arthur was here today, not just because of the tennis accomplishments, and I don’t think Jeanne would mind, who serves on our board, I think Arthur would say today he’s met his match. He’s met his match on the court, his match as a human being, as a philanthropist, a guy that was committed to improving people’s lives on top of committing every tennis accolade there is.
That’s what we told the students today and then Andre took some wonderful questions and said how important this was to him. I’m sorry you all weren’t there, but it was a wonderful ceremony. So Andre has been nice enough after being worked over by these 600 students and the press to take some questions today. Is there a question that you all would like to address to Andre?

Q. You had a great career obviously, a lot of incarnations during your career. I was just curious how you want to be remembered, what do you want your legacy to be in tennis?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I was hoping you didn’t notice those tips and turns through my career. You know, this is such a special moment for so many reasons, but mostly for me today because it was done here at the school and so profoundly connects my past and my future. You know, tennis was a vehicle that gave me my life’s work.
You know, tennis allowed me the opportunity to impact people for a few hours when I was playing, and then my career has given me an opportunity to impact people for a lifetime if not generationally. And my hope, like in tennis, was to leave the sport better off than it was when I entered it. That was always my hope as it relates to life and legacy. My hope is to leave everybody in my life starting with my own family and then my extended family, which is the school, better off for having me a part of their lives.

Q. One of the things that fascinates me so much about your story and came through so well in your book is this sort of mixed message if you turn back the clock to the days when your dad was firing balls at you out on the court and you were feeling like you really missed out on the, quote-unquote, normal childhood. And then you came up through the game, and now here you are going into the Hall, and all these incredible achievements that have happened in your life, the prep school, et cetera, et cetera, happened because of the tennis. I wonder if you could reflect on that a little bit. Was it worth it, all the sacrifices that you made during your childhood?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I’ll answer that with the short answer, which is yes. It was worth it because we all have our cross to bear in life, so to speak, and while mine were certainly unique in some cases, it did teach me a lot about myself. I learned a lot about myself, probably at a slower rate in some cases, but in others at a faster rate. And at each intersection of my life I was always striving to understand myself better.
And I had what I call a hate-love relationship with tennis, not a love-hate. I went from resenting a life that was chosen for me to at 27 years old after being No. 1 and then falling to No. 141 chose to take ownership of my life and to find a reason to do what it is I do, and then that’s when I started the school. And I built this school, and I all of a sudden felt like I was connected to a team. All of a sudden tennis felt like a team sport. I felt like I was playing for something but I was also playing — I was connected to something but I was also playing for something much larger than myself.
And it then gave me my life’s meaning, my purpose. It then gave me my wife, and as a result, I’m so grateful for where I find myself for many reasons, but starting with the fact that I have this opportunity to change these children’s experiences, these children’s expectations, and ultimately their lives.

Q. If I could just follow up, in the tennis business, of course, we always talk about what it takes to create a champion, what the ideal tennis parent is, so now looking back would you say that the way that he raised you — are you saying some of that was really necessary, maybe some of that pushing is what you need to go through to get to all you’ve achieved?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I can’t honestly say that you need to go through that. You know, when you look at other people’s experiences, I don’t know how transparent they are. You look at a Federer who seems to be so comfortable on the court and comfortable in his own skin, and to do things so gracefully and so easily, and hopefully he has a healthy upbringing in the game.
My father made a lot of decisions that I wouldn’t make, unquestionably, and I represented him not as abusive, but I represented him as very intense. Along with that intensity came intense love, came intense generosity, came intense us against the world, and also came intense pride. And there’s something very profound about a young man feeling like his dad is proud of him, and I always felt that. He used to introduce me as the No. 1 player in the world, future No. 1 player in the world, so there was a lot that I represented about him. I think it was a loving, honest portrayal.
But do I think you need to make the decisions he made to succeed? Absolutely not. You need nature and you need nurture. You need to be born with a gift, no question; it’s too competitive to be the best in the world at anything to not be born with a certain gift. But you also need it nurtured so that that gift can flourish, and in my dad’s case nurturing meant thousands of tennis balls and intensity, but in other cases I don’t think it needs to mean that.

