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Women of Istanbul Tournament; French Open Winner Li Na; Lobbing Volleys With Andrea Petkovic; WTA Chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster; Turkish Star Ipek Senoglu Determined to Put Turkey on Tennis Map; Andrea Petkovic Behind the Scenes

Aired November 10, 2011 - 05:30   ET


PAT CASH, HOST: Hello, and welcome to OPEN COURT. Just beyond these ships is the Asian continent. I'm in Istanbul where East meets West and the top women tennis players have all traveled here for a year-ending championship.

So, why Istanbul? Well, it's one of several markets that women's tennis is hoping to conquer.

Coming up on OPEN COURT, Li Na, Asia's first ever Grand Slam champion talks about life after her big win. Hear why her husband is back in her coaching corner.

Plus, what does it take to run the WTA? The woman at the center of the organization gives us rare access.

And still to come, Andrea Petkovic dusts off her dancing shoes.

The tournament only sends out eight invitations, and I was lucky enough to catch up with some of the top players and ask them what their highlights of the year were.



CASH: And how have the last few months been since Wimbledon? Has it been a bit -- a bit crazy?

PETRA KVITOVA, WIMBLEDON CHAMPION: When I'm playing some tournament, yes, other people came to me and know my name finally, because before it was like, thank God, or something like that.

CASH: Twenty-four years ago, I won Wimbledon, and I had dinner with Martina Navratilova. It's been -- there's not that many Czech players have been winning since. Welcome to the club. You're now a member of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

KVITOVA: It's very nice to be with Martina and Jana and Jan Kodes and everybody who won this great game.


CASH: So, tell me, how's it been since the US Open?

SAMANTHA STOSUR, US OPEN CHAMPION: I went back to the Gold Coast, and the Gold Coast actually put on a big parade for me and also the 100 meters champ, Sally Pearson. So we did a bit of a parade, and lots of people came out, we got the keys to the city.

CASH: Yes, I got the keys to Melbourne, and I realized -- the key to Melbourne -- and I realized it didn't open anything.

STOSUR: That's exactly right. There's nothing.

CASH: Huh? What's the deal? I couldn't go into any jewelry stores - -

STOSUR: I heard lots of rumors of what it does, and then once I got there, they said, no, it does nothing. So -- but I guess it's just a great honor.

CASH: Is there anything in particular you think that might have stood out for this year?

STOSUR: Oh, I think there's been some really huge milestones this year. Really interesting that you can have those major events and throughout the year have four different winners, four winners in really quite different stages of their careers.


STOSUR: Kim and Li Na, what she's been through, having a child, and now winning another Slam.


VICTORIA AZARENKA, WORLD NUMBER THREE: I think quite a lot happened this year, but the one that really stands out is Li Na winning the French Open. It was an historical moment for China and for women's tennis as well, it was really huge.

And I was the unfortunate one to lose to her in the quarterfinals, but I think it was amazing.

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, WORLD NUMBER ONE: I think it's great that Li Na won in the French Open and China, it's a huge market, and she's become very big in China and tennis has become very popular there.


CASH: Li Na's win at the French Open is something that I won't soon forget. I mean, 116 million people cheering her on, watching her lift the Roland Garros trophy. We were fortunate enough to catch up with her at a Chinese Premier event in Beijing. Here's Eunice Yoon.


ANNOUNCER: Li Na! 2011 French Open Champion, Li Na!


EUNICE YOON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a rare trip home for China's first ever Grand Slam champion. I wanted to find out how she's adapted to her newly-found fame.


YOON (on camera): That means we're starting.


YOON: So, how has life changed for you since the French Open?

LI: I think it changed a lot. Really. I mean -- biggest I know after the French Open is I come back to China. The fans were crazy.


LI: I was back home and the lady was like, "Oh, Li Na, I know who you are, I need your autograph."

I was like -- because she spoke so loud so everyone can hear that. And same time, more people just came around for me, so my friend said, "Run into the car! Run into the car!"

So, I was full power running to the car, and then we shoot. So, I was like, "What happened?" It was just like no more life.


YOON: Why did you decide to go into tennis?

LI: My father was a badminton player and had some problems so he couldn't continue. So that's why, I was playing badminton before. But after two years, the tennis coach came to the badminton court, take me to the tennis court to show me how was the tennis court, how was the racket, how was the ball.

