Navratilova interview:2005 plans, Lisa, Serena, Maria, Gibson, Sveta, Momo,Gay Issues
I bought UK tennis magazine Ace today for the first time in a long time (and having seen it this month I can see why!) but they had an interesting interview with Martina Navratilova. Here's a few questions/answers.
What's your playing itinerary for 2005?
Well, pretty much the same as this year, but not as many tournaments, that's all. I'll probably play Auckland or Gold Coast, Sydney, then the Australian Open. Then a little break. After that I'll probably continue in Miami, Charleston, Amelia Island, then probably Rome, the French Open, Eastbourne of course, followed by Wimbledon.
Who are you playing doubles with in 2005, Lisa Raymond or Svetlana Kuznetsova?
Neither! I don't have a partner for sure yet, but it won't be either of them. Kuzzy wants to concentrate more on singles in 2005. Therefore she says she won't be playing too many doubles events. Lisa Raymond and I just did not work out. I think we played too much the same. Initially it was going to be great. The tournament we played in Vienna we won pretty easily beating Wimbledon champions Black and Stubbs but that was it.
Did you ever meet my old doubles partner Althea Gibson who you kindly donated $5000 to the fund I organised? (the interview was done by Angela Buxton who played back then)
Sadly I only met her once or twice. However I do think the stadium court at Flushing Meadow should have been named after her and not Arthur Ashe as much as I liked him. It was Althea who was the pioneer. It's always the guys who get everything, not the women. After all, Althea was the original pioneer. The first Afro-American to win Grand Slam Championships and a woman on top of that. Boy, she was battling on all fronts.
The story is that you intorduced Maria Sharapova to Nick Bollittieri when she was a small girl. Did you keep an eye on her development when she was there? And can she dominate the game?
Well, not really. When I visited Russia some years ago her father casually asked me what I thought she should do to play better tennis. I just mentioned the Bollittieri Academy as a place to go. I really only made a suggestion, that was all.
Frankly, I didn't even know what had happened to her until much later. When I was told the story that I supposedly sent her there I didn't even remember!
Of course Maria is going to improve. She has a great forehand and backhand; plus a big serve. But, as for her overall game, she's not an all court player. She's working on that.
I don't think anyone is going to dominate the women's game in the near future. The only person capable of doing that is Serena Williams, but we haven't seen 100% commitment from her. So until she gives that there won't be domination by any one player. And once you get the Belgians back healthy, they will be right up there again. It's a wide open top five at the moment. I mean, we have Mauresmo at no.1 when she's not even reached a Grand Slam final - that is sort of a strange situation.
But, as I said, Serena is the only one who can dominate. She can do it physically and mentally. She is very strong in that area too.
Amelie Mauresmo was recently celebrated for not only becoming number one, but for also being the first openly gay no.1. It must seem a very different culture and time from when you first came on to the tennis scene [Although Martina had not gone public about her sexuality when she first became world no.1 in 1978, her declaration of 'bisexuality' shortly after become a US citizen in 1981 made her the first sports superstar to 'come out' at the peak of their career. It was a decision that lost her sponsorship but made her a role model for a generation]
Well it's about time! I've waited for the day when it [homosexuality] wouldn't be an issue that needed to be discussed. In my day it was a very negative issue, then it became less so. Now it's almost a positive for some yet, for a few, it's still negative. For example, it's not what you would wish for your child, because you know that his or her life will be more difficult. Every day it's becoming easier, but it will still take a while for some people to change their minds.
It's my belief that in 20 to 30 years' time things will have changed tremendously. We will all look back and say "Can you believe that's how it used to be?" However, right now it's still something that is not 100 per cent positive and it certainly doesn't make life easier - but it does make life more interesting. Also, as it is out of the closet now, you don't have to lie any more about who or what you are.
Do you believe wooden rackets should return to the game?
If not wood then at least minimise the size of the racket; shorten it to 27.5 inches - or whatever it was as a standard racket.
You know, in the old days, when we were nervous we would hit the ball softer. Nowadays, when a player is nervous they simply hit it harder - because it is safer that way. However, in doing that it takes away much of the intrigue, but most important of all, the variety of the game is lost.
You have to have such amazing finesse to beat power these days. I mean, Roger Federer, he's a frigging genius. But that's what it takes to succeed these days.
Martina also said video line calling and technology should be brought in, the singles players are missing out by not playing as much doubles these days, how shocked she was when Leander Paes had his brain tumour - how it put things into perspective and how wonderful she thinks he is on and off the court. Martina only did the interview after $1,000 was donated to The Humane Society of Sarasota and only because Angela Buxton was doing the interview as Angela raised a lot of money for Althea Gibson when Althea was really struggling for money - "Remembering what Angela did for Althea, I willingly did this interview as my small personal contribution to repay her generosity of spirit"