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Tennis Legends' Surprising Comebacks; Interview with Pat Rafter; The Rise of the Australian Open; Interview with Ana Ivanovic

Aired January 23, 2014 - 05:30:00   ET




PAT CASH, CNN HOST: We're in Melbourne, Australia, for the first Grand Slam of the year. Yay!

CASH (voice-over): Coming up on the show, Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker. We take a closer look at the player-coach pairing that's got the tennis world talking.

Plus Aussie great Pat Rafter. The two-time Grand Slam champion shows us how to attack that net.

CASH: Ai, yi, yi.

CASH (voice-over): And we know she's won the Australian Open but can she ask the tough questions? See Kim Clijsters go one-on-one with Ana Ivanovic.


CASH: Hello from the Australian Open, the biggest names in tennis are here in Melbourne competing for the first Grand Slam trophy of the year. And while we've been watching all the action on the court, there's been a big story developing off the court. Some of the biggest names in the game are hiring tennis legends to be in their coaching corner.



CASH (voice-over): Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg were two of the greatest rivals in the tennis world back in the '80s. And in 2014, their duel is set to be reignited, not as players this time, but as coaches.

They are just two of a growing band of former champions helping the stars of today get better with lessons from the past. Five top players are starting the season with a new coach who has Grand Slam credentials. Federer has teamed up with Edberg; Richard Gasquet with Sergi Bruguera; Marin Cilic has hired Zeta Croat (ph) Goran Ivanisevic. Kei Nishikori is working with Michael Chang. And the pairing that stunned the tennis world, Novak Djokovic has chosen Becker to be his new head coach.

STAN WAWRINKA, WORLD NUMBER 8: I was really surprised. I think it's a strange combination. I'm not saying a bad one. That's all; I'm just saying strange from the outside.

RAFA NADAL, WORLD NUMBER 1: I think Boris is a player with great charisma, it's good to have him back on tour (INAUDIBLE).

TRACY AUSTIN, FORMER WORLD NUMBER 1 (1980): I was surprised that Boris wanted to do it. He (INAUDIBLE) full life (INAUDIBLE) family and, you know, it's a big commitment.

GORAN IVANISEVIC, 2001 WIMBLEDON CHAMPION: I come to locker room, I see the guys and I thought I may be mistaken, I mean, on the seniors tour, you know.

CASH (voice-over): We caught up with Djokovic after one of his first practice sessions with Becker at the Mubadala World Tennis Chairmanship in Abu Dhabi.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think we're speaking the names of many professional tennis players and outfits. You know, you always try to get better and to improve and as complete your game may seem and as much as achievement that you may reach, you still feel that there is room for improvement. So I think Boris is a right person for this job.

CASH (voice-over): Becker mightn't be working alone. He'll be alongside the former ATP player who has coached the Serbian star to 41 titles.

DJOKOVIC: Marian Vajda, my coach for eight years, he's still in the team, so combination of two with Marian knowing my personality, my character, the way I work, my game and you know, he's -- he has been a friend and a life, you know, a companion for so many years. And then Boris coming in as a legend of this sport and somebody that has achieved so much and has great experience, that he can, you know, transfer to me and his knowledge obviously. So combination of two, I believe it will be and I hope it will be a success performer.

CASH (voice-over): But just as the tennis world was digesting the news about the Becker-Djokovic pairing, Roger Federer announces that '80s icon Edberg would be joining his camp.

IVANISEVIC: I think Stefan was a (INAUDIBLE) player like Roger is. Stefan was Roger's idol and I think he can bring a little bit, you know, that Roger lost, a little edge, you know. So working hard with Stefan I think can be a good, good pair.

CASH (voice-over): Wimbledon champion Andy Murray is pleased to see other players hiring the greats. We all know how successful he's been since teaming up with Ivan Lendl two years ago.

ANDY MURRAY, 2013 WIMBLEDON CHAMPION: I can speak from my experience. I mean, Ivan, I wanted to work with him because he'd been through a lot of the same experiences as me. He also stressed (INAUDIBLE) finals. And it was good to be able to speak to him about that, because unless you've been in that position, you don't know exactly what it feels like emotionally. You know, this may be a wrong way of looking at it, but it maybe is a little bit easier to listen to someone that's sort of been in the latter stage of Grand Slams and won them. They maybe know what the feeling is like to be there, you know, the pressure that goes with it, you know, the things that are going through your head. And often in those big matches, it's the mental state that can be the difference because, you know, everyone plays great tennis.

