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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Martina Navratilova

Aired July 14, 2003 - 20:42   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The years, the opponents and the crowds have come and gone at Wimbledon, and Martina Navratilova is still winning. Earlier this month, she made history by equaling Billy Jean King's record of 20 Wimbledon titles by winning the mixed doubles with Leander Paes. But Martina has won something else over the years. At long last, the girl who was booed sometimes when she played Chris Evert is the woman who has won the love of the crowd. And tonight, she joins us from Sarasota, Florida. And congratulations, Martina.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA, WON 20 WIMBLEDONS: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: It was fun watching the crowds clamor for you. There was one particular story on one of the networks where there were three or four grandmothers who took their grandchildren to watch you play doubles. And they said that you were the role model, not only for them but for their children. What does that mean to you, particularly after you had to deal with so much ugly stuff over the years?

NAVRATILOVA: Well, I've dealt with my share. But then so have most athletes, certainly women. I mean, look what Serena Williams has been going through this year at the French Open. So we all get our share. But bottom line is, you know, I guess it took me a while to win over the crowds, but I didn't hear that story about the grandmas taking their kids out there. But that's what's been so amazing about me playing again this last three years, and that's what's kept me playing these last three years. Because I didn't really win much the first three years out there.

But the response from the crowd, from the fans has been so great across the spectrum. Young, old, straight, gay, women, men, kids, everybody is, like, hey, Martina, this is great. You know? And that's what really kept me going, wanting to play more and just keep inspiring people to perhaps do more and not let age be the determining factor whether you do something or not.

ZAHN: We're happy to hear you say that. But I guess I'm wondering if you think much, reflect much on how big of a change your response at Wimbledon was this year from some of those very painful days when people made fun of your physique, they booed you on the court. How ugly did things get for you out there?

NAVRATILOVA: Well, it wasn't really ever ugly. I've had a few cheers and jeers over the years. But it was never ugly. At Wimbledon, it was funny, in '78 the crowd was pretty much 50/50 between me and Chris. They didn't really like Chris because she beat Virginia Wade in the semifinals. They didn't like me because I beat Ivonne Gulagon (ph) in the other semifinals. So they were like pulling for two villains. So they were pretty much 50/50.

But next year, Chris was dating John Lloyd, an Englishman. So they were more pulling for her than for me. Then over the years I've won them over, and now they love me, because they know -- I think bottom line is they know how much I love the game and they know how much I love Wimbledon, obviously. But they know how much I love the game, how much passion I have for playing the game of tennis, and it shows in how I play.

And, you know, that's what really matters. Do what you love and love what you do and whatever the results are, you'll be happy because you're happy doing what you're doing in the meantime.

ZAHN: Well, I guess that's the most exciting thing as a spectator. Because you certainly have no shortage of passion out there on the court. Do you have another Wimbledon title in you?

NAVRATILOVA: I have no idea. I'm sure that playing-wise it's still there. I don't know if I'll be playing next year. There have been a lot of people that have given me a lot of support and energy helping me get this far, and I need to give some of that back. But meantime, I'll be playing the rest of the year, and now that I have moved to the beautiful state of Florida, where the Everglades are suffering from a lot of pollution, I think I might have to put my money where my mouth is and get a little involved in the environmental issues, and in Florida because the governor is not going to do it, and the president is not going to do it -- I think it runs in the family -- so I might have to get into the politics a little bit on the side here in Florida.

ZAHN: Ouch. So which of the Bush brothers are you taking on? Are you talking about potentially running for governor...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: ... more of a local office, for starters?

NAVRATILOVA: Well, no, I'm sure you have to start at the bottom. So you know, local or whatever. Whatever I need to do to get more attention to the matter of the phosphorous being leaked into the Everglades and killing them off. Of course, I've been a big proponent of animal rights and might start a shelter here in Sarasota. I don't know. But I know that you need to put your money where your mouth is and get involved before that stuff leaks into your backyard, do your part for the country, before it hits you personally. And so that's what I'll be doing.

ZAHN: Well, I couldn't escape the fact that over your left shoulder is a sign that says "News 40." Thanks for doing it for the 40 plus crowd, Martina. You never betrayed your age out there. Congratulations.

ZAHN: Well, you know, thank you very much, Paula, and I'll hope to see you on the slopes next winter.

ZAHN: After my leg injury, I don't know. But the encouragement is much appreciated. Martina Navratilova, we'll be rooting for you out there on the tennis courts. I know a lot of folks that would love to see you go back to Wimbledon next year. And again, good luck.

NAVRATILOVA: All right, thank you.

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