Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 3
A great interview, starting with her wry observation that the record should last six or seven years and ending with the "I have never known that I was capable of playing that kind of [really bad] tennis" quote.
An interview with STEFFI GRAF
May 13, 1996
COREL WTA TOUR
DEBBIE EDWARDS: Today, Steffi Graf breaks the alltime record for career weeks as world No. 1. As of today, Steffi's total of 332 weeks surpasses Martina Navratilova's record of 331. Graf also holds the alltime consecutive weeks at No. 1 at 187 which she compiled from August 17, 1987 through March 10, 1991.
Steffi, thanks very much for joining our teleconference today from the German Open in Berlin. Why don't we open it up for questions.
Q: My question is related to just the idea of thinking about records like this, it just seems to me that you probably either don't care about them or are not going to dwell on them that much, but it is kind of one that should be pretty historical. It should last a long time.
STEFFI GRAF: Definitely another couple of six, seven years. Yeah, I think, like you said before, I don't go really or drive for records, but that is one of them, I think, will always stand out, by far, and surely, I wouldn't have realized it. I always realized that I have been No. 1 for an extremely long time, but I have never really was the kind of person who counted the weeks, or the years, but to hear the number, it is pretty amazing and knowing that no one has ever achieved something like that, that is extremely special to me because I kind of know how difficult it is to stay there for such a long time.
Q: One other question, relating to now preparing for the French. I know it takes a little while to get adjusted to the clay, but it also seems that - and I don't think you would ever admit this - but there seems to be a little less pressure once you have lost a match in an early warmup event. Do you feel that way? Do you think it is easier or you don't ever want--
STEFFI GRAF: Well, the things I mean, I expect or, at least, other people don't expect, I expect that things like that happen, and I think I really haven't really had a lot of time off in the last few weeks and I was flying around quite a bit and I only had five days of practice on the clay and I knew it wasn't very much, but for me, what was unfortunate is, I get a couple of matches in and I did badly, but it is something that I accepted. It didn't really hurt that much because I am trying to play well at the French Open and that is why I think that is what my main goal will be.
Q: I am interested in something you said in Rome. "I wasn't worried about her. I was worried about myself. There are things beyond the court I am fighting myself." You used to say that in this last year that the court was your great refuge from the distractions and problems in your life. I am wondering if everything is starting to now intrude on the tennis court and you are not finding the peace and the solace that you used to find on the court?
STEFFI GRAF: Well, I have to say that I have played, these three matches that I have had in Rome, probably the worst tennis of many, many years, so it is a little bit difficult to try to tell from that week because I have I felt like I had no control of any shots and so I think I really I didn't really believe in myself out there. I mean, it is a bit difficult and I am not always, you know, I won't be always 100 percent on the court. I find it helpful to go to tournaments in the moment that I am enjoying myself because it gets me like I said, it gets me away from a lot of things, but I know that I won't always be 100 percent on the court -- not every time. I try as hard as I can, but with problems or without problems, it will be, obviously, difficult.
Q: How is the foot?
STEFFI GRAF: The foot is perfect.
Q: Any other things bothering you now?
STEFFI GRAF: Back is not too bad either, so physically, I am not too bad. I think for my standards physically I think I can't be much better.
Q: What about mentally?
STEFFI GRAF: Mentally I think I am doing sort of okay. I am doing fine. I am preparing for the French, so I am getting there.
Q: Are you in a position or have you evolved to a place now where you start looking at just the big tournaments and I guess there's peaks in your year -- I hear other players say the same thing, you know, like I am only because like at the beginning of your career you were looking to win any match and any tournament
STEFFI GRAF: I am still the same -- don't worry. I am still the same. But I think I am doing a few things that maybe, I don't know, a few years I wouldn't have done. Like I don't think I would have played a Rome tournament with only a couple of days of practice, but because I am aiming for the French and I have had no time to play on clay because of the Federation Cup on hard court in Japan and so I didn't really have any time to practice on the clay. So I knew I had to get on it as soon as possible, and that is why, I think I would have not played Rome usually, but because I know I am going to have a couple of tournaments before the French, and it was something that I kind of had to do because of the French and the Grand Slams are just getting a little bit more important than maybe a few years ago.
Q: Your game on clay, is there any particular part of your game, your stroke production that becomes more key to you on this surface, or is it more of a mental adjustment?