And I was -- because I was so young. I couldn't decide anything, so I asked my family. So, they came to the court, they say, "Oh, interesting. OK. We change."

I was like, "This is what you decide, one second after you see the court?" And I think it's not bad that I changed.


YOON (voice-over): As a young schoolgirl, Li Na trained under the state-funded national team, which covers all of the players costs.

BENDOU ZHANG, TENNIS JOURNALIST: The state assists and you don't have lots of options. You train with other girls, you have the same coach, they use the same ways to coach everybody.

YOON: Following the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese Tennis Association gave more freedom to its players.

ZHANG: Now everybody has to personalize their coaching way. You can choose which tournaments you play in and which coach you work with. I think it's very good for her.

YOON: Li Na picked the former Swedish pro Thomas Hogstedt to help move her career forward.

THOMAS HOGSTEDT, FORMER COACH, 2005-2010: She had very, very big potential. She was strong, she had great technique and strokes.

She needed to have a mind how to play. I think that's what I tried to help the whole China players was the mentality, to believe that you can beat. Also the top ten players have weaknesses, so everything is possible.

LI: Thomas, he was magnificent China coach. He always gave me the confidence. First time, he would say, "Oh, for sure you can be top 20. I was like, "Are you joking?" Because I didn't believe -- never had the coach say I can be top 20.

ZHANG: I think Chinese people like her because she's different. She's not very Chinese. She's very international. She talks and communicates with people in some kind of other ways.

YOON (on camera): You're viewed here as a rebel or a maverick.

LI: No, I'm not.

YOON: Yes you are!

LI: No.

YOON: Are you comfortable with that image?

LI: Definitely not.

YOON: Why not?

LI: I mean, I never thought I was special. I'm just a tennis player. I just do my job. So, I don't know why someone would say that.

YOON (voice-over): Li Na began the year with her husband as her coach. She fired him in the spring and rehired him in the fall.

LI: Really, it's tough. Husband is the coach, so sometimes he was shouting against me, I was like, "Hey, you are my husband, why are you shouting against me?" But I forgot he was my coach.

ZHANG: Jiang Shan is like her rubbish can. She needs a channel to make all the negative emotion go out, and Jiang Shan does a very good job, I think.

YOON (on camera): Who proposed to whom when you guys decided to get married?

LI: This is tough. I mean, we don't know who said it first, because we'd been together 13 years already. Just feeling like, "Should we marry?"

"Yes. OK."

And the next day we just go, OK.

YOON: Because there was a report about how you had proposed on Valentine's Day.

LI: No, of course not. We students have parties. So we have to wait after he retire if student husband.



CASH: Well, I've got a very special guest here.


CASH: Andrea Petkovic.

PETKOVIC: How are you?

CASH: Hello, very nice to meet you.

PETKOVIC: Nice to meet you, Pat.

CASH: What do you think about Li Na? That was a pretty impressive year, wasn't it?

PETKOVIC: That was so impressive.

CASH: Something --

PETOVIC: It was really --

CASH: -- something special.

PETOVIC: It was really special because I also -- I played in China now this year, and I felt that the spirit changed there. It was just, people got so much more into tennis and they really knew what was going on, and I think Li Na changed that.

CASH: She's not the only one who's done well, is she? You've done amazingly well. Where was your ranking before this year? Because you --

PETKOVIC: Yes, I was --

CASH: -- we didn't know you before last year. And now, here you are.

PETKOVIC: I played well, yes. I had a great season. I played quite consistent. I played three quarters and three Grand Slams. So, now I'm here, I'm top 10.

CASH: So, you've gone from 13 to 10. Where do you think you can improve to get up to maybe top 5?

PETKOVIC: I would like to have more variety in my game. I would like to come more to the net, you know? Like you did in earlier times I heard. And I would like to improve my serve, so there are still tons of things that I need to improve.

CASH: Well, if you want to practice some volleys. You want to practice some volleys?

PETKOVIC: Yes, let's do it.

CASH: Yes?



CASH: And you seem to have a lot of fun on the tour.

PETKOVIC: Yes. I'll try to enjoy myself as much as I can.

CASH: Sorry. Sorry about that.

PETKOVIC: Want to kill me?

