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Just Getting Started.

Posted by gauloises1 on June 30, 2010

Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis returned to Wimbledon today to play in the Ladies’ Invitational Doubles and made a triumphant return of it, beating senior Tims Sam Smith and Anne Hobbs 62 64. More importantly, they looked like they had fun. Frankly, they looked like they were fun.

I also really enjoyed reading their press conference afterwards. Two ladies who have been there and done it all, sitting back and weighing in on the state of the game. Great stuff.

Q. Anna, we see a Grand Slam winner, a Russian going very deep. Russians have had a huge impact on the modern game. Kafelnikov played a role, Maria. When you reflect, what do you think your impact was on Russian tennis?

MARTINA HINGIS: Huge (laughter).

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: You mean my personal impact?

Q. Yes.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: You know, I mean, it’s nice. It’s kind of a compliment. But honestly I don’t really look at it that way. I don’t want to take any credit.

MARTINA HINGIS: You should, and you have to. You look at Anna, you have the opportunities.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: It was all about the timing also. I was kind of the first one after the Soviet Union, you know, to leave outside of Russia, to be able to practice in better circumstances, in a better environment, to go to the academy at a young age.

Before that, we still had great players. We had Likhovtseva, Makarova, who were top 20, 30, 50. They were there. They just weren’t as noticeable. We always had an amazing tennis school and clubs in Russia. It’s just the opportunities never were really there when it was still the Soviet Union for them to travel. Everything was controlled by the Federation.

I think once people and the kids and the parents saw I was the first one to kind of get out, they realized that there is that opportunity to be able to travel, to be able to go outside and compete internationally. I’m looking at all our girls. I’m so proud. It’s so cool they’re able to showcase their talents, they’re able to travel, they’re able to make a great living, to do what they love to do, keep all of their prize money. During Soviet Union, you had to share all of it with the Federation and everybody.

I’m just so proud of the girls. They worked their asses off. Tennis is a grind. I think women in general don’t get enough credit. It’s a full‑time job, it’s 24/7. You’re week in, week out on the road for 10, 11 months out of the year. You have no personal life. You have no home life. It’s very difficult. It’s not glamorous at all as a lot of people think, you know, so…

Q. Martina, obviously with your skill level and with Anna, you could go into the main draw and be competitive.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: No, not me. She could be. Me, there’s no way. I mean, I’m not ready for that at all.

Q. Why not just do it?

MARTINA HINGIS: No, I don’t think we would be.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: You could for sure.

MARTINA HINGIS: I haven’t played that much in the last three years. For me it’s less time being away. It’s only three years. But still, I mean, you have to commit. The commitment is totally different.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Different mental commitment also.

MARTINA HINGIS: Being on the tour full‑time, you can’t pop up and say, I’m going to come back and win Grand Slams, even if you have a great partner.

It’s great fun to be out there again with Anna. We had some great times. We’re sharing some good time again. Totally different ballgame.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: For me it would be impossible really physically to be on the tour. It even bothers me a little bit playing like today. I mean, it wasn’t strenuous match. It was quite fun and giggly. I’m sure I’m going to feel it tomorrow and I’ll be sore. Even to prepare for the specific tournament, the last two months, I’ve had to have therapy, like real therapy, every day for an hour, hour and a half.

This is just for kind of the fun matches. I would have to live in the trainer’s room for three hours every day. I have five different things wrong with my back from two herniated discs.

MARTINA HINGIS: It’s a good day off tomorrow.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: From two herniated discs to four cracks that I have. The right side is smaller than the left side.

MARTINA HINGIS: I don’t want to hear it.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: All kinds of weird stuff.

Q. Do you not have any regrets when you see the Williams sisters dominating the women’s game like they are? Do you wish you still could be out there challenging them?

MARTINA HINGIS: I did it. I had my comeback. I was very happy with it. I lived through all the emotions. I missed it when I was away for three years. That’s why I did the comeback.

Now it’s different. I’m going to be 30 years old. Like I said before, it’s a commitment you have to do. You travel 35, 40 weeks a year. I think I’ve played enough tennis in my life. Tennis gave me everything I have today. I’m grateful every moment.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: It’s time to experience other things and grow and move on.

MARTINA HINGIS: Like I said, the commitment.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: The commitment’s hard.

Q. With Venus going out today, do you think there are other women’s players that can stop them?

MARTINA HINGIS: There are the young ones, hungry ones. It’s not only the Williams sisters you have to face.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: They’re triple the size and strong.

MARTINA HINGIS: You have to face every day, every hour. Like I said, it’s not only like going out there getting the glamour, the glitter. Playing on Centre Court. It’s six, eight hours of practice at home. Then you get the glitter and glamour at the end of the day.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: It’s only for the top 10, the glitter and glamour, it’s only the top 10 that can have a nice lifestyle.

MARTINA HINGIS: It’s when I was young, 15, 16, you get on the tour, you’re young, fresh, hungry.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Everything is new, you’re excited.

MARTINA HINGIS: When you get older, you have different priorities, lifestyle changes.

Q. Martina, are you a little bit sad when somebody like Venus has a match like today where she loses badly that most people didn’t think would beat her?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: She lost badly?


Q. Do you feel badly?

MARTINA HINGIS: I mean, like I said, you have to go out there. They played yesterday, played a match, then you go out there again. Grass court can take you any day.

I didn’t always have the greatest moments at Wimbledon myself.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Come on. Winning is not the greatest.

MARTINA HINGIS: Next year or the year after, it was first round. It can happen to you on grass. I watched the match Clijsters‑Henin. It was so one‑sided, and Kim ends up winning that match quite comfortably. It can turn around.

[…] Q. You were both household names at an early age. Doesn’t seem to be that many teenagers at the top. You say the game has changed. Is that the explanation?

