Thursday, September 2, 2004
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. No nerves; you had a good time?
SHIKHA UBEROI: I had such a good time. I'm actually so sad it's over. I was just crying because this is like the biggest party I've ever been to in my whole life, you know. You sacrifice so much, and you miss out on a lot of fun things in life. But this is just incredible with the people. I've never had anyone cheer for me that loud in my whole life. I was like on the verge of laughter. I didn't know how to react to that. It was amazing.
Q. What did you two say to each other after the match?
SHIKHA UBEROI: I said congratulations and all the best for the next rounds. She said good luck in your next tournament.
Q. That 11th game of the first set, eight or nine deuces.
SHIKHA UBEROI: I didn't put a first serve in on the deuce court (laughter). I wanted a first serve so bad. I didn't get a first serve in. I guess I was a little tight. So, yeah, subconsciously I was a little bit nervous. It came out at that time. I guess from there I was missing a lot, wasn't really extending through on my groundstrokes like I should have. They were just kind of clearing the net by a couple of inches. I was almost hoping they would clear the net sometimes. You know, I did the best I could. I wish I had gotten just one first serve in there. It's okay, though.
Q. Do you think kind of what could have been?
SHIKHA UBEROI: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I know there's a next time, so...
Q. What secrets about Venus' game did Rick impart to you before this match?
SHIKHA UBEROI: There weren't really secrets. I mean, watching her, I mean, I just -- I've watched her forever. I mean, she's like my idol.
Q. Rick worked with her for a few years.
SHIKHA UBEROI: Rick worked with her in her younger years. I mean, I just kind of went for her forehand, going on my serves to her forehand, hitting a lot of groundstrokes to the forehand as well. I tried. I mean, I wish I could have hit a little through the court, deeper. I just wanted to play my game. I guess keep attacking the second serves like I do to everybody, get my big first serves in. Yeah, so there wasn't really secrets, just coming in.
Q. Where have you been? Did you play Juniors at all?
SHIKHA UBEROI: Yeah, I played under-14s in the nation. Actually, for three years I didn't play any tournaments, like hardly any tournaments. Then I went a year to college, then I got a little injured. So, yeah, for five years I was kind of out of the loop a little bit, I think. Yeah, I played the Juniors under-14s in Florida. I played like half a year under 16s. Then after leaving Saddle Brook Academy, I went to work with a private coach named Renzo Reyes (ph), for three years we basically drilled all day long, hitting and hitting. That's when we were like idolizing Venus and Serena, their power strokes and everything. We wanted to kind of move in the direction of the way tennis was going, into the power phase. So for three years we were just kind of working on that and then I went to a college for a year. Second semester of college I got injured, that's Princeton. Coming out of college, I got a little injured. I started the 10 Ks. Trying to find the right coach. Things like that.
Q. Did you play for Princeton?
SHIKHA UBEROI: I did, the fall semester. My sister actually played the whole year. Got injured in the spring, so not the Ivey season. Couldn't beat Penn.
Q. Did you live in New Jersey for a time?
SHIKHA UBEROI: Absolutely. I lived there for 12 years. Maybe like 9 or 10. I grew up -- I was born in Bombay, India. I think when I was a baby, we moved to Morristown, New Jersey. I don't remember that. Maybe when I was about three or four, we lived -- I grew up in Princeton all the way till I was 12.
Q. Can you talk about what it was like when you went through those doors onto Arthur Ashe Stadium. I know you practiced there.
SHIKHA UBEROI: I just thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. Yeah, it was truly gorgeous. It was so pretty. The lights, I love the way my racquet shines under the lights. Playing, you know, under the lights at my club and everything, I always thought like one day I'd play, you know, in Ashe with the lights so bright, the huge crowd. People were just coming in like throughout the match, and they were cheering so loud. Actually, it's so huge when you look up, but I guess -- I don't know, maybe I'm a people person. I felt so intimate with the people. I don't know. It didn't feel as like overwhelming as I thought it would have.
Q. If you didn't play Juniors, spent all those years drilling, how did you know you were good enough to one day play here?
SHIKHA UBEROI: I was playing a lot of practice matches. Then when we did play some tournaments, we were losing pretty badly, both of us. But I knew what we were trying to do, and I believed in my coach, I believed in my father, and I believed in my sister, all of us. You know, we were a team. And I think that belief and faith that this is going to happen at all costs, I had that much trust in my dad and the people around me that they will do the right thing for me and we will do it together correctly. I knew it would happen. I just knew.