CASH: I didn't mean that to happen.

Everybody's talking about your dancing skills.


CASH: Yes.

PETKOVIC: Do you have some dancing skill?

CASH: I have no dancing skills.

PETKOVIC: I don't believe that.

CASH: I actually woke up in the middle of the night, I want, "Oh! Heidi's going to make me dance!"


CASH: And I'm horrified by dancing.

PETROVIC: If I play semis in Australia, you have to dance with me.

CASH: Where? Not -- on center court?

PETROVIC: On center court, yes.

CASH: Or in a night club? Different --

PETROVIC: Right after my match.

CASH: Well, Andrea, thank you very much.

PETROVIC: Thank you so much, Pat. It was a lot of fun.

CASH: Yes, and I've got a little -- a little favor to ask.


CASH: You mind doing some behind the scenes footage for us?

PETROVIC: No, I don't mind at all.

CASH: Yes? There you go.


CASH: Still to come, an inside look at what it takes to run the WTA.



STOSUR: Funny, I've actually never been to this city or country before, so it's not too many places that are new each year.

VERA ZVONAREVA, WORLD NUMBER SEVEN: Turkey is a great country, and I think they're paying a lot of attention to the sport.

WOZNIACKI: We really didn't know what to expect, and now I feel like there's so much buzz about this city.


CASH: Welcome back to Istanbul, the site of the WTA season-ending championships. The lady behind this elite event, none other than WTA chairman and CEO, Stacey Allaster.

In 2010, "Forbes" magazine named her one of the most powerful women in sports. OPEN COURT was granted rare access to follow Allaster over a 48- hour period at the Rogers Cup.


CANDY REID, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Stacey. I've come to --

CASH (voice-over): CNN's Candy Reid caught up with her in her native Toronto.

STACEY ALLASTER, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, WTA: When you think about it, my first job in tennis was cleaning the red clay courts at my club.

REID: Is that right?

ALLASTER: For 24 cents, or to get a pop. And then to think that I am the head of the organization that Billie Jean King founded.

You know, I can sit her today and tell you that our sponsorship revenues are 60 percent up, six new sponsors, we've added three or four new events.

I sat with the top players three days ago and said, all right, we're in a worldwide recession, and your prize money in the last three years has gone from $85 million to $90 million and $96 million next year.

So, from this, this is really today's meeting. Almost 40 percent comes from our year-end championship.

KIM CLIJSTERS , WORLD NUMBER 13: She is a competitor in her business, and that's, I think, what has been very -- why she's been so successful is that, OK, we have a good product, but you also need a good leader, and she's been that leader that we've been looking for for many years.

ALLASTER: This is their business. I work for them. And they're the stars of the show.

The last one will be on Saturday --

DANIELA HANTUCHOVA, WORLD NUMBER 24: She's the strength to represent the players, that we are not only on the court to look good and to be part of the tournament, but every one of us wants to win it.

REID (voice-over): Of course, the big factor in the WTA's recent success is the emergence of a genuine superstar from China, French Open champion Li Na.

ALLASTER: Li Na has really kicked it and taken us to a whole other level, 116 million fans watched Li Na win her first Grand Slam.

Just the scale and size of that market is immense for women's tennis.

China and Asia-Pacific is our number one priority. We want to make sure that we get that -- those markets right.

REID (on camera): Do you see good life after the likes of Venus, Serena, Kim, Maria Sharapova, once they retire?

ALLASTER: Everyone says, who's next? Everyone says, is it going to be as good as Monica and Steffi? And Chrissy and Martina. And what do we know? It always is.

How are you?

PETKOVIC: I'm good. You?

ALLASTER: I think you missed. And that's where we went to.


ALLASTER: What are we going to do?

REID: How important is it to develop the personalities of the players? Because there's a lot of Eastern European players that people just don't know.

ALLASTER: How do we make Andrea Petkovic a star in North America? The great news is, she's got a wonderful personality.

You know this is my home tournament, right?

PETKOVIC: I know, I know that you're Canadian.


PETKOVIC (imitating Canadian accent): I figured it out.



ALLASTER: You met me!

When we go to Europe, Andrea Petkovic is a superstar. So, that's where we have this strength of being global, but it also can be a challenge as we move the tour around.

