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March 17, 2007

D. HANTUCHOVA/S. Kuznetsova

6-3, 6-4

An interview with:


THE MODERATOR: Questions for your two-time Pacific Life Champion.

Q. Congratulations. How does this compare to the first?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: I think it's even sweeter, I mean, just the feeling of being able to win the same tournament again. It's something I haven't even thought about. And I know people been saying that I haven't won a tournament since 2002, but if I had the choice, I would much rather to pick this one than, you know, having to win some little tournaments.
I mean, this is what's the most important thing for me, to be able to do well in big tournaments like this and grand slams, so definitely it means a lot to me.

Q. Why no nerves at all all day?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: I don't know. I had exactly the same feeling like I had against Martina in 2002. I just knew that I was gonna enjoy myself out there, and not for one second I didn't believe in myself. I was just so confident from the first point, and I didn't really think about the score. I just went out there and tried to play my game and really just enjoying every moment on the court.

Q. Daniela, do you wonder why you can't bring that same feeling or same approach to other tournaments?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Well, since now I will able to do it, it wouldn't be a bad idea. I don't know. There is something special about this place that I love so much. I don't know what it is. I can't describe it. But, yeah, like you said, if I could have that feeling all the time, I think, you know, I would be already having a few more titles behind me.

Q. Does it feel like a monkey's come off your back a little bit, getting the win finally after all these years?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Well, definitely, I think all the best things in life are worth waiting for, you know, for moments like this. And I guess all the hard work and everything I had to go through makes the victory that much sweeter.

Q. Can you kind of take us -- what happened with your career right after you won here in 2002? 'Cause like when you won in 2002, it looked like the start of some bright things. Can you kind of take us through?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: After that, I thought I had a great year. I finished the year -- I mean, I finished like No. 8 in the world, and in January, I was No. 5. So I felt like I was on the right track.
Of course, there was some disappointments and some losses, but, you know, it's like in life. You have your ups and downs, and definitely, I'm now on my ups again.

Q. Not to pry, but it seemed like as soon as the match ended, you were off the side, you were calling somebody on the phone?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: My mom. She's the first one I always have to share all the bad and good things, so...

Q. So how did this conversation with your mom go?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: She was busy. She didn't pick up, so I was very upset about it (laughter). But, no, we talked already now so...

Q. So how does this year's conversation compare with the '02 conversation?

Q. You called her in 2002, if I recall.

Q. Oh, she was here?

Q. You've talked about the coaching before, the change from Nigel to Casal/Sanchez, but it seems to have had a pretty profound effect on your results the last six months. True?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Definitely. I feel like I've done some really good progress. There is still a lot I can learn from those guys. I think today's final just proved it again. And the academy is a very, very good one. You had two players in the finals from the same place. And, you know, they really seem to know what they're doing.
And it's just I think it was a great change for me that, you know, showed me there are a lot of different ways how to play tennis. And I think I'm now adding more options to my game. And, you know, if one thing doesn't work, there is still so many other things, how I can get through matches.

Q. Pacific Life likes to call this the fifth major. How do you look at it?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Definitely, that's what it feels like to me. To win this tournament with a field like this, you've got the best players in the world playing, it's definitely a very tough one to win. I think there are only a few players in the past that were able to win this tournament twice. And, you know, being able to be one of them, it definitely feels great. And for me, as I said always, this is one of my most favorite tournaments, and definitely the biggest one after the slams.

Q. When you turn your back between points and do your ritual of doing some bouncing, reflecting, what is your self-talk to yourself, what is?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: I think it's a self-talk with myself, so I don't think I have to share it with anyone else. I guess, everyone does different things, how to be in the best way ready for the next point.

Q. Have you worked with James Leher?

Q. Is that something you picked up from Jim?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Yes. Yes. Yes. It's great guy.

Q. Watching you play against Peer, I kind of had the feeling that you have this little mantra that you go through after points. A point, finishing, your feet behind the baseline, faced the other direction from the net --
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Once I'm on the court, I don't really think about what I'm doing between the points. I just care about what I'm doing when the point has started.

Q. I'm mistaken then, you don't have any little ritual you go through?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Not really. I just try to get myself in the best shape possible for the next point.

Q. What was the difference between this match and a couple weeks ago against her?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Well, in Doha, in the beginning of the match, I felt like I was also controlling the games and had some chances that I didn't take. She them came up with some unbelievable shots. Maybe this time I was much more confident, because I had so many matches this week already behind me already. And I think mentally, I was just not going to let it go, and I was ready to take whatever, to do whatever it takes to get through this one today.

Q. Do you feel like this victory could be kind of a stepping stone for you into a pretty successful season this year?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Definitely, I can take a lot of confidence with me from this tournament. But, again, next week, you have to be ready to play from the first round. That's the thing about tennis, that no one is going to give you anything. And I learned my lessons there, that have been will want to play against me. They will have nothing to lose. Now I'm ready for it.
I think it's an exciting thing about our sport, that you have to be at your best every single week, 'cause, you know, winning one week doesn't mean to say that you're going to do it automatically next week.
But I feel like I'm on the right track, and, definitely, there is a lot of hope and belief for this year, for sure.

Q. What are your celebration plans?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: I haven't thought about it yet. There are a couple of things we want to do with my trainers and -- I mean, my trainer, coach, and, definitely, I'm going to have a really big one once I get home with my family.

Q. But nothing you can share with us?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Okay. There was a thing, I said that if I win the tournament, we'll have to take the balloon and fly around a little bit. But I said it the first day of the tournament, obviously. So I had no idea, actually, it was gonna happen. So it's great.