STEFFI GRAF: It is just a mental approach. I think my game is suited for a lot of surfaces and also on clay, but the only thing that I have got to -- got to promise my game a little bit differently is with my patience and I am really not known for a lot of patience, so it is a little bit of an adjustment for me and I am also I tend to like, for example, in Rome when things don't go the right way, and if I am not mentally 100 percent, and I am not feeling up, it is difficult to push myself to be more positive and but these are the two things that I have to work a little bit more on when I get to clay.
Q: It is the same year after year? You know you know it, but you go through the same--
STEFFI GRAF: The same like I said before, the tennis that I played in Rome I only played once in my life probably before and that was in Paris, I think two, three years ago or three, four years ago when I lost to Arantxa 6-2, 6-Love; that is the same kind of tennis that I played there and that was without any confidence, without any patience.
Q: So even after all these years you can go out--?
STEFFI GRAF: It is still a struggle for me.
Q: When you look at the French Open field, who and why would you say are looking to pose significant threats there and also, specifically, re-adding Monica to the mix of ingredients this year; how does that affect you?
STEFFI GRAF: I think there are quite a few names you can throw out and I had think Conchita Martinez will be, for me, one of the tough ones or the top one. Obviously, Monica is always difficult to judge. She will actually, she will probably be usually in front of Conchita, but I haven't seen her play for a long time and it is going to be difficult to come in again with only one tournament of clay and not having played for so many weeks, so it is also difficult to judge, you know, on her performance. So I think Conchita, Monica and always, Arantxa, she has been playing very well at the French, probably Anke Huber will be the main threat.
Q: How about the little girl that beat you in Rome; is she not quite ready to go the distance?
STEFFI GRAF: No. Absolutely not.
Q: What do you expect when you are playing here in Germany tomorrow for the first time since two years? Is it a special feeling for you?
STEFFI GRAF: Sure, it is. I mean, I haven't, like you mentioned, I haven't played for a long time here and, obviously, with all the fans that I have had and they always say, "why are you not playing more here" and with all my physical problems and everything, it was always difficult to play the last two years. The tournament, obviously, I am excited to play here again.
Q: Do you feel some pressure playing here in Berlin because you won the tournament eight times or do you think that this year this tournament, you could consider it more as a practice session for the French?
STEFFI GRAF: Well, honestly, when was it, on Friday, I said I am going to take a few days; I am not going to play Berlin because I felt, you know, I felt it has been a lot the last few weeks and I needed a rest and I was ready for a rest, but then again, I talked to Heinz and a few friends and we discussed what will be the best thing, looking at the French Open, and that was obviously to play here, and to get a few more matches in to maybe get a little bit more confidence back from what I have lost, maybe, a little bit in the last few days and to prepare yourself a little bit better for the French Open and that is my main goal.
Q: You started the season late last year with two great wins in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne; then you lost two matches. How do you feel about? Do you feel good because you won these two tournaments or do you feel bad because you lost these two matches?
STEFFI GRAF: Actually, I am not feeling too bad about the two matches that I lost because Date, she played a great match. I mean, both times I think, I didn't play great, but also I don't know. I was a little nervous. I just didn't play as I am used to playing, so actually I haven't been upset about the losses that I have had. I was really surprised about the two wins that I have had -- starting the year late and winning two tournaments, again, is something that I showed last year already a few times, but the thing is that, no, it is the middle of May; I have only played three tournaments and that is pretty difficult to always get into the tournaments pretty cold and with no match practice, so I wish I just would have played a little bit more. That is all.
Q: In the spectrum of Grand Slams how fond are you of the French Open and why?
STEFFI GRAF: Well, it is the first Grand Slam that I have ever won, so that is why, in a way, it is always special to me. On the other hand, it is the least favorite surface of mine, so I go in maybe not looking it as much as the other Grand Slams, but on the other hand, it is also a challenge to play somewhere where you know you have to raise your game; you have to raise your mental approach and everything that comes to it to do well, so I think I don't like the "Love/hate" sentence, but it is a little bit like it, just that the hate is not as strong.
Q: On the Hingis match, I didn't get a chance to see any reports on that. You won the first set, but then you looks like you lost what was the score? 2 and 3 in the second and third set. Was it a matter of her playing well, or--?
STEFFI GRAF: I think you have never saw me play like that. I think I made so many mistakes and so many errors right from the first point on, I think I have never known that I was capable of playing that kind of tennis obviously and she played fine. She played steady, but like way too many mistakes on my part - like easy, easy mistakes.
DEBBIE EDWARDS: I think Steffi has to go to a television interview. Thank you very much, Steffi.
STEFFI GRAF: All right. Bye bye.
DEBBIE EDWARDS: Thanks again.