Q. Most qualifiers who play a Williams sister in Arthur Ashe Stadium go about 0 and 1 in about 48 minutes.
SHIKHA UBEROI: Really (smiling)?
Q. What was different about you, do you think? How are you able to block it out? Obviously, you're absorbing the ambiance in Ashe. How do you block it out?
SHIKHA UBEROI: You know, we went to Saddle Brook Academy, Harry Hopman Tennis Academy, Andy Roddick was there as well, good friend of ours. I just ran into him at an SFX party. My dad spoke to him and said, Andy, you're exactly the same, the same kid from Saddle Brook. Andy said, yes. You know how Andy is so smart, quick-witted. He said, I'm exactly the same but everything else around me has changed. I was really thinking about that prior to the match, that I'm the same person, hitting the same ball, it's just a ball, it's Venus on the other side. She's a great player, whatever, she's going to bring the ball back. And all around me, you know, there's beautiful Arthur Ashe Stadium under the lights and everything. But as long as I could stay in the moment and just focus on me and me playing the way I know how to play, like I always do, it didn't -- I think that really worked. Kind of got the left brain out of there, analyzing and overwhelmed by the situation.
Q. Is this the first time you're playing here?
SHIKHA UBEROI: Yes, my first time.
Q. The second most important thing in your life right now, Hurricane Frances. What is happening with the house?
SHIKHA UBEROI: Hurricane Frances brought my mom and the twins home, I mean here to New York. They kind of had to flee. I think they had to take down the glass windows. I'm not sure because I've never really been in a hurricane. Charley missed us, so I was lucky. They boarded up the house right now. Caesar is a good friend of ours. He just left actually, Caesar.
Q. Only two weeks ago you find out you get a wildcard. You come here, win four matches, end up in a prime time stadium match with Venus. What can you say about the last two weeks of your life?
SHIKHA UBEROI: Oh, I'm so sad it's over, but I'm going to look at it like in the way that it's just beginning because I'll just start crying again. This was so amazing for me, just to be here and to play. First of all, I just thank the USTA for the wildcard. I mean, if I didn't have a wildcard, I wouldn't have gotten in. I just wanted to win my first round. Then my second round came along, and I was like, Okay, I think I can win this one. I've got to do this now, I've got to qually all the way. Then the fourth round, the first round in the main draw, I'm going to win my first round, I want to play Venus on Ashe. You know, Bill Mounford (ph), he works at player service, I'm always looking for a court to practice my serves, whatever. He said, I'll open up Ashe for you. I'm like, no. I really want to be in there, but I want to be in there when I get myself in there, when I need to be in there. So I got in there. I couldn't believe it was this year but I got in there.
Q. When are you playing next?
SHIKHA UBEROI: I'm not sure. Probably my sister back home, Rick's court in Pompano Beach. Probably some matches there, running side to side. I'm not really sure what my next tournament is.
Q. You have no tournament plans? Do you have to await a wildcard again?
SHIKHA UBEROI: No. I think I'm going to -- like the long jump, you just run, fly through the landing, is there anything, I think I just did one of those. I mean, I just landed now, fortunately. But it was great. I think I'm going to be, I don't know, 200. Maybe I'll play China. My dad does all that stuff. He'll let me know. Probably pack my suitcase and leave.
Q. This is a pretty big payday.
SHIKHA UBEROI: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Q. Have you thought about that at all? Biggest ever, obviously.
SHIKHA UBEROI: Not really. I haven't thought about the points and the money that much. I mean, like first round, my dad's like, wow, you get $3,000 already, if you just like lose or whatever. I'm like, wow, that's like two 10 Ks, like the two 10 Ks I won. The next round, he said something and I forgot. I haven't asked.
Q. It's about 20 grand. It was 14 after the first round. About $25,000.
SHIKHA UBEROI: Wow. I'm a rich lady (smiling).
Q. What family did you have here tonight?
SHIKHA UBEROI: Oh, my whole family except my older sister (name given, but inaudible). She had classes. She's studying law at Washington and Lee. She double-majored, Vasser College. She wants to be a lawyer. She's studying law. She told me she's in the middle of nowhere. By the time she gets to Roanoke and tries to get a flight over here, she'll have to come back for her 8:40 class tomorrow morning. She couldn't make it. So my whole family; my mom, my dad, my younger sister, and my twin sisters (names given, but inaudible), my coach. Then a whole bunch of friends. They're like family. In India, everyone's family, so all the Indian community came.
Q. What did you think of Venus as a player?
SHIKHA UBEROI: I think she's a great player. I respect her a lot. I respect her achievements. She has a big serve. She hit well. Have to work harder, try to beat her again.