Q. Champagne on the balloon?

Q. In tennis, for pro-players, time is such a funny thing. You go from tournament to tournament. Does five years ago, winning this in 2002, does that seem like a long, long time ago or just yesterday?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: No, it doesn't seem like a long time ago. Everything's been happening so fast for me, and I don't really feel like it's been five years. But I think it's a great thing, you know, when the time is running so fast. That means you're having fun and really enjoying what you're doing.

Q. So do you hope to be here in 2012 contending for the title?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Okay. Let's see. I'll be 28. Yeah, I should be still around. You never know.

Q. What's the biggest single difference, psychologically, between a player who wins here and a player who struggles for quite some time?

Q. What's been the biggest difference, psychologically, either in your perception of the game or yourself or of your abilities?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Like I said over the last few days, I learned not to try -- I mean, of course you always want to be perfect, but if you're not perfect all the time. It's okay. And I realized that, you know, there are always going to be some difficult times that you have to get through. But as long as you enjoy what you're doing, I think that's the most important thing.

Q. In those difficult times that you just mentioned, there was so much focus on you about your physical build-ups, that match you played at Wimbledon where you had all those opportunities against Asagoe, and all that, and there was so much focus on you, you looked obviously maybe unhappy. Was there ever a time when you thought, "Do I really need all this, do I want to continue with this"?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: There was never a doubt that that I did want to do this. This is what I choose ever since I was little kid. Even though there were some tough times, I still enjoy the game of tennis. That's something that I've never lost, and that, not for one second, I never thought about not loving it.

Q. Can you take a moment and talk about your role and position in Bratislava and Slovakia? Are you a really big deal there? Are you celebrated?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: I know there's been quite a few people watching this match. In the last few days, I don't think too many people in Slovakia are having enough sleep because I was playing for them in the middle of the night. But I don't know. As long as I can be some kind of motivation, especially for the little kids, that, you know, they might pick up the tennis racket and do that, instead of maybe smoking or do some other things. I'm very thankful for that.
And I think it's up to other people to judge whether I'm big or not. I don't really.

Q. Are there other athletes who are equal to you, and if not, who's next in terms of Slovakia athletes?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: We've got a great amount of hockey players that are doing fantastic here in the NHL; there is one swimmer that won couple of medals at the Olympics. There are definitely a lot of other great athletes, and I guess I'm one of them.

Q. Does this put less pressure on you going into the next couple tournaments or even more pressure now?

Q. Now, you feel like you can't wait another five years to win again?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: No, for sure. It takes so much pressure away from me being able to finally win my second title somehow, you know. I'm not the one always been talk about only winning one. So definitely, it feels great, and I'm not going to put any pressure on myself anymore, because I know it doesn't help. But what I can take with me is a lot of confidence.

Q. What's this match up with the coaches?

Q. What's this match up with the coaches?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: I know. That was another amazing thing. We were practicing, I think it was the day before for the tournament, and the guys were messing around and telling us how to, you know, move our feet and to do that, to do that. So then we said, "Okay. Well what about if we change that once, and we will be coaching them, and they have to play."
And we said, "Okay. When do we do that?"
I suggested, okay, if we play against each other, then they will have to play a match against themselves. But I didn't realize there was going to be in the finals. I thought it would be semifinals, quarterfinals, by then. So once that happened, now they're gone have to play.

Q. Which two coaches were that specifically?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: My coach and her coach.

Q. Why is winning the second one seemingly so much more difficult than winning the first one?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: I don't think it's so much more difficult. I think the first one was so much easier because I had nothing to lose. No one really knew my game. I was just young and swinging around and everything was going in and, you know, there was no pressure.
Now everyone knows how I play and what I do on the court. But, you know, the feelings, I would say were the same. I mean, the finals was, I guess, the same story. I was really not nervous at all and just playing my game.

Q. Daniela, do you feel now that you're not holding out false hope, that you might some day actually become No. 1? Does this prove to you, yeah, well, I can play big-time tennis again, maybe that's not just a dream?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Yes, definitely, I'm starting to feel that slowly. I have people around me always believing that and telling me that, but slowly I'm starting to believe it, too. And especially a tournament like this really proves that I can play with anyone, as long as I do the right things and play my game. And definitely, something that it's inside me, and I just would love to (indiscernible) it all out one day?

Q. As a junior, at what point did your dream of becoming a tennis professional in your mind become a true reality? What was the breaking point that you said, "I think I'm gonna get there"?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: I don't know when I started to have the feeling. But I know that I wanted to be professional since I picked up the racket when I was 6 years old. I didn't want to play tennis just to, I don't know, that I had nothing to do, so, okay, let's play some tennis. I saw the Olympics in 1988, when Miloslav Mecir won for our country, the Gold Medal. Ever since then I always knew it was something I wanted to do and one day become a pro.

Q. Svetlana obviously had a ton of problems after winning the U.S. Open, which, of course, is a huge, huge event. And you had your ups and downs after your first win here. Did you ever have any regrets of your first win coming so early or were you just happy?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: I guess everything happens for a reason. So I understood very well what she had to go through after the U.S. Open 'cause I think it's natural that once you win such a big thing, everyone expects so much from you. And it's not easy to deal with, especially when you're younger. I don't think we are prepared for it. But it's about, you know, having to see it early and knowing how to get through it. And it's important, you know, the people you have around that help you with that?

Q. Does that whale trophy match anything in your home?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: God, this one is -- I don't know what happened to it. I mean, the first one was like this big. Now it's grown so much in five years. But definitely, I'm very exciting that the old one will now have a new friend.

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