REID: What about the grunting issue? Because that came up at Wimbledon a bit.

ALLASTER: It does.

REID: People were worrying a bit about --

ALLASTER: I don't know, you Brits. It always comes up when we're at Wimbledon.

REID: It's a problem with Sharapova and Azarenka, if they were to play together under the roof at Wimbledon.

ALLASTER: Yes. I do believe that changing this generation is very hard. They have trained this way. It's how they learned to play the sport.

REID: I only have $10. $20. Am I going to go and see a movie, am I going to go and see a tennis match?

ALLASTER: You can go to a movie any day of the year, but for seven days in your city, you can only see world class tennis. So, take a chance, come and see a Monday afternoon first round match of women's tennis, and you will be blown away.

You cannot believe how talented they are, how hard they hit the ball, and it's a great entertainment outing.


CASH: Still to come, the woman who's determined to put tennis on the map in Turkey.


CASH: Welcome back to OPEN COURT from Istanbul. One of Turkey's most successful tennis players, and she's leading the charge for tennis in her country. I joined her for a cup of tea, Ipek Senoglu.


CASH: Oh, look at this. Well done, Ipek. Tea, the traditional stuff.


CASH: Fantastic. The cafe. Here we are. Thanks for tea. Now, you've got the distinction of being the first Turkish player to ever play in a Grand Slam. Wimbledon, right?


CASH: I've known you for a years, so I knew you when you were trying to get into --


CASH: -- the tournament. Must've been a big step up.

SENOGLU: It was always a dream for me, but obviously, being the first Turkish and having to dream about it a few years back before I did it, people were actually laughing because no one had done it before. But obviously, reaching that goal for me to ever play in a Grand Slam meant a lot.

CASH: Well, when I first came here a few years ago, probably about the same time as you were trying to come through --

SENOGLU: Yes. Yes.

CASH: I could -- I saw the potential. I saw so many kids that were playing tennis, and I thought, wow, people really do like playing tennis here.


CASH: It's come a long way.

SENOGLU: A player doesn't have to right now go outside of Turkey to play professional tennis.

CASH: Now, you also were -- what we famously saw a beautiful picture of, you and Venus Williams playing on a bridge in between --

SENOGLU: Yes, Bosporus Bridge, yes.

CASH: -- Europe and Asia.


CASH: And you stopped -- you managed to stop all the traffic, obviously.

SENOGLU: Yes, we did.


CASH: That in itself is almost impossible.

SENOGLU: On one side of the bridge -- on one side of the bridge, they actually stopped the traffic.

They asked me, look, you guys are going to be the first two people that ever had -- can play tennis from Asia to Europe. Would you like to do that? I was like, "Yes, please!"

I liked to do that. It was an amazing experience to be on that bridge and to toss the ball literally with Venus Williams, one of the best players in the world. And to actually write history, because I don't think anybody will ever do that again.

CASH: You're doing a tennis show this week. You're still on the circuit.


CASH: You're doing a lot of stuff. You're doing a tennis academy.


CASH: Who are some of the players that you think -- that you enjoy interviewing and --

SENOGLU: One of the girls that I enjoyed interviewing with was Andrea because she's very outgoing and --

CASH: Petkovic?

SENOGLU: Yes. Do you like her?

CASH: She's a lot of fun. She actually did a video blog for us, so, a behind-the-scenes video blog. So, maybe we'll have a little look at that. Let's have a look.



PETKOVIC: It's crazy. It's crazy, it's crazy. Once it's like water, it goes crazy. I feel like I'm the Backstreet Boys.

Look at this guy.

JOHN ISNER: Look at my chest!

PETKOVIC: He just played the match. How did it go, four sets?

ISNER: I won in four. Look at my big chest.

PETKOVIC: Yes, look at his chest.

ISNER: Am I turning you on.

PETKOVIC: A little bit.


PETKOVIC: I hope you like this, and make sure you stay tuned. Caio.


CASH: Well, you see Andrea is a lot of fun. But --

SENOGLU: Yes. I told you.

CASH: Yes. Thanks very much for looking after us and getting this feast. I think it's --

SENOGLU: Can I eat some now?

CASH: I think it's time to leave. But first of all, we're just going to say good-bye to everybody from Istanbul and thanks very much for watching this month. Food time.