CASH (voice-over): As each of these players started 2014 season, they'll be looking to the legends of the past to help them raise their ranking, achieve more titles and ultimately find their own Grand Slam success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very good for the sport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys have won multiple Grand Slams and they have achieved a lot on and off the court. And they can identify themselves with us or we with them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think like Boris said, it's a good team. And we started this kind of tennis, powerful tennis. And these guys are finishing it. They're putting it one step higher. And I think we can bring a lot of good things to these guys. And it's going to be interesting tennis.

CASH (voice-over): Australia is always a place where the former legends can gather, like here on the beach in Adelaide, where we took some time out from the World Tennis challenge.

As well as working on my tan, it gave me the chance to catch up with one man in particular about these new coach-player matchups.

CASH: Mark Woodforde, one of my old buddies, you're on the tour as a part-time coach. And one-time coach of Novak Djokovic. What do you think is going on with Boris and Novak?

MARK WOODFORDE, 17-TIME DOUBLES GRAND SLAM CHAMPION: It doesn't always translate that if you've been a decent tennis player you're going to be a decent tennis coach. But I think what, you know, perhaps some of the top rated players like yourself, you know, I like to think of myself as a -- as a top player as well, that we can offer structure and that experience of being alive at the pointy end of the tournament, which is where you get to hold the trophy at the end, just wonder whether that maybe in the back of Novak's mind is about the way that Boris played. And you played him many, many times, trying to finish the point on the net a little more cleanly than what he's been doing in the past.

CASH: Do you think it's a similar thing with Stefan Edberg joining the Roger Federer camp?

WOODFORDE: I'm looking forward to that relationship. I think Roger's going to profit so much from working with Stefan, because that style is really something that I believe Roger needs to adapt this year. If he's going to have a full 2014 and beyond, (INAUDIBLE).


CASH (voice-over): Well, thanks very much for your insight on the coaching and good luck in 2014.

WOODFORDE: Thanks, Cashie. It's a pleasure talking to you.



CASH (voice-over): Djokovic's first Grand Slam pursuit with Becker by his side ended in defeat. The team will now set their sights on the French Open, the only slam neither man has ever won. You can access all of the Australian Open results on our website,

Still to come on OPEN COURT, we dig below the hard court surface of the Australian Open and show you where the Slam got its roots.




CASH: Welcome back to OPEN COURT. We're here in Melbourne Park, the home of the Australian Open. Now whenever I visit, I love to walk past these statues as it reminds me of our rich history in tennis.

Here's one of my mates, Pat Rafter, I think it's fair to say he's the last in a long line of great Aussie attackers. So what were the secrets to his game? Well, what better way to find out than to meet him on court?





RAFTER: I get called Cashie.

Can you sign this?

CASH: I get called Rafter. He's like 10 years younger, so I like that.

RAFTER: But we don't look too dissimilar either.

CASH: You're a young man (INAUDIBLE).

(INAUDIBLE) headband on just to confuse people.


CASH: Yes. I had to come to the net -- yes, show us how you get into the net and what you do with your fantastic volley.


CASH: Well, Pat is a master at attacking anything short. And when he gets to the net, he's absolutely deadly. He can put the ball deep in the corner or his drop shot is unbelievable.

RAFTER: Come on, mate, let's move.

CASH: I'm not going to get that in a million years.

Aww, that's a great shot.


RAFTER: And the one thing I learned from watching yourself, Cashie, and watching Edberg play was how low you guys stayed. So when you guys came in, you came in with those steps, a bit just before that guy hits, you split and you stay in this position. It's the one thing you guys did really well, Cashie, I mean, to me, you and Edberg were the classic serve volleyers. And that's how I tried to base my game on.

Here we go.

CASH: Ai, yi, yi.

CASH (voice-over): Pat Rafter's attacking serve and volley game won him back-to-back U.S. Open titles in 2010 he became Davis Cup captain. Now his focus in on the next generation of Australian players.

RAFTER: The Davis Cup role has taught me a lot actually. It's really taught me how to understand people's personalities better. So what I do with one guy (INAUDIBLE) do with the other guy. And I always thought that when I was going to get on the court, I'd be telling them all these things. And I found after the first couple of years that was not going to happen.

And now I've found that -- a pretty good balance now with (INAUDIBLE) when to say, what to say at the right time.

CASH: And number one ranked player, Bernard Tomic, very talented young player, how do you see him going this year in 2014?

RAFTER: I don't know, mate, you know, it has to come from him, Bernie (ph). We all have been trying to tell him that these are pitfalls. But he looks like he's going to be a kid who's got to experience it himself. And he's just going through some tricky times, you know, obviously with his family life. But motivation, he doesn't seem to really have it so much. He's still learning a lot.

