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Czech Republic Wins Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Hopman Cup; Interview with Petra Kvitova; Interview with Kim Clijsters

Aired December 20, 2012 - 05:30:00   ET



PAT CASH, HOST: It's the dawn of a new era for Czech tennis on this edition of "OPEN COURT."

Coming up on the show, the Davis Cup drought is over. The trophy returns to Prague for the first time in 32 years.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can you rule out another comeback?


CASH: Farewell to a fan favorite.

'Tis the season for a few unforced errors, courtesy of myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot stop this (inaudible).

CASH: No, cut that out, I'm not only joking, I'm joking.


CASH: The Czech Republic is the first nation to simultaneously hold the Davis Cup for men, the Fed Cup for women, and the Hopman Cup for mixed doubles. Sports fans here love their ice hockey and football, but as Pedro Pinto found out, they are warming to tennis all over again.


PEDRO PINTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Davis Cup is back in Prague for the first time in 32 years. The last time, this city was the capital of a different country. The Czech Republic was then merely a part of Czechoslovakia.

JIRI NOVAK, FORMER WORLD NO. 5: This is really unbelievable for such a small country like the Czech Republic.

MAREK VANOUS, TENNIS JOURNALIST: I think people see it as an opportunity, as a dream come true.

PINTO: Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych powered the Czechs past the Spaniards in a three-day drama that left fans on the edge of their seats. It all came to a close when Stepanek won the decider.

RADEK STEPANEK, 2012 DAVIS CUP CHAMPION: After the (inaudible) he jumped on me, but something really, really remarkable happened today.

TOMAS BERDYCH, 2012 DAVIS CUP CHAMPION: It is going to be really hard to match it or to make it even better, so you know, that's definitely the highlight of my career so far.

PINTO: Eight-time Grand Slam winner and Davis Cup champion Ivan Lendl was one of the 14,000 fans who filled the arena. He was joined by members of the class of 1980, the Davis Cup team which reunited to watch the action and reminisce about their own special night more than three decades earlier.

IVAN LENDL, 1980 DAVIS CUP CHAMPION: It is very important for me. I really look forward to it. As soon as the boys won in Argentina in the semis like we did, I said I have to make sure I'm in Prague for this, because it's going to be special. I could have been in Florida playing golf, you better not lose.

PINTO: The current crop of Czechs did not disappoint the player who remains an inspiration to them.

STEPANEK: Seeing Ivan Lendl with little tears in his eyes is something really amazing to happen, and I'm very glad that all the guys were there, because, you know, it gives to this moment something really, really extra.

PINTO: The game of tennis has survived the transition from Iron Curtain Czechoslovakia to the Czech Republic. Among the great names such as Martina Navratilova, Jana Novotna, Ivan Lendl and Jan Kodes, very different career paths were chosen. Some defected to the west, or were allowed to travel and based themselves abroad, while others remained at home. Three-time Grand Slam champion Kodes is proud to see this next generation of tennis stars succeed, but he remembers the confines of playing under the Communist regime.

JAN KODES, 1980 DAVIS CUP CHAMPION: The government, they wanted to control us during the -- what are we going to do, where we are playing, which countries we are playing, you know? So we had to always put up some kind of schedule, beginning of January, and we were restricted to play in a few countries for political reasons, so we just couldn't play like South Africa, we couldn't play in Chile, we couldn't play in Israel.

PINTO: Kodes considered following Navratilova's defection in 1975, but decided to stay, and has lived here ever since.

KODES: I was 28 already. I mean, if I -- I had a feeling it's too late to do this, you know? And also, I was born in Prague, you know, so this is my country, my city. Had my family here. I had two sisters, my aunts, so it was very, very difficult.

PINTO: Kodes was on hand to see the Iron Curtain fall apart, releasing many young athletes to pursue their dream on a global stage for the first time.

VANOUS: Especially for Eastern Europe, suddenly everything opened up, you know, all the political regime and all these things. Maybe people saw their chance to do what they really wanted to do.

All these players who were coming up, they saw what you can do if you believe in yourself and if you show it and if you pump yourself up.

LENDL: Part of being a professional athlete, especially in individual sports, you have to deal with the pressure. If you want to be good or great, you have to handle it.

PINTO: Stepanek and Berdych handled the pressure and won.

Now, the generation that cheered for the 1980 Davis Cup champions is finally getting its chance to see the Davis Cup in Prague once again. A journey that turned out to be more than 30 years in the making.


CASH: Before we go any further, it's the ladies who first got fans cheering here in Prague when they won the Fed Cup for the second straight year.


CASH: It was party time in Prague. The ladies from the Czech Republic defended their Fed Cup final in front of a home town crowd. Lucie Safarova played well above her no. 17 world ranking and won the deciding match, beating Jelena Jankovic of Serbia.

LUCIE SAFAROVA, 2011 AND 2012 FED CUP CHAMPION: It was one of my best matches ever. When you have this huge crowd behind you and we are really good team, we are all friends, and it was such a great support for me, that I just played amazingly.

