"Ask Martina: French Open mailbag
Eighteen-time singles Grand Slam champ Martina Navratilova took questions from TENNIS.com readers at the French Open in Paris, where she is working as as a commentator for the Tennis Channel."
What do you make of Henin's retirement?
I was very surprised, still am. I'm sort of pretending she's injured, still hoping she'll come back.
It was very disappointing to me, as I'm sure it was to most tennis fans. Perhaps the only people who are really happy to see her go are most of the players in the draw that are still in there.
Who will be No. 1 on the women's tour over the next year?
It's wide open still. [Maria] Sharapova has a slight edge for the year, but it could be [Ana] Ivanovic's breakthrough. I think Sveta Kuznetsova has a very good chance... she has a good chance to win here and she has the game to be No. 1 at the end of the year also.
Would you ever become a coach and who would you like to coach?
There's a bunch of players I could work with but nobody's asked me, so I'm pretty busy doing all kinds of other things. Actually, I had a younger American player ask me and I just don't have the time - I would have to rearrange by life around it, so it would have to be a pretty big assignment. It depends on the situation.
I have a lot of obligations. I'm the health and fitness ambassador for AARP. I work for Tennis Channel so I work all the Grand Slams except the US Open (next year it'll be all the Grand Slams). And I also do my own stuff which is called 'art Grand Slam' - create art using tennis balls as a medium. You can go on my website to check it out.
My schedule's pretty full. I'm doing more than I want to be at the moment.
How did you handle the adjustment from clay to grass?
For me grass was easy. So I had a lot of preparation on clay, which was not the easier surface for me... and on the grass it was like coming home. If it was the reverse, I would have had a harder time. Let's say grass would be first and then the French Open, I would have praticed on clay and then just gotten ready quickly for Wimbledon so I could go back to the clay. I think the players don't spend enough time practicing for Wimbledon the rest of the year, they just get ready for it the two weeks before it and that's too late.
If I was the other players I was trying to make grass more comfortable for me, I would spend maybe November - just give it a month - practicing on grass, and then take a short break and go to Australia.
Put in the time. Grass is mileage, clay is mileage.
How has play on clay changed since you were playing?
Tennis has changed because people cannot come to the net as much as they used to, and that certainly holds true on clay as well. And the biggest difference is that you don't have to hit a passing shot when people some to the net, you just hit the ball - hit it at their feet.
So the biggest difference is on the volleying technique. Players hit swinging volleys instead of normal drive volleys. But most of all, it's a game of a lot more spin, which makes it more difficult to come to net.
You have a history of picking out good young players to play doubles with. Which young player would you want to play doubles with if you were playing now?
I think Agnes Szavay. She's a very good all-around player, she can come to the net and put the volley away as well. She's very eager, she's a good physical player, she's got a great serve. She's a great all-around player that I think would be well served by playing doubles to improve herself as a tennis player.
Why are fewer players these days using ful-time coaches? Why wouldn't a player like Ana Ivanovic hire her own personal coach?
That's a good question. I don't know why Ivanovic doesn't have Sven [Groeneveld] full time. I would want to have him full time, and certainly it's not a matter of finances. It's an awkward situation with him not being able to help her when she's playing other adidas players [because he works for the company]. It's a nice idea for adidas as a team to have that, but if I was her I would want my own coach. Sometimes you need to think on your own, but it should be by choice.
With Roger, I said last year I thought he needed a coach. After he stopped working with Tony Roche I saw him stagnating a little bit.
Every player needs a coach. No matter how great you are, you still need somebody to help you see where you can make improvements, make adjustments whether it's technical or tactical. You can't really coach yourself because it's not immediate. Now Roger's working with [Jose] Higueras, we'll see how much he can help him. You can go without a coach for a little bit, but to get the most out of yourself as a tennis player, you have to have the right coach - providing he or she is very good.
What are the things you try to communicate when commentating?
Whatever's going on. To help the person understand the game better, whether it's someone who's never watched tennis before, or a club player, or a connesieur. I feel that I'm able to make some points that even the pros learn from. I try to bring it to a simple level while dissecting some of the finer points of the game.
I don't talk down at people, I talk the same way to people whether they're very knowledgeable or not: this is what's going on, this is what I think, can you see that?
I'm getting very good response from my friends and fans, so I'm very happy about that.
Martina Navratilova provided responses to selected reader questions from the French Open in Paris. TENNIS.com reserves the right to edit all questions for length and format.
Note: I took out the questions on mens tennis - they are at the source - http://tennis.com/tournaments/2008/f...aspx?id=132930