“What are we going to Saudi Arabia for? Look how they see women there” – interview with Conchita Martinez

Entrevista con Conchita Martínez
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NEW YORK – In this interview with Conchita Martinez has a categorical rejection of the option of the women’s tour landing in Saudi Arabia: “Why would we go to Saudi Arabia with the way they see us women there?”

The venue for the WTA Finals will be finally in Cancun. And regarding that location there is a good and a bad for the Spaniard, current director of the Billie Jean King Cup Finals, which will be played the following week.

Interview with Conchita Martínez

To regret: the distance between Mexico and Seville (the Spanish city will host the team competition) and the possibility that the eight best players of the year will not get to represent their country in the former Fed Cup.

To celebrate: that the venue was any other than some city in the Middle Eastern country. “I was extremely happy that the Finals are going anywhere other than Saudi Arabia. Money is not everything, there are many values, and the truth is that I don’t see very positive that the WTA went there considering the way they see women in that country,” Martinez said in this interview with CLAY during an event organized by the Tennis Hall of Fame, an institution of which she has been a member since 2020.

Months away from commemorating 30 years of her historic title at Wimbledon, the Spaniard warns that she is already available to coach a player, whether on the men’s or women’s tour.

– Five-time champion with Spain and former captain of both women’s and the men’s (Davis Cup) teams. You seem to fit perfectly for the role of director of the Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

– I am honored that Billie Jean and the ITF have thought of me for this new position. I have a lot of responsibility to do a great job. We have the support of the Andalusian government as well, and it’s going to be a very nice tournament there in Seville. It is the best team tournament in the world. I’ve played so many years, I’ve been very successful winning five times. It’s an event that I like very much.

– It’s a great moment for Spanish tennis. You are also hosting the Davis Cup final.

– These are fruits of a lot of hard work. The base of tennis built in Spain is working, there are great coaches, a magnificent job is being done. Having so many players doing well, with Carlos Alcaraz leading the way, is very good for the country. On the women’s side there has been bad luck, with Paula (Badosa) suffering with injuries and Garbiñe (Muguruza) taking a break, hopefully next year we can talk more about women’s tennis.

– The event you are directing has a complication: the week before will be the WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. It is quite far from Seville and the trip involves a couple of stopovers and a full day of travel. There is a risk that the top players won’t make it.

– It is not easy. The truth is that there are many trips and the calendar is full of tournaments. Unfortunately the date is right after the WTA Finals when many top players will be tired. It will be a challenge and hopefully we will have the best players. The best countries are qualified and it will be very important to have the best players on their fields.

– There was talk of a city in the Czech Republic to host the tournament, which would have benefited the BJK Cup because of its location. Also considering more that one Czech player will be most likely playing it, that will attract more local fans. Was it a mistake not to have located it in Europe this time?

– I’m not going to go into that, because it involves a lot of political things. I don’t have all the information to give an opinion.

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– What is certain is that this year Saudi Arabia was also rejected as a venue. How do you see the option of the Saudis coming to the women’s tour in the future, considering the lack of women rights in that country?

– I was extremely happy for the Finals to go anywhere other than Saudi Arabia. You said it yourself. Money is not everything, there are many values, and the truth is that I don’t see very positive that the WTA went there considering the way they see women in that country. Look what women are to them, so what are we going there for?

Conchita Martínez will celebrate the 30th anniversary of her Wimbledon title next year.

– You were captain of the Davis Cup team. In fact, the first woman in that role in the history of the competition. How was your experience leading a group of men?

– It was very rewarding. I was captain for three years. I made a lot of friends. The work with the boys was very good, they respected me and counted on me as they should, as the captain I was. I tell you, the experience was very good.

– Do you think Paula Badosa has already reached her peak? She won a Masters 1000, she was world number two. Will she be able to equal or surpass those achievements?