Q. When we were doing the television, we all thought that the last Grand Slam tournament you would probably win would be Wimbledon because it was on grass. We thought the first one that you would probably win would be the French on clay, and it was just the opposite. Do you have any thoughts on that?
ANDRE AGASSI: You know, I have to keep the trend up, the conflicts in my life. Tony, it’s good to hear your voice. Your voice, you have left an indelible mark on me over the years, but hearing your voice, I realize how indelible your voice is in my mind and my connection to the game, so nice to hear your voice, Tony.
You know, I really felt like I could have won the French first. I agreed with you then and now that it probably should have been and that Wimbledon probably should have been my last, if at all. But the game changed shortly after I came into it, and once I had a player that could take offense from both wings, they could exploit the fact that I treated clay courts like a hard court.
For me I’ve loved playing on clay for the first few years of my career because it was just more time and more opportunities in a point to just beat somebody up because all I did was take the ball early and make him run and I never had to worry about defense. But when I lost out on those first two opportunities and then I started playing the likes of Courier, who was very aggressive on both wings against me, or Bruguera, who moved well and could generate that kind of spin with both sides and open up the court, I quickly realized that clay was not, like most Americans, my best surface.
So my hopes for Roland Garros changed really early in my career, which is why it makes it so powerful that after coming back from 141, 29 years old, that I found myself with that opportunity to win it again, and it speaks to how scared I was walking out if that finals that day thinking that this tournament would elude me for the rest of my life.
Wimbledon on the other hand was a surface that rewarded a person who could take charge of a point early. So winning Wimbledon surprised me until I’d played it, and I don’t mean in ’87 when I lost first round to Leconte; I mean when I went back and got to the quarters and had two sets to one and two breaks on David Wheaton to play Becker and Stich in the semis and finals who I both had a heavy head-to-head record on.
I started to really believe I can win here because if you can get start off well on grass it was hard for a player to recover. Grass played very fast, and the return was just shot-making and I felt comfortable there. So it didn’t surprise me how comfortable I felt at Wimbledon, but it did surprise me how quickly I got uncomfortable with pairs.

Q. Most athletes come to their second career after their first one is over, and you were in the rare position of finding it while you were still playing. Why do you think that happened to you, and has that been a benefit that you were able to overlap your kind of ongoing career with your future career?
ANDRE AGASSI: Well, I think it happened to me because I played until I was 36. You know, had I faded off into the sunset in 1997, which I wish you understood as closely as I do just how close I was, you know, I’m not sure I would have had something to go towards. But my spirit to fight on and to give myself the permission to quit but to not choose it gave me the fortitude to start to envision what I really want for myself. And tennis was such a great opportunity to have that mission become a reality.
I don’t know why others don’t, other than any sport is all-consuming. It’s a short window and a short career, and mine was almost a short career. But the fact that I continued to push myself and make myself better gave me the time to make sense of a few things and then gave me the age and perspective to not lose out on that opportunity.

Q. You gave such a beautiful speech when your wife was inducted into Hall of Fame, and I was wondering if you can share any of her thoughts or comments on your acceptance.
ANDRE AGASSI: You know, it’s interesting because we’re going through the same thing just in reverse. I got to experience watching her go through it and knowing her so well and how understated she is. I would never suggest that she did not want to go through it, but I would just say that she was — she doesn’t need it to be who she is. And those around her really were proud for her, and the love that I have for her allowed me to really understand fully just what it means to be in the Hall of Fame because I wanted it for her even though she didn’t necessarily crave it for herself.
Now that she went through it, she feels differently, but now she gets to see it through the perspective of somebody she cares for deeply, and she wants it for me, even though I tend to say it’s a bit nerve-wracking. I can’t hardly believe that it’s actually happening, and I don’t feel like I need it to continue my mission in life.
But seeing how I felt for her allows me to embrace this even more than I would have because so many people that have been around me that care for me want it for me, and I know that because of how I felt for her.

Q. After your last match against Becker in Ashe Stadium, it was really kind of a Lou Gehrig type moment when you addressed the crowd in New York and there was a lot of emotion. I wonder if you could not only reflect on that moment but also what emotions might come up when you’re addressing the crowd in Newport?
ANDRE AGASSI: Sure. The thing with New York, that was — that had very little to do with missing a tournament, missing a career. It had to do with a connection to people that I was so grateful they felt to me. That’s why that was emotional, because they were connected to me and I was just quite frankly thankful that I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.
In Rhode Island, I don’t know what to expect. I think it’s probably doing yourself a disservice to expect anything one way or the other. I’ve seen others go through it, and it never ceases to amaze me how surprised they are by the occasion. So I’m going to probably for one of the rare times in my life will just allow myself to be surprised, you know? But I will put a lot of thought behind it because I think if you care about anything you do, and I will make my best attempt to communicate what tennis has meant to me, what it means to others, and what it means to certainly a lot of children’s lives here in North Las Vegas.
CHRISTOPHER CLOUSER: So July 9th is our induction in Newport, Rhode Island. Obviously you all are invited. Andre is the sole inductee in the recent player category. We will be announcing one additional person who has been elected into the contributor’s category. We’ll be announcing that Thursday of next week from Melbourne.
Andre loves his school, and we’re happy to be here. He walked in and said, “Now, the school is not paying for this phone call, are they?” For the record, it is not. We want to thank you for joining us, and I want to thank Andre for a terrific day and a terrific announcement.