CASH: He's still a young guy.

RAFTER: He's young. He's 21. But we've got to be careful we don't keep pulling him down because well, then, you know, he's a man now. You know, he should be taking responsibility for himself.

CASH: There's one man that doesn't have youth on his side, LLeyton Hewitt, the warrior, the old warrior. He's still going. You think he's still (INAUDIBLE) he did well last year.

RAFTER: He loves the game. (INAUDIBLE) guy, (INAUDIBLE) you want to play with. (INAUDIBLE) Davis Cup team. I mean, the guy lives it, breathes it and enthusiastic, loves it. There's going to be a big hole left in the Davis Cup team when he's gone.

CASH: Well, you keep yourself fit.

You live on the beach. You've got to still be (INAUDIBLE) still be surfing (INAUDIBLE)?

RAFTER: I love having (INAUDIBLE) Monday is gym, Tuesday is tennis, Wednesday is golf and (INAUDIBLE). Thursday I do a workout on the beach with about 10 blokes. I'm sort of the leader and we do a full-on heavy sort of training session. So whether this is a commitment to beautiful, to be swimming, backhand, running backhand, doing pushups, sit-ups, all skills, a lot of tennis drills with balls and sort of thing. And then Friday I'll probably go for a run or maybe have another hit at tennis if I'm getting ready for an event. And the weekends I like to spend with my kids.


CASH: Well, this is a shot that we don't see that often these days on the tour. Rafter was an expert at it, the slice backhand.

RAFTER: I used to be an expert at it.


CASH: Oh, that was nice.



Oh, sorry, (INAUDIBLE).

RAFTER: That was good in '87.

I tried that two in my game, we are a little -- no one else had the capacity.

CASH: (INAUDIBLE). Thanks very much. What a master class in attacking and volleying stuff.


RAFTER: You can do it all, though, Cash.

CASH: I'm still learning. This is great stuff.

RAFTER: Nice seeing you.

CASH: Good luck on the Legends Tour and the Davis Cup, of course.

RAFTER: Yes, thanks, Cashie.


CASH: Pat Rafter and I both played here at Melbourne Park during our careers. But it's important to remember that the Australian Open wasn't always at this site or on this surface.


CASH (voice-over): It's the Grand Slam with a party atmosphere. The temperatures have soared to over 40 degrees this year, but luckily some of the sprawling tennis complex stands in the shadow of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It's not the first time tennis and cricket have been side by side.

PAUL MCNAMEE, FORMER AUSTRALIAN OPEN TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR: You had the warehouseman's ground at Elba Reserve, which is now the practice facility for the Australian Open.

That's where the Australian Open started in 1905. In the old days, everything was grass court.


CASH (voice-over): For the decades that followed, the Australian Open moved from city to city before settling on the coarse ground of Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club in 1972. Cedric Mason has managed the club for as long as I can remember.

CEDRIC MASON, KOOYONG LAWN TENNIS CLUB MANAGER: Today the players require silence. People keeping still. They're walking past your court in no shoes, past the court you're watching the games as the players play. And, of course, the train going by.

CASH (voice-over): An endless list of Aussie greats have competed here on the grass. Rod Laver, Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, their photos and trophies line the hallways of the clubhouse.

Ever since I took my first tennis lesson here, I've always been interested in the club's history. I actually snuck into the -- on the edge of the scoreboard (INAUDIBLE).


CASH: The famous scoreboard, which is still going and I crawled up the side there and stood on the edge. That was about the only spot you could possibly see.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all Australia in the men's finals, which has Rod Laver.

CASH (voice-over): Australia's best-ever tennis player, Rod Laver, competed in Grand Slam finals around the world, but often returned to Kooyong to train for Davis Cup ties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Laver's southpaw serves are packed with dynamite. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CASH: Do you remember Laver playing here?

MASON: Oh, yes. When everyone was still in , say, in the bar at the end of the day, Rod Laver was down practicing still. It's until dark. (INAUDIBLE) going. And that's the thing I most remember about Rod Laver, that he was never done until he was satisfied that his game was where it should be.

CASH (voice-over): Laver's work ethic helped him achieve greatness on the world stage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a new Grand Slam champion, Rod Laver, the tennis.

CASH: (INAUDIBLE) all four Grand Slam titles in 1962 and then did it again in 1969.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rod Laver, Mr. Tennis himself.


MASON: He wasn't as good as the (INAUDIBLE) see Rod Laver with Roger Federer and having a hit in the head and still be able to get a few balls over with the great Roger.

