An interview with: Jennifer Capriati
WTA: I just want to say welcome to everyone and thank you for spending your time on this conference call. Welcome, Jennifer. We're very pleased to have you on this call. I just want to briefly go over some information. As we all know, Jennifer became the first Grand Slam singles champion to fight off four match points in her final. It was an incredible win. Her victory produced the second highest watched tennis match in ESPN history with a 2.3 rating. Not only that, but Jennifer, in her last two victories at the Australian Open in 2001 and 2002, ESPN has seen a 52% increase in their ratings. Obviously, the attention for Jennifer continues to build. Jennifer, thank you for spending time with us today. We appreciate you being here.
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: No problem. Thank you.
WTA: We're going to do a quick question and answer. I'll start with the first question, then we will open it up to the journalists. Jennifer, was the second time sweeter than the first?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: Well, that's hard to say because they were both very special to me. The first time, you know, it's just the first time, so that will always be special for me, always stand out. But the second time, I won in a different fashion. You know, I was down a few match points, and I really had to come back. I don't know, so it's difficult to say. I would have to say they were both very special.
WTA: Jennifer will be playing in the State Farm Women's Tennis Classic coming up in Scottsdale, Arizona, followed by the NASDAQ 100 Open in Miami and the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina.
Q. About the Family Circle Cup, you've had a nice history there, first as a youngster, and now you're the defending champion. Is there something special about the tournament for you? Does it hold any fond memories for you?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: I think I've always played well in that tournament. It's just been, you know, maybe the timing of it. It's kind of like the first clay court tournament. It's something that I'm always looking forward to. It's after a little break, after the long hard court season, the Ericsson. I had a great match against Martina Navratilova, so it's got some history there. Special last year to come back. I came back a few times and didn't do very well. Then last year was really a great time for me and I played really well. You know, it was a new place, new atmosphere, new stage there. I think it was just very interesting and exciting because it was a little change of atmosphere.
Q. You mentioned your dad is the ideal coach for you just because he knows your game so well. Can you talk about just how good a job he does of differentiating the roles of coach and father?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: Oh, well, I mean, it's always going to be he is going to be my father, no matter which way it goes. I mean, whether he's not my coach or is my coach, he's always going to be there also as my father. But I think he balances the role well. We've had a lot of experiences together. We pretty much have figured out the right balance. You know, it's like I'm a veteran now, he's a veteran, so we pretty much know how it goes. It's pretty easy, the older you get, and the more mature I get, and he gets also, I guess (laughter). You know, it's just a matter of balancing it out. I think we're just experienced enough and we know each other enough, especially on the road. Me, you know, he's just very good of being in tune of when he needs to be a coach and when he needs to be just a dad.
Q. What advice would you have for young players that are coached by a parent that are maybe starting out, searching for that balance?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: I mean, I think it's great to have your family there. I mean, there's no other support like that. But even though it is your family, you just need to do what's best for you. You need to have just a great open communication. I know it's tough for kids if they're young, you know, to be able to communicate. But I think they're your parents and they love you, and I think that's the most important thing that you've got to remember. They're not trying to hurt you; they're just trying to do what they think is best for you. You have to keep that in mind, kind of like accept the way it is, and that's it. I mean, they love you. At least you know that their intentions are only for the best.
Q. By your standards, you didn't play very well at the beginning of the final, neither in the first or second set. Was it your hip problem that got you off to a slow start? Were you nervous? What was the explanation for that?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: It was a little bit of everything. Actually it was more the standard dropped a little bit because I think the weather was very unusual. I mean, it was extremely hot. I really did not have any experience playing in the conditions for a while, especially the whole tournament. So, you know, it really affected me in the beginning. Also, the fact she was playing so well. It was just kind of like a combination of things. I just slowly, you know, got into it. I mean, that's an understatement. I waited till the last minute (laughter). You know, it's better late than never.
Q. Wondering about your schedule. I understand you're not playing with Indian Wells. With Lindsay being out with an injury, Venus and Serena aren't playing, that's a pretty big tournament, a good chance for you to get ranking points. Why aren't you playing it?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: Scheduling-wise it's never been the best time for me. Really to stay in this game and play for a long time and be happy playing this game and feel good, you know, I've got to do what I want to do. You know, I can't just start compromising my time and my commitments and everything that I already had planned on, you know, just concentrating on these ranking points, you know, doing it for that. I figure that if I can play well enough in these other tournaments, that that will come anyways, and I will make up the points there. I mean, I know I will play better anyways because, you know, the more -- not thinking about where I'm going to peak, my performance. I plan on my performance to be better when I don't like play as many tournaments. You know, so that's why. I'm not going to compromise my plans already, what I decided to do. The Ericsson, that's more important for me because being in my hometown, it's a different tournament for me. Coming from Indian Wells, the time change, adjusting to the temperature and the climate, the way the balls fly and everything like that, you know, it's just more difficult. I'd rather take that week to get back home in Florida and, you know, get used to the conditions from coming from Scottsdale.