MARTINA HINGIS: I think it’s mainly because of the rules, that they have so many restrictions, which I don’t always agree upon.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I was under the restrictions.

MARTINA HINGIS: Now it’s even harder.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I could only play eight tournaments a year when I was 16.

MARTINA HINGIS: Now it’s even 18 and all these age rules.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: There’s got to be a balance.

MARTINA HINGIS: You always have to find, like everyone peaks at a different time. When you’re younger, you learn faster. I think when you’re like 18, at that time it’s already harder to learn.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: You’re starting to analyze more, starting to be afraid more. You’re not as fearless. When you’re younger, you just go out there and you don’t think about the consequences and stuff like that. You’re fearless.

MARTINA HINGIS: Today you see the top girl who has pretty much been around Wozniacki, under 20.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Is she under 20?

MARTINA HINGIS: 19, 20. She’s there. But then you see always the older generation still being there.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: It’s hard to handle the pressure.

MARTINA HINGIS: I think it might be part of that, mainly the rules, the age restrictions.

Q. Could you both analyze the state of women’s tennis right now, the popularity of the game, what you think it’s lacking maybe.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I think that right now there’s still those amazing names: the Williams girls, Henin, Clijsters. Thank God they came back. I just think, to me personally from the outside, it looks like there’s not that many household names besides those really four girls, plus Sharapova.

MARTINA HINGIS: It’s quickly changing.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: A true tennis fan, he will know who Jankovic is, Wozniacki, people that are between 5 and 10.

MARTINA HINGIS: Even Ivanovic.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Before, I think it was many more household names. Hingis, Williams, Clijsters, Henin, Pierce, Sanchez, Graf, Capriati. We played in an era where I think there were many generations. There was the older generation, the medium and the younger. I think I played the late ’90s. It was such a huge mix of generations and people.

But right now, anybody who is outside of top 5 or 10, a normal sportsfans, I don’t think they would recognize the names of the girls, even though they’re amazing and good.

MARTINA HINGIS: We just had different style. Everyone had its own style. That made it unique. Pretty much now it looks very much the same, like the hard hitting, yeah.

I think they just don’t teach it anymore.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Now it’s about the power.

[…] Q. Anna, you did not reach a slam final. But you achieved such an incredible fame, really more than any other tennis personality. Could you talk about that. Were you surprised sometimes by your own fame?

MARTINA HINGIS: It’s great we got such a great crowd again, even today.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Yeah, it’s good for tennis, I guess, hopefully.

No, honestly I don’t really ‑‑ I never really thought about my fame. To me when I was playing on tour, I stopped at 21, but every time before that I never really even thought about it, analyzed it, planned it. There was no marketing strategy or anything.

When I was playing, I played the match, I would come here, talk to you guys, just because it was obligatory. I can’t say that word. I had to do it, I did it.


ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Yeah, mandatory. It wasn’t that I wanted to come talk to you guys. Now I enjoy it. But before all I really wanted was get back into the locker room, get my therapy done, get my stretching done, go home, have my room service, get ready for tomorrow.

Really, uhm, you know, the fame and everything, I guess most of it was created by you guys, by the media a lot of times, most of the time the yellow press. Never tried to pay attention. I mean, obviously it was a little hard times dealing with it being 16, 17 years old, reading some kind of crap about yourself, you know. Most of it was made up.

But at the same time I understand why because I wasn’t giving a lot of information. My mom tried to keep me very protected, which a lot of times people didn’t really like her that much for that because she was trying to guard me in a way. If I had a 16‑year‑old kid, I would try to guard them as much as I can and keep the focus on what the kid is supposed to do: play tennis, work out, do your therapy.

It’s hard. I was being pulled in every single direction. Really there was no guides or rules. My mom and me, we were just learning everything as we were going through it. I was here 15 years old, Wimbledon. I played a Centre Court match. I wasn’t even seeded or anything. It’s a lot for a kid.

MARTINA HINGIS: Because of you, it reached also other people, not like just tennis fans, but sportsfans in general. I liked reading your stories (laughter).

Q. It seems you’re fairly determined not to be at the competitive level again. You’re fit enough, as far as I’m concerned. You were saying we need household names. We do need you.


ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Thank you so much for saying that. It’s really nice of you.

Q. It would be nice to see you back. No way you want to come back?

MARTINA HINGIS: We’re going to play TeamTennis, like Anna said.

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: I would love to. I’m really afraid. I’m the kind of person that I don’t want to come back unless I’m a hundred percent fit. I wouldn’t put myself in that situation. I wouldn’t want to let me team down around me that I’m going to get hurt. I wouldn’t want the fans let down. I don’t want to set myself up knowing that there’s a chance I can’t perform, that I can’t be healthy a hundred percent. I’m kind of OCD that way. I need to practice my three hours, my four hours, to feel confident, to feel good, to be able to go on the court.

Honestly, I don’t feel that my body can survive it. I have five different problems with my pelvis area, torso, back. I don’t want to go out there false. It’s like going on the court injured and you call the trainer two games later. It’s unprofessional, unsportsmanship‑like to me.

Q. What was the trainer coming on today for?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: (Holding her hand up.)

Q. What is it?

ANNA KOURNIKOVA: It’s a blister that’s like bleeding.


ANNA KOURNIKOVA: Really, that’s it? Suddenly when I’m older, I’m enjoying the press conferences (laughter). I thought we were just getting started.


Those of you in the UK and missed it can catch a glimpse of Anna on Graham Norton (with Jason Manford and Katy Perry) here.

2 Responses to “Just Getting Started.”

  1. Ayliya Uy said

    The presser is gold! I wish I’d seen the math too.

  2. Claire said

    The match was great fun. And I really enjoyed seeing Sam Smith playing – I think she gives great commentary on the ladies matches.

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