CASH: Safarova and Petra Kvitova teamed up to win the Cup for the second consecutive year.

Czech tennis great Jana Novotna cheered from the stands, while Martina Navratilova sent messages of support.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA, 18-TIME GRAND SLAM CHAMPION: Lucie, she played so well. I hope she takes some of that feeling into regular tournaments. And builds on that, the way Novak Djokovic kind of pulled himself a couple of years ago at Davis Cup. When you can come through that much pressure in your home town, play that well and win, and then win the whole thing, not just win your matches but win the whole thing, I think it's going to really turn a corner for a player.

CASH: Safarova showed the Czech Republic that she had nerves of steel, and when it was time to celebrate, she was prepared for that, too. She had a victory dance ready just in case.

SAFAROVA: We came in the morning to the locker room with Andrea, and she put on this song, and we really liked this song, and then we started dancing, and it was just fun.

And then they posted it on our Facebook page, and so many comments that we have to do this dance if we win, that we said, OK, if we win, we will do it.

CASH: A huge chapter of tennis history is now in the books. 2012 will be remembered as the year the Czechs won the Hopman Cup, the Federation Cup, and the Davis Cup.

NAVRATILOVA: It just goes to show how well balanced Czech tennis is, that we have great women and men. Czechs, they're tough, we're tough, you know. (inaudible).


CASH: And still to come, I come face to face with Petra Kvitova's lengthy (ph) serve.


CASH: Not a bad shot, that one.



CASH: I traveled 250 kilometers outside of Prague to meet Fed Cup champion, Petra Kvitova. She started training right here when she was just a teenager.

Success. And a (inaudible) tennis club hotel.

She joins a long list of Czech superstars who trained on these courts.


PETRA KVITOVA: How are you?

CASH: Very well. I'm excited about hitting with you, because you are one of my favorite players to watch.

KVITOVA: Thank you.

CASH: So I'd really love for you to serve some balls out to me, and let's see if I can get them back. Please be nice.

KVITOVA: I will. Of course, I'm always nice.

CASH: OK, give me your best.

I wasn't warmed up yet, I am not warmed up yet. One more.

Nice shot.

KVITOVA: And how do you like it here?

CASH: It's great. It's a little cold at the moment. But--


CASH: But this club had (ph) to give yourself and Lucie Safarova training. And Stepanek comes from here. '

KVITOVA: Berdych.

CASH: And Berdych. That's all the great players from the Czech Republic, all here, this club.

KVITOVA: Yes, I think this club is the best on in the Czech Republic.

Of course, I'm just hoping to have a good serve and good return.

I don't like running too much.

CASH: Not a bad shot, that one.

We've got one thing in common, is that we were both underdogs coming and winning Wimbledon. And I get this question all the time asked of me. What was your biggest thrill? Davis Cup or winning Wimbledon? And for me, that was almost equal.

KVITOVA: For me, I think it's always Wimbledon. I mean, it's my first Grand Slam, first big result, and it's something earlier that I would dream about before, because I watched Martina on the TV when I was growing up, so for me it would be forever Wimbledon, I think.

CASH: (inaudible) Petra's game is that now I can get the serve back, and she's got the ground strokes headed for the corner.

Oh, got it.

KVITOVA: Sometimes this works.

CASH: Your success and Tomas's success, do you think you expect a lot of players to be playing tennis instead of ice hockey and football?

KVITOVA: Yes, it's really nice to see the (inaudible) now they are trying to play, and I think that this for us is very nice, because we have soccer on the first place, and then it's ice hockey, so I hope that tennis is on the third place, and maybe we can fight against these two men competitions.

CASH: Right. I've got it worked out now. I'm just going to wait out there, so when she serves it there, I'm just going to be sitting there and I'm going to throw a winner.


CASH: Yes, I'm ready now.

KVITOVA: Ready to go.

CASH: So your family plays tennis, as well, your brothers?

KVITOVA: When I was a baby, I was on a tennis court every day with my mom and with my brothers, so I would pick up the balls for them when they'd play, and then sometimes I'd play with them, but not very often. And then I played with my father, and only mom didn't play, so this really, we are like a tennis family.

CASH: I've had enough. You know, Petra, I don't like being beaten by girls.

KVITOVA: How did you like it?

CASH: But you are an exception. That was fantastic.

KVITOVA: Thank you very much for everything.

CASH: And good luck next year, and congratulations again.

KVITOVA: Thank you very much.

CASH: We'll see you in Australia.


CASH: Good luck.

KVITOVA: Thank you very much.

CASH: And still to come, tis the season for a few unforced errors, courtesy of myself.


CASH: Cut that out. Politics, let's talk politics.




CASH: Welcome back to OPEN COURT. Kim Clijsters is one of the most popular women ever to play tennis. The four-time Grand Slam champion retired from the game after this year's U.S. Open. But she promised her Belgian fans one last hurrah.