– What year was her big year? 2021? Well, 2022 was not bad for her. The big challenge for her is to heal from injuries and get strong again. She has great potential, I don’t think she has reached her peak. I think that working well and playing with the style she plays, I see her that she can be at the top of the ranking if the injuries respect her. She has very good strokes, a tremendous acceleration from the back of the court, a very good serve. The biggest goal for her would be to recover well, focus on tennis and get back on top.

– How does you see her love relationship with Stefanos Tsitsipas regarding her career? Is it positive, does it harm, or is indifferent to it?

– It depends on how they manage the relationship. It can be very positive, because it seems that love is there and love is good. They both understand perfectly well what they have to do to be up there and they can push each other to get the best out of themselves. I have read statements that they would like to win a Grand Slam together...well you have to be willing to work and try to chase your dreams. Love done right doesn’t have to be negative.

– What will you do now with the rest of your time? Will we see you training on tour?

– The truth is that I also needed a break, I needed a rest because I have had some very intense years. With Garbiñe I did a lot of traveling, I was full time. It was very intense and wonderful. The same with Karolina Pliskova. They gave me a lot as a coach and we were very successful. I am now ready to listen to offers. Yes, I would like to have a player. I am ready.

– Are you looking for a female player?

– I am open for a player, of course, but that is very complicated. If already in the women’s tour it is difficult to hire a female coach, imagine in the ATP. That, by the way, seems incredible to me, because there are many women qualified for this job who can do it phenomenally. There was a lot of talk about Amelie at the time, who was with (Andy) Murray. She was also with the Frenchman, you remember the blond one, the one she left because of his depression.

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– Lucas Pouille.

– Of course, she was with him too. I am open to different projects. I had not spoken about it because I wanted to rest, to have a quiet summer, but now I would like to have an exciting project, to return to training.

– Do you talk to Garbiñe?

– Yes, of course we talk, we are friends and we are always in touch. She is calm, resting and doing things that all these years has not been able to do. She will make a decision in due course. For the moment, she is enjoying her rest.

– Has she discovered anything, has she done anything new?

– Well, you can follow that on social media. Our conversations are intimate, but I see her well, I see her calm. Hopefully she will come back stronger, but it will be her decision and we will have to respect it. All players when they have taken a break then come back stronger. If Garbiñe decides to come back, she will surely come back stronger.

– That may be the case with Naomi Osaka as well.

– I liked to hear that she has plans, that she is going to play many tournaments and that she is not going to go with pressure. She looks like she’s playing well. It’s going to be nice to see her, it’s also nice to see the return of (Caroline) Wozniacki. I think women’s tennis is in good health. There are very good players, very good matches.

Martínez was the Spanish Davis Cup Team captain for three years

– How do you predict Rafael Nadal’s comeback?

– Well, he said it was going to be a farewell year in the tournaments he wants, and that’s the way it has to be. Whenever Rafa has had injuries he has always got up and come back stronger, he has won important tournaments. I think that’s going to be his goal. But with injuries we can’t fight, I hope he recovers. He is in the best hands, especially with Doctor (Angel Ruiz) Cotrorro. I have no doubt that he is doing the right things, they are not going to take any risks. If he is fit, he will have a very competitive year. If he doesn’t feel that way, we’ll see, then he will focus on the tournaments that really matter to him, which will be Roland Garros and some previous ones. Hopefully he will come back stronger. We should never rule him out, he always surprises us.

– Do you think that if he wins the French Open he will retire right there?

– It can be. I was sure he wouldn’t in 2022. Then he won and kept playing. The following year I see it more feasible than other years.

– And the Olympics will be there at Roland Garros too.

– I hadn’t thought about that, so he doesn’t retire if he wins Roland Garros (laughs). He is a player who loves to play for his country. He has always been committed, he is a champion several times with Spain in the Davis Cup, he won an Olympic gold and has played in many games. Maybe Paris 2024 is in his plans.

– Imagine that doubles with Carlos Alcaraz?

– How cool! wouldn’t it be? It would be amazing to see those two forces playing together.

cover photo: Mark Higgins / Tennis Hall of Fame

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