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A Look at Some of the Tennis Professionals from the Czech Republic

Aired June 28, 2012 - 03:30:00   ET


PAT CASH: The grass has arrived just in time for this edition of Open Court. While it is no secret that grass courts were my favorite surface to play on, I have always looked forward to this time of year when I can throw away the dusty red clay court shoes and pick up the grass court shoes and prepare for Wimbledon.

Coming up on the show, the Queen's Jubilee, Wimbledon and the Olympics. Andy Murray gears up for a summer to remember in London. Plus, a CNN Exclusive. Czech Mates. Two champions of the all England club.

And still to come, twenty five years after Ivan Lendl and I battled it out on center court for the title, I catch up with my old rival.

LENDL: That is what you really wanted me to talk about.

CASH: I wanted to talk about how good I was.

This week and Rafael Naidal and Maria Sharapova begin their quest to win another grand slam title at Wimbledon. They have just come off commanding wins at The French Open and really have cemented their place in history.

MARK WOODFORDE: I don't think there has ever been a match up where the rewards are so significant, whether Rafael can win his seventh title here, and Djokovic going for his Novac slam.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Rafael is truly unbeatable, the only way he loses is if he gets hurt. It seems that everyone here is gong for second place.

JON WORTHEIM, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED WRITER: Rafael Nadal is unstoppable, he has lost one match here in his entire career, there is one player in the draw that has the potential to beat him and that is (ph).

WOODFORDE: The two times of tennis at the moment facing against each other, the winner is going to instantly put themselves higher up in the history books.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDNT: There were tremendous scenes at the end of the match when Rafael Nadal climbed into the players' box and embraced his coach, his Uncle Tony, and the other relatives he had there. Amazing scenes Rafael, why was your record seventh title so special to you?

RAFAEL NADAL, TENNIS PLAYER: Well, it is very special because, always when you win it matters but, it makes it more special because it is always special to win, but what makes it more special is I lost my last three rounds in the last final (ph) All I can say is thanks to all my fans for all the support that they have given to me.

DANIUELA HANTUCHOVA, WORLD NUMBER 29: I personally think Maria is has a big chance because the way she is fighting and she is playing really well.

BILLIE JEAN KING, TENNIS CHAMPION: I don't think people have a grasp on how hard she has been working and how diligently she has been working, she had a shoulder operation, everybody had given up on here, she would double fault over and over and she didn't do well

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Maria Sharapova wins the French Open and she has been working and she says here dream is to emulate Billie Jean King.

JEAN KING: That is amazing

MARIA SHARAPOVA: To achieve number one ranking and to win (ph) in just a few days is a nice special moment. It is a special victory in my career and to win the Grand Slam Final and to win it is something I will remember for many years to come. Wimbledon is just around the corner, and I look forward to, I love the transition from clay to grass,

CASH: Andy Murray has two chances to win at Wimbledon this year, the world's oldest tournament quickly followed by the Olympics. Andy has been talking to Open Court.

ANDY MURRAY: It is a huge summer for sport really, yeah, it is going to be big. The Olympics, I think is going to be amazing. I am looking forward to playing some great tennis, there is going to be a lot of pressure, a lot of expectation.

CASH: One player who knows a lot about expectation is Andy Murray. At this time each year, Britain's only genuine Wimbledon contender is the subject of an intense media storm. But some wonder if he has really got the home court advantage.

MURRAY: When it comes to tennis it is a certain myth that there is a disadvantage to be playing in front of a home crowd, and getting all the support presents a pressure on you, but I think if you look over the years it has normally helped players raise their game when playing at home.

CASH: Neil Harman has spent the last nine years covering Andy Murray for the Times newspaper. He would like nothing more than to see Murray end Britain's seventy six year wait for a men's grand slam winner.

NEIL HARMAN, TIMES NEWSPAPER: I have never written about a British player winning a major, that would be absolutely stunning, and maybe the stars are aligned and it is all going to fall into place and the Queen will come back to Wimbledon for the second time in a couple of years and see Andy lift the trophy, that is all of our dreams. We as a nation would love to see it.

CASH: Andy Murray would love to see it too. In January he took a bold step and hired Ivan Lendl to coach him full time. The world number four wanted a mentor with grand slam credentials. Lendl won the first of his eight titles when he was twenty four years old. Andy is twenty five.

MURRAY: He has a lot of experience preparing for the major events. He is very understanding, he is someone I can speak to about pressure, stress, tiredness, you know, it is good to have someone around that understands those things so you can discuss it with him.

HARMAN: Clearly, the employment of Lendl was a brave move by both people. Murray when he decided to go down the Lendl route must have known that the intensity of the interest in him would grow simply because of the level of the man he employed as his coach.