ALEX THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kim Clijsters found a work-life balance few achieve. She won a Grand Slam title, gave birth to baby Jada, and then returned to the tour and won three more Grand Slam titles. The former world No. 1 officially closed the books on her storied career at the U.S. Open.

But before all was said and done, she wanted to say a special goodbye to her Belgian fans. I met up with Kim in Antwerp.

How proud are you that you and Justine have put Belgium on the sporting map?

CLIJSTERS: Now that I'm older, I am able to realize what we did for our country, especially these last few months since I retired. I've been in situations like that, where people have come up to me and thanked me.

THOMAS: You didn't have to look too far to see where Clijsters gets her athletic ability. Her late father played professional football in Belgium; her mom was a gymnast. They encouraged her to play tennis from a young age.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What happens when daddy wins the golden shoe? What will he buy for you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What will he build?

KIM CLIJSTERS (through translator): Tennis court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Tennis court.

THOMAS: For the past decade, fans have watched Kim develop her game and use her trademark splits to her advantage.

Does it make you laugh when people sort of come at you and try to--

CLIJSTERS: They do. It does make me laugh. I have people send me pictures of splits that they do, and it's just -- like to show me that they can do it, and also it is funny--

THOMAS: Is it something you practice, or does it just come out because of your competitiveness and your athleticism?

CLIJSTERS: No, not at all, I never practiced.

THOMAS: Those gymnastic genes from your mom.

CLIJSTERS: I think, yes, I think it's just part of it. I practice on clay all the time here in Belgium, and then I just tried it one time.

THOMAS: Let me just fire a few quick fire questions at you.


THOMAS: Just one-word answers if you can.

Your toughest opponent.

CLIJSTERS: Serena Williams.

THOMAS: Who's going to win the Australian Open?


THOMAS: Who will play you in the movie?

CLIJSTERS: Kim Basinger.

THOMAS: Which one word describes you the best?

CLIJSTERS: Really messy.

THOMAS: Messy, OK.

Can you rule out another comeback?

CLIJSTERS: For sure, this is it. I'm done.

THOMAS: Clijsters is now focused on her family. This is the first time in recent memory that she won't spend the holiday period preparing for a month of competition in Australia.

Clijsters says she would love to have another child. Her daughter Jada will be turning 5 in the new year.

CLIJSTERS: I enjoy spending time with my husband and with our daughter on the road, and seeing her at the U.S. Open. My last U.S. Open, she would be in the stands and she would watch me play, and she would clap and I would hear her yell, and I really enjoyed it. I'm not the kind of person that is like, OK, I want her to be like me and I want her to have a career like me, not at all. I would prefer her to (inaudible) to be honest, but --

THOMAS: But if she chose it?

CLIJSTERS: She plays a little bit. Whether it is swimming, track and field, tennis, I'll support her with whatever she wants to do.

THOMAS: And rest assured that die-hard fans of Belgium will be behind Kim Clijsters and her family for many years to come.


CASH: The tennis world is certainly going to miss Kim. I wish her and her family all the best.

Well, I've had a great year working on OPEN COURT, and I would personally like to thank all the behind the scenes crew at CNN for making things run smoothly. I know it's hard to believe, but I've been known to mess up on the odd occasion. Just the odd occasion.


CASH: Rolling. Let's roll it.

You need to turn it up for it (ph).

Now for next months' show, we're heading out to -- online (inaudible), I (inaudible).



Going to get a good shot off.

I am on a (inaudible) vent. Underground heating vent.


CASH: The youngest ever Grand Slam winner Michael Chang also grew up in (inaudible), also grew up in California.

(INAUDIBLE), (EXPLETIVE DELETED). He won that Grand Slam -- he won the French Open. He won the French Open in (inaudible), just fell over me. (inaudible).


CASH: Ah, come on.


CASH: Oh, that hurt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You OK? You need a doctor?

CASH: Yeah, I need a doctor.

Pretty good hands for an old man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, Patrick.

CASH: He's trying to kill me.

Serena Williams. Her success -- her success story-- Serena Williams. Her success story -- by the way, we begin with a special treat of revealing interview --

PETE SAMPRAS: So this is OPEN COURT, the CNN show? New show? Wait a minute, when is it on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you really think it was luck?

CASH: Yeah, I thought it was a little bit luck. I didn't think you were very good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I stop this interview, please?

CASH: What am I going to say now?

Well, Sampras used to tell -- Sampras -- Sampras, that's how it's said in Australia.

You know U.S. tennis better than anybody, won the U.S. Open -- having won it a couple of times.

JIM COURIER, TENNIS PLAYER: I am going to stop you there, because I haven't won it a couple of times. I don't want to have to edit that.

No, cut that out.

Politics, let's talk politics.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have not prepared that.

CASH: Oh, no, it's Jim Courier.



Saving the best for last. For last. Two last -- more last (ph).


CASH: You can log on to our website at To see more about Czech tennis and if you'd like, you can catch those outtakes all over again.

Well, thanks very much for joining us in Prague. Next month, we head down to Melbourne, my home town, to preview the Australian Open. Until then, it's goodbye and happy new year.