Q. Last year was such a spectacular year, the story line was so wonderful with the comeback and all. How much did it mean to you to kind of back that up with the win right out of the chute at the Australian this year?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: It was very important. I was just kind of scared about it in the beginning, kind of nervous about it going over. I mean, of course it's normal, you know. If I was having no nervousness, no expectations of myself, kind of like a scared feeling, that wouldn't be normal. You know, defending last year, there's going to be a lot of eyes on me. I don't want to disappointment myself. That's the most important thing. That's what I just realized, you know, I had a long break, I needed the break, and I just got back into training. I felt pretty good going over. I felt fresh. I felt like I was playing well again, almost like the beginning, the start of last year. So I figured, you know, that's all I can ask from myself. You know, I was pretty happy that I came through. I mean, I loved to have won it, but also, you know, I just wanted to do well, not let the emotions take over and make me lose or something out of my nervousness or whatever. I didn't want that to happen. So that didn't happen. I just played the match not thinking about that other stuff and it got me all the way through.
Q. Do you feel any more or less pressure this year because of what you did last year?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: Not really. Especially now, you know, kind of just relieved the pressure a little bit, coming back and winning, back to back. I've already proved myself. I have nothing to prove. It really doesn't matter. I mean, it doesn't matter anyways what I have to show to the public, what all of those other people are expecting. It's just always about what I have for myself. I don't expect myself to win every tournament and to do the same as last year. You know, I just expect -- you know, you're as good as your last match. So I play every match like it's a new match, it's a new beginning, and I just start from there, not really think about what I've already done.
Q. You had such a great moment in your career at the Olympics. I just wanted to know if you've been, A, following what's been happening at the Olympics, particularly figure skating, the controversy there, what your opinion about that is?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: I heard different stuff about it. But, you know, to tell you the truth, I've just been really busy, doing a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff's been going on. I just started working out and everything again. I'm pretty tired. So it's not like I've been watching a lot. So I can't really comment on anything about that.
Q. You made obviously some really good points about not playing Indian Wells, scheduling, having to do what you have to do. But it is a huge tournament out here in the west. Do you see at any point the possibility of you playing the tournament?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: You never know. I can't say that I won't ever play there. You know, I think I should keep my options open. But just for this your and for the time being, I don't have any plans on going out there. You know, maybe there's more reason behind that than I wish to comment on right now. But, you know, what I said before was really the most important point anyways.
Q. Yesterday Andre Agassi was joking around saying your winning Grand Slams is becoming an old story now. Then he got more serious and said defending a Grand Slam title is a huge step in anybody's career. Could you talk about that?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: I mean, I think it's almost harder than winning the first one, I mean, to come back and win it again. All the things that are going on in your mind, the struggles you start putting yourself through. You know, it's almost more difficult. You know, of course, everybody remembers the first one, and that's great. But, you know, it's like not the 15 minutes of fame. You know, it's like you don't make a song -- you don't want to be only remembered for one song, you know. A lot of people just come and go. It's like this is definitely making a statement for myself, saying that I'm for real, and just to myself that, you know, it's another obstacle, hurdle that I've gone over. It's a challenge for me; I rose up to it.
Q. Looked like you were getting stronger in the second and third sets. I was wondering if the weather in Florida helped you with that?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: Well, living here for the past 15 years of my life probably helped a little bit. Also, I know that I'm a pretty strong girl. You know, in my training sessions in different times, I know my limits. I know when I've reached the absolute maximum. I was pretty close to that. But, you know, I wouldn't say that I was right there where I just like couldn't play anymore. I had a lot in reserve. I mean, you look at my body type and you can see that, you know, that I do. That maybe was the difference. I mean, maybe I'm bigger, stronger physically, for sure, than let's say Martina. I think probably in those conditions it played to my advantage. Instead of slowing me down, maybe in the beginning, but, you know, I still have a lot in reserve. You know, I'm not going to run out of gas where maybe, you know, someone like Martina, her body type, whatever, she just ran out of gas, there's nothing more for her to give. You know, you can see I'm kind of a big girl, big-boned. I just have a lot more there to give.
