INTERVIEW WITH MONICA SELES
Lost to Venus Williams,7-5, 6-4
Q. What do you think of the quality of match tonight?
MONICA SELES: It was very well played. It was a close match. It was very up and down. There are a lot more service breaks than usual when I play her. That's it. That's really it.
Q. Monica, you were 3 for 13. She hit a lot of pointers. Was that more you or her?
MONICA SELES: During the games, it was totally her and then I didn't do that much, but that's how it goes.
Q. Can it get frustrating playing her when you hit three or four shots that you think will put her away and she keeps getting the ball back and eventually hits a winner?
MONICA SELES: You know that coming in. She's a tremendous athlete. You're ready for that. It's just that when you play a person who serves so well, they can go boom, and I have to work so hard on perfecting my serve. To me, that's more of the frustration, but she worked for that.
Q. Do you feel under a lot of pressure on your serve because she serves so well?
MONICA SELES: Definitely. You know you're not going to have that many chances. It's a lot tougher to break Venus or Lindsay or Serena or some of the shorter players.
MONICA SELES: I definitely returned better tonight. I was happy with that. She was serving hard, and indoors the court is fast. I was very happy on that end.
Q. A little bigger audience, more of a crowd tonight?
MONICA SELES: It was nice to see that.
Q. Can you see the event here taking root and being successful over the long run?
MONICA SELES: Yeah. The first year it's very difficult. I think they found out very late the event was going to be here. I think they're going to have to do a lot more promotions.
A lot of my friends had no idea why I was in town. The first year is always hard, and I think if they tough it out, they can build it up to what it was in New York at the Garden.
Q. Venus said you were her favorite player, and she started grunting because she wanted to be like you.
MONICA SELES: Well, that's very sweet of her to say that.
Q. Monica, how well did she play the big points?
MONICA SELES: She comes up with the goods and puts the pressure on you with her serve and her movement. You know, that's why I think she is No. 2 and I'm number whatever, 6.
Q. How do you rate your chances to still improve your game now that you are 28?
MONICA SELES: I don't know. I have to think about that after this tournament and see what I want to do, but I definitely have to look more at the serve, because that's one area that I definitely have to make improvement on. I'm trying. It's better, but still up and down.
Q. If I could dare ask a question about men's tennis. The four great Americans of our era either have retired or are coming to the end of their years. Of those four, which one do you most identify with or which one do you find most appealing?
MONICA SELES: Well, I grew up, obviously, with Courier and Agassi, so I felt watching that Courier was a little extra special, but the person I really admire most is Pete. His dedication to the game, to go out and get the job done, and stay on top for so long, it's an amazing effort.
Q. What does his performance at the Open mean to you?
MONICA SELES: It was one of those matches that down the line 30 years from now, we'll watch it on ESPN Classics and still be glued to the TV. To come back after everyone wrote him off and after having a bad French Open and Wimbledon, I think it was great to see that.
Q. Did you feel unlucky? I'm referring to the points where you were leading 4 3, she's served on 30 40. There were a couple like that.
MONICA SELES: There were a couple that went her way. She was probably stronger and that helped the ball to go over. Some nights you get that. Some nights it goes the other way. Hopefully that doesn't decide the match, but it can make it tougher.
Q. Has anyone else every told you they copied your grunt?
MONICA SELES: Many times. A lot of kids.
Q. Many have said that when you were playing your very best, that you were mentally the toughest performer in women's tennis. Could you talk about the killer instinct in general and your killer instinct? Do you think it's an important quality in the game?
MONICA SELES: I think all No. 1s have it. If you look in the history, without that, you're never going to be No. 1. There is no chance. All top players who are 1 or 2 play the big points better than an average person. That's something. I don't know how they get that.
Q. That quality does come into the performance and the outcome of the match?
MONICA SELES: Oh, yeah, definitely. Every sport you see that. You look at Michael Jordan and you see whenever it was crunch time, he was the one the ball would go to. All top players, all top athletes really, have that.
Q. Venus stated Wednesday that people should stop asking you to retire because you can still play against most of the top players.