CASH: High expectations again for the man many hope would give Britain another reason to celebrate this summer.

HARMAN: If he gets into one more final, I believe he will win. Because with Lendl there, if Lendl is still there, then I think that will be the moment when he just says this is the way to play, this is the way to go about it, this is how you will win, this is how you wont win. And the next time, I expect him to win.

CASH: Still to come on Open Court. Access all areas. An extraordinary tour of Wimbledon led by Martina Navratilova and reigning champ, Petra Kvitova.


CASH: A tour of Wimbledon is always special, but when your tour guides are Martina Navratilova and Petra Kvitova, well that is a different story altogether. Earlier this year we got the two names together for a chance to wonder around the all-England club without the crowds. And as we discovered there is more than just titles and trophies.

Billie Jean King called Martina Navratilova the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who has ever lived. She has won every Grand Slam Championship, but Wimbledon became her second home when she raised the Venus Rosewater dish a record nine times between 1978 and 1990. Martina's success inspired Petra Kvitova who grew up in a small town just two hundred and fifty kilometers from Navratilova's birth place in the Czech Republic. But last year, Kvitova followed in the footsteps of her childhood idol, stunning the tennis world by winning Wimbledon.

NAVRATILOVA: Well, your first look back, what do you think?

PETRA KVITOVA, WIMBLEDON CHAMPION: Wow, it looks so different.

NAVRATILOVA: How old were you when you knew you wanted to be here one day?

KVITOVA: I don't know, maybe when I watched you. My father was a big fan of you and he was talking to me about how you play.

NAVRATILOVA: We have so much in common, we are both left-handed. Growing up in Czech Republic, small town. Tennis is our first love. And when I was watching you in the final game, it was amazing because you were on the same side of the court, serving for the match and it was 40-Love and I was like, you could have served down the tee and you won the match, and that is what I did in `78, I served down the middle, mine wasn't an Ace, but it was a volley and it was like, she is going to (ph) to win the match, and there it was. My heart literally (ph) and I thought everybody could see how it was beating and everything was like slow motion, I could hear myself breathe and I thought everything was so loud. You didn't have any of that?

KVITOVA: No, I didn't. I mean, I was very nervous before the match, I couldn't talk with anybody.

NAVRATILOVA: Here we are walking by the (ph), this is it for the whole year. I thought Wickmayer was going to be tough, but that was easy. You were on.

KVITOVA: I mean, every shot was winner.

NAVRATILOVA: It is one of those days you want to bottle and keep forever. So when you are taking match point to get into the finals, are you thinking I can be in the finals or are you thinking (ph)

KVITOVA: Actually, when I won the first set I knew I was going to win.

NAVRATILOVA: After one set?

KVITOVA: Yes. But she did play well and every match that we play it gets better and better.

NAVRATILOVA: Well next year I think you are going to be on the top over there, or (ph), but either way, I expect to see you there.

KVITOVA: Okay. If you will watch me.

NAVRATILOVA: I will be there. So how old were you when you started?

KVITOVA: Actually, around four or five that I had a racquet for the first time in my hand, but when my brother practiced I was there when I am bored, so I was there all the time.

NAVRATILOVA: So you would hang out at the club all day and just play with whoever?

KVITOVA: Actually there wasn't too many people playing there, so I played with my father and my two brothers.

NAVRATILOVA: Did you ever play against the wall? I grew up for the first two years I just hit against the wall.

KVITOVA: Me too, and I practiced my volley against the wall, but actually I didn't like it too much to play against the wall.

NAVRATILOVA: Because the wall always wins, the ball always comes back. Well I am so glad I get to do this with you because I have never been to this museum. First time down these steps, you feel like a champion when you come here. I mean, you are part of history, nobody can take that away from you.

KVITOVA: (ph) Six times in a row.

NAVRATILOVA: Yes, the Eighties were good to me.

KVITOVA: I will try this year.

NAVRATILOVA: It has already been done so you just have to repeat. There's the plate, what was the feeling when you finally got your hands on it?

KVITOVA: I was on top of the world, it was really special, it was unbelievable, I was surprised and happy and I didn't know what to do.

NAVRATILOVA: You are thankful there is somebody to tell you what to do, now you stand here, and you smile there.

KVITOVA: Yes, and you, what do you remember?

NAVRATILOVA: I held it too soon, I forgot to put on my sweater, and after I was like, oh, no, I forgot to put my sweater on. I had big muscles and my mom always told me, cover up your muscles you have big arms, you have to cover your arms. And then I was always worried what the hair looked like. But really, the feeling of holding that for the first time is pretty cool.

So how many more of those are we going to see there? How many would you be happy with?

KVITOVA: Nine, I have to beat your six. But I don't have to do it at one time.