Q. After playing her, that first set could have gone either way, do you feel like you're that much closer?
SHIKHA UBEROI: Yeah. Back to the question of most people lose 0 and 0, whatever it was. I felt I've put in the hours, I've put in the work, moved in the right direction. I've taken correct choices as far as how I want my game to look. I felt I had a big shot today. It was a big opportunity. I felt I could do it. Okay, I didn't. I made some mistakes, got a little tight, first serves in the net. But that's all right. Yeah, I thought I could have done it. I'm right there.
Q. How did you do on the team at Princeton?
SHIKHA UBEROI: I did okay. I played two. I played like maybe seven matches, I think maybe like I lost one or two in the fall season because the spring season I couldn't play.
Q. Who played one?
SHIKHA UBEROI: (Inaudible). She was one year older to me.
Q. How many years did you play at Princeton?
SHIKHA UBEROI: Just one.
Q. Only one year?
SHIKHA UBEROI: I went early. I went without really graduating high school because in Ivy Leagues, you have a lot of these young geniuses, 14 years old, studying with Professor Nash, all this stuff. They don't really need to have a high school diploma to get into Princeton. Under that clause, I was like, "Oh," my older sister was applying to colleges. I thought, "Why don't I apply?" Go for a year, maybe two, play. Academics are so important to Asians, my family, being Indian. I felt like I was very small, I was very tiny physically. I wasn't very developed like most kids are. 15 years old, I was a shrimp. I thought I needed a little more time for my body and mind to develop, wanted to be a well-rounded person. I thought a year. I felt I was ready after a year.
Q. Were you being home-schooled?
SHIKHA UBEROI: No, I went to a normal school, called (inaudible) Prep School. I did a lot of my work at home, then I went whenever I could to school. I asked them, I said I got into Princeton. They're like, Whoa, that's good. Do you mind -- basically it's just an English four that senior year. Do you mind if I take English at Princeton University, that will more than compensate, door Ion will give you a high school diploma.
Q. Did you have to take the SATs?
SHIKHA UBEROI: Yes.
Q. Dare we ask?
SHIKHA UBEROI: No. They weren't very good. I didn't do very well. I kind of just walked in and did them. I did really well all through high school, above 4.0. I can play tennis pretty well, so that helped a lot.
Q. Louise wanted you?
SHIKHA UBEROI: She's like, That's all right, don't worry about it. The rest of the team did well, too. It's okay, your tennis kind of compensates.
Q. Your parents seemed pretty adamant that you will go eventually back to school.
SHIKHA UBEROI: Absolutely. I think they're getting that from me, I'm going to go back.
Q. Back to Princeton?
SHIKHA UBEROI: Yes, back to Princeton.
Q. You might not be as well-known here as in India. There are three Indian media people here. Your win in the first round was the highest ranked player that an Indian lady has beaten. You've been getting very good publicity in India. Do you have any thoughts about your fans in India?
SHIKHA UBEROI: Oh, yeah. Big hello to them. Wow, yeah. As long as I can keep playing, inspiring girls to play tennis or other sports, do what they want to do with their lives, study, play tennis, field hockey, whatever it is that they want to do, yeah, cricket maybe, female team, you know. Yeah, that's just fabulous. In fact, after that win against the Japanese girl, a man came up to us, an Indian American, said, Wow, that's just great, an Indian won. I'm going to go home and tell my daughter that an Indian American won the first round at the US Open, and I know she's going to feel so proud to be an Indian. That's it. If for anything, I'd love to play tennis just for that reason.
Q. Could you talk about India and gender. There have been fewer women players out of India. Talk about that, Indian women doing an athletic endeavor like tennis.
SHIKHA UBEROI: I think my generation of youth, I think they're coming out a little bit more and more. You know, like my mom, Did you ever play sports? Badminton. Okay, that's kind of a sport, not really. Sorry. My dad played a lot of sports. I think my father -- on my father's side, my aunts did play sports, but they kind of almost covered it up. Like I was just playing that tournament. My aunt, she said she'd wear her full Indian dress, go to the track, put on shorts, kind of like Bend it like Beckham. You know how she changes, then she runs? Same things. She put on her shorts, run, win, take a trophy, put it in her bag and go home. Academics were really the priority for women. They still are. But we have girls coming up. They're working hard. They're able to go outside the country and train and get better opportunity there because we have some great marketing agencies like Global Sport, Mahesh Bhupathi has started that. They've really made a name for themselves, the men. I think they're so great to give women the opportunity as well to start coming out. Slowly they are.