MONICA SELES: Yeah, well, I don't know. Just with me, it's been since I was 25, 26, I think because they were used to me winning three or four Grand Slams a year. It's, obviously, been frustrating the last couple years and so they want me to retire.
I'm still enjoying the game, and as long as I can play at this level and stay injury free and still have fun, I hope to play because, really, there is nothing else that I would like to do at this stage.
I know I'm in the later stages of my career. In some ways I'm looking forward to just a little bit away from the tennis once I make that decision. Right now I'm still loving being out there.
Q. Does this match give you hope for next year that you can be really competitive with these women?
MONICA SELES: I still have to make some improvements in the next few months.
Q. If you can play like this and serve better?
MONICA SELES: Well, that helps, and I think matches like this, after not playing for a couple months, help. I had a tough season. I have to do my schedule a little bit differently. For sure it's encouraging.
Q. Any fun moments at all off the court?
MONICA SELES: Here?
MONICA SELES: No. I have been working very hard because I took about a month off. I really didn't have a chance. Once I decided to give it a full go, I started training very hard.
Q. Monica, does winning awards like that from the fans give you more motivation?
MONICA SELES: Definitely. I don't look on the website. I don't do too much stuff on the internet. I kind of found out about three or four weeks ago. My friends told me to check out the website, see the race going on. It means so much.
There are days that are tougher on you for different reasons, and it's really a great feeling that there are people out supporting you and really want you to play.
Q. Who would be your hero if you got to vote on that?
MONICA SELES: In tennis, in sports, life, again I always looked up to two people, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela.
Q. In tennis?
MONICA SELES: In tennis, I think I will have to go with Billie Jean King, just what she has done for the game. She went beyond just worrying about herself and her being No. 1 but making the game bigger and better. This generation is lucky we can feel selfish and just play the game.
Q. Were you aware that Mandela listened to the McEnroe match?
MONICA SELES: No.
Q. What touches you about Mandela?
MONICA SELES: Just what he had to go through, when he came out, how he handled everything which was just really amazing to me. It would not be easy.
Q. Do you think the women champions ought to do more to help tennis, to have better audiences, to be more available to the press? Do you think something should be done and what do you think you would do? You just mentioned Billie Jean King, that she did a lot. We have the impression today not many girls do the same kind of effort.
MONICA SELES: That's tough. First, I think the sport has way too many tournaments and we have no off season. It's very hard to ask players to do other stuff when you don't have a week off. Literally, you're always training.
I think the Tour will have to look at that and make it like every other sport, from basketball to baseball and football, that has an off season. That way you can ask the top stars to do a lot more in the long run. That is really important.
You've got to introduce tennis to a broader audience, especially in the States, and introduce it to kids, and do much more kids and youth oriented programs.
With this schedule, I have been on the Tour for 12 years, it would be very difficult to ask for more.
Q. Monica, we have been talking about this for years. It never changes. Will it ever change if the players themselves don't say we demand a change?
MONICA SELES: I have been on the Council for many years. We talk about it among the players, too. We can't seem to find a solution.
I hope the Tour and the top players I don't think it will happen in my career, but for the younger ones, you look at last year and this year, you had so many players injured at 18 to 20 years old. That's way too young to be burned out and tired, to lose the top names in a sport like that.
No other sport has the demand that tennis has. It's very demanding on your body. Like when I said, well, I'm going to put down the racket for a week, I felt that pressure after I took a break at the US Open. I didn't play for a month and one week, and I'm back down to No. 6 or 7 from 4.
Q. Isn't it very difficult to compare tennis, though, to the other sports which are basically two country sports? Tennis and golf is a worldwide sport.
MONICA SELES: Also, it's an individual sport. Basketball players, baseball players, they have everything taken care of for them. The majority of players have it much tougher.
I think there is a way to make a little bit of an off season of, let's say, the two to three months in the middle or end of the year. It's just what you do with the tournaments who have supported the Tour through the tougher times.
I believe it's there to create that, definitely. I think the fans would appreciate everyone being there. The fans want to see the great matches. That's why they want to come out.
End of FastScript. . . .