NAVRATILOVA: Well, I expect to see that name there more than once, that is for sure. Once is definitely not enough. So you have your (ph), your heart starts beating and now we get the okay to come on.

KVITOVA: It looks cool without a net.

NAVRATILOVA: And no lines, it looks like an electrified fence. We will have to come back here again.

CASH: Still to come on Open Court, twenty five years after winning Wimbledon, I catch up with my rival, Ivan Lendl.


CASH: Back when we were playing in the Eighties, I had the opportunity to play you in the final, you were looking for that Wimbledon title, and you had won everything. I was in the Czech Republic and a lot of people said what do you think about Ivan Lendl, and I was like, I am sorry, he won everything, I won one thing, so I am not that sorry about it. But you had a great ambition to win.

LENDL: Obviously if you win the three other majors then you try to complete the career slam, you have to do everything you can to try to do it.

CASH: DO you remember much about that year? I remember it being hot.

LENDL: So that is what you wanted to talk about today.

CASH: I wanted to talk about how good I was. Why not?

LENDL: I remember I had a hard time passing you. I don't think in the second set I won a point on your serve.

CASH: Yes, I had a good run there.

LENDL: Unfortunately.

CASH: If we had a time machine and go back a little bit--

LENDL: You have one?

CASH: No, I don't have one. I am working on it.

LENDL: So then I could start my career again in golf, so I don't ever have to give up.

CASH: That is true. But you had a pretty good career in tennis. We played a couple of matches together and I was surprised at how hard you hit the ball. I think you hit the ball in some shots a lot harder than I ever seemed to play.

LENDL: I work out more. I have these golf exercises that I do (ph)

CASH: Really?

LENDL: Yes, my shoulder is a lot stronger than before.

CASH: And if you had to go back and play me again in the Wimbledon final, what would you do? Is there anything you would do differently?

LENDL: I don't know that I could. It was always a very difficult time of the year for me. I was many times close to tears thinking I would pack up the bags and leave during the two weeks before Wimbledon after the French, because it was such a difficult transition for me. In those days I had to serve and volley because of the movement on the grass was so difficult for me, I want a natural mover.

CASH: One thing I noticed was, wow, this is a really slippery court.

LENDL: I did not notice that. I was used to slipping because I used to throw sawdust on the court.

CASH: Yes, you did all the time, I wanted to say, Excuse me, can you come and clean this off. I don't know if that annoyed you more.

LENDL: Well what annoyed you was I would reach in the bag and throw some more.

CASH: You would do that. It's amazing we ever finished a match. By the way, it is really good seeing you.

LENDL: I am glad you had a good time in Czech Republic, maybe we can play together one day.

CASH: That would be fun. Thanks for your time, cheers.

Well, one player who knows what the grass tastes like is Novac Djokovic. After winning the title last year he fell to his knees and tasted a few blades of grass. When I won my title twenty five years ago, tasting the grass wasn't exactly on my mind, but something else was.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Cash that day was just inspired. You see players sometimes who just hit everything right on a certain day and that was Cash's day. And then when it was all over, of course, he got off his chair and everyone thought, where on earth is he going.

CASH: About six months before Wimbledon I was playing pretty well, I had a feeling I was going to do well and I thought, wouldn't it be great if I win Wimbledon this year, or any year, and I get up there and I hug my coach and my family, that would be the coolest thing ever. And that is all I thought about. But when I sat down after winning I thought, I have got to do it. So I sort of ran across the court, and people thought what is going on, I got to here and I was like, get out of my way. My dad was saying, "Come on, come up here," my coach was cheering and my sister is crying, and my uncle is roaring, and I am standing there going, I'm stuck. This guy said "stand on top of me and you can climb across onto the commentary booth." And I looked at him and he was a priest. He had the collar on. I thought that is strange, he is like, "come on, jump on my shoulders." On the day it had a sort of slatted roof. Eventually I got in to about this area and jumped over to my coach in the second row, and my uncle, my father, my girlfriend, one of my best mates, so there was a really important group of people here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I realized what he was doing I became a bigger fan because it was exciting to see him do that and share it with his family.

CASH: I turned around and I was like, Oh my goodness. The ceremony was starting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't conventional for the players to start doing that. Normally they would go over there and wait for the Duke of Kent to present the cup, and suddenly he wasn't doing that.

CASH: I jumped down on this thing and popped down on center court and I sort of left everybody waiting, but I think everybody enjoyed the moment as much as I did.

Well that really was a special moment for me, it is sometimes hard to watch that back because for one thing, my father is no longer with us. It is nice to Rapha and Maria celebrating in their own way and keeping the tradition going.

Well, that is all we have for this month's show. Next month we will have a gold medal edition of Open Court. Until then, goodbye from London.