CASH (voice-over): The Australian Open eventually outgrew the costly grass courts at Kooyong to move to the more profitable venue of Melbourne Park in 1988. But the change in surface hasn't stopped the crowds from embracing a Slam that had a quiet beginning on a Melbourne cricket ground.



CASH (voice-over): Still to come on OPEN COURT, see how Kim Clijsters fares when she takes over the interview chair.






UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) the tournament, I mean, you'll be committed to be able to come back after having a baby as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) actually. She hits the ball hard and she always has an affinity to Australia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was Aussie Kim for a long time.

CASH: There's no doubt Kim Clijsters is still a fan favorite here in Melbourne. Well, she did win her last Grand Slam here, after all. Well, I challenged her to conduct an interview for us. Thankfully, she said yes.



CLIJSTERS: Hey, Ana. First of all, I want to say thank you for being here in Antwerp. I haven't seen you for quite a while, a long time, actually. But I'm just wondering how are you doing, what are you up to these days and on the court and off the court?

ANA IVANOVIC, FORMER WORLD NUMBER 1: Thanks, it's so good to be here. (INAUDIBLE) change are new inside, too. So, yes, I've working really hard. I have a new team with me since Wimbledon. And it's a Serbian team for me for the first time. So I'm really enjoying that time and someone who speaks the same language I can understand you and we're also having more fun and lots of laughs on the tour as well, which is important to make it interesting because the year gets very long.

CLIJSTERS: I remember we used to see each other at the tennis clubs and in the locker room, but a lot of times the same restaurants we like a lot of the same type of food and the Asian food and Japanese food. So that was always pretty funny that we always saw each other quite a lot (INAUDIBLE).

IVANOVIC: Yes, especially (INAUDIBLE).


IVANOVIC: (INAUDIBLE) the place. And how's your family doing?

CLIJSTERS: They're doing very good. It's a little bit tiring. Jack is almost three months and he's started sleeping a little better in the last few days. So hopefully he can keep it up and we get a little bit more rest at night.

IVANOVIC: It's so sweet. I saw Jada (ph). She social. Is she playing tennis?

CLIJSTERS: She plays actually a little bit.


CLIJSTERS: Well, I don't know. She enjoys it and I don't want to push it. You know, she's young and everybody around her is like, oh, do you want to be like your mommy? And I want to --


CLIJSTERS: -- yes, I feel bad for her already. You know, but --


IVANOVIC: -- go on the tour again?

CLIJSTERS: No, no. No, I'll let a coach handle that, somebody else.


IVANOVIC: (INAUDIBLE) have lots of nice memories from that place.

CLIJSTERS: Yes, a lot of people ask me, like, do you miss being on the road or do you miss playing tennis or the competition? And that's what I kind of missed the most last year was being in Australia at the start of the year. And I guess just also for the weather, just to come from Europe and the first morning when you wake up with a huge jet lag, 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning.


CLIJSTERS: Everybody is running or swimming or, you know, you can go outside and they're on their bikes. And that's what I love.

Are you setting yourselves a deadline of like how long you want to keep your career going? Or are you just going to take it like a year at a time and just see how each season goes or.?

IVANOVIC: Yes, because I still feel like there is so much I can achieve and so many tournaments I can win. And I still don't want to put a date to it because I think you feel it when the time is right. And obviously you know, (INAUDIBLE) is a big part of my life. And I want to -- I want to have, you know, (INAUDIBLE) one day and you know, tennis is a big part of my life, but it's not my whole life. So definitely want to still achieve what I can on the court and then sort of (INAUDIBLE).


IVANOVIC: We have some friends (INAUDIBLE).

CLIJSTERS: Some girls that like you once in a while, we text or we get a Twitter message or something. But I'm more in touch with some of the players that are retired as well, or that were retired before me, like Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport. Yes, I guess the players that are still playing are so busy and they have so much going on that's not just playing tennis and sleeping in a nice hotel. And it's actually very busy. But usually it's the players who are -- who have retired that I'm more in touch with.

IVANOVIC: Very nice -- very nice to see you (INAUDIBLE) very happy and it's -- I'm really happy to see that because I know Jada (ph) said she was warning to see her, that tall and growing up and Jack as well.


IVANOVIC: (INAUDIBLE). I hope I get to meet you.

CLIJSTERS: You'll see them. You'll see them. And you'll hear them, too.



CASH: Kim was a really good sport. And wasn't it great hearing from both of those champions?


CASH (voice-over): We have made it easy for you to read more about Kim Clijsters and Ana Ivanovic on our website. Log on to


CASH: Well, that's all we have for this month's edition of OPEN COURT. For now, it's goodbye from Melbourne.