Q. I read that you were doing Yoga. I don't know if that's true. If it is, is it helping?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: Yoga, I've been trying it a little bit. I do a lot of other things, that it's hard for me to kind of mix in everything. I tried it a few times. I think everything helps. Not so much Yoga, but I'm getting more into the pelotes which is kind of like it but not really.
Q. You're not the only one skipping Indian Wells. This year the WTA added more points to Indian Wells to try to elevate it, but it doesn't seem to be an incentive for a few years. Is there something more the WTA could do to attract players to their top events?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: That's a good question. I think the players these days are just going to do whatever they want to do. I mean, it's just too tough of a sport, it's too rigorous. It's really not their fault. It's nothing to do with them. It's just the nature of the game, the nature of the sport. I mean, they should just be happy that at least we're around to continually play all year round. Not being able to play in every tournament, that's something that they'll have to accept. I mean, I don't know, maybe just get rid of more smaller tournaments so we'd have to play the big ones. I mean, that would be pretty good for us because that would cut down a lot of playing time and we'd just focus on the big tournaments, it would condense the season a little bit. There's a lot that has to go into it. We don't play maybe in some tournaments, but there's a lot of tournaments that the players do play.
Q. With the new CEO, I know it's early, but how do you evaluate him so far? What are some of the things you'd like to see him address?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: I really haven't had that much time to spend with him, to see what's going on right now with everything. I mean, there's a lot of issues. It's something that when you go to the players meetings, you hear all the players' concerns. I think he's really just looking forward to making the changes, positive changes, making it so all the players are happy, it's a big, happy family. He's got a lot of work to do. But I think he's really interested in making that happen.
Q. What about issues that you're concerned with, what's at the top of your list?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: Right now, you know, there could be some scheduling changes, the way the points are going right now. I mean, you know, it's a very fine line. There's other issues that I don't really want to comment about right now, but more on the inside as far as like the training stuff, the massage things and stuff like that. Everyone's willing to work together, to make everybody happy. Also my concern is for the lower-ranked players. I want them to be happy. It's like everyone makes up the sport. There's a lot of issues basically (laughter).
Q. Are you going to be able to take some time off during or after Scottsdale to watch your brother play in Tucson?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: Actually, I'm going a couple days before to see him play because he has a big match that weekend before it starts. I'll probably be out there before.
Q. Which match is it?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: I think UCLA, the Big-10.
Q. How difficult is it for you to make a change from a surface like playing the Ericsson, coming to clay courts at the family circle?
WTA: So we all know, the name change for the Ericsson is now the NASDAQ 100.
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: There is some time in between, so there is like at least a week in between. Really I've been doing it for a long time, making that change, making that adjustment. It's really not that difficult, especially because I think I'm an all-court player. It's not like my game is just suited for one surface. I think I can adjust pretty quickly.
Q. Is there anything in particular you do to your game to prepare, maybe hitting more topspin?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: I work on that. The most important thing is also the moving on the clay. It's completely different. Sliding, that's a big part of it. You have to know how to do that. It's just moving. Conditioning, I have to be in a little better shape because the points are longer.
Q. After Venus pulled out of her semi with Serena at Indian Wells, in the follow-up match the crowd booed and jeered Serena when she beat Kim in the final. Now, if I have it right, Serena and Venus aren't playing Indian Wells. Do you have any thoughts about that? Do you understand where Serena and Venus are coming from?
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: Well, I really have no comments on that because I wasn't there. I really don't know what went on. It's tough for me to say. But I think you should give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I don't know. That was a little harsh, probably the crowd coming out and booing her, all that. That's my opinion.
WTA: Thank you, everyone, for your questions. Jennifer, one last thing before we go. Obviously you were a gold medal winner in Barcelona. Can you just share a little bit about what maybe some of these athletes in Salt Lake City are competing for, kind of the thrill that you had when you stood on that podium and received your gold medal.
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: Well, for me, I mean, that was a great time, a great moment for me in my career. It's very important. I mean, that stands up there almost like a Grand Slam, but a little different. They're working four years of their life for this one specific moment, it's a little different. To them, that's where everything comes together. I mean, I know what they're feeling. It's hard to describe unless you've really been in that situation. Just the thrill of winning, how much work they put into that moment to get that gold medal, standing on the podium. You just kind of reflect on everything you've done. It's your moment in time when you really feel like you're the best. It's a great feeling.
WTA: Thank you so much. Thank you for being a part of this conference call. Thanks for your time, Jennifer.
JENNIFER CAPRIATI: No problem.