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October 21, 2005

Serena Williams


CARLOS FLEMING: I'd like to start by thanking everyone for joining us today. We're excited to be announcing the Second Annual McDonald's Williams Sisters Tour. This year we will be visiting Seattle on November 17th at the Key Arena, we will be visiting Cleveland on December 1st at the Quicken Loans Arena, and we will be visiting the MCI Center in Washington, D.C. on December 8th. Last year the tour was very successful. We had nearly 8,000 fans, which was a sold-out audience in Chicago joining us at the UIC Pavilion. In Detroit, at the Palace of Auburn Hills we had 8,400 people join us. In Atlanta at the Philips Arena we had over 9,400 people join us. For tennis, those are very, very successful crowds. The overall events were very successful, and we were able to raise nearly $200,000 for both Ronald McDonald House Charities, as well as other local charities on the Williams Sisters Tour in 2004, and we're hoping to match those numbers and, of course, do even better this year in 2005. I'd just like to briefly acknowledge McDonald's, who is our title sponsor tour-wide, as well as First Merit Bank who is the presenting sponsor in Cleveland, and WalMart who is our presenting sponsor in Washington, D.C. Our other sponsors include Powerade, Comcast, the Freddie Mac Foundation, the Washington Post, the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. At this point, I'll turn it back to our moderator.

THE MODERATOR: We will now begin the question and answer session.

Q. I appreciate you both being on today. This is a question for Serena. I'm just wondering if you could update us on your leg or ankle injuries - I know they've been lingering in some ways - and your fitness level. Talk a bit about how these exhibitions are going to help you tune up for Australia.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, right now I'm just taking some time off and just training and just getting back in the groove of things. My leg is great, my ankle is great. I just feel that, you know, you play all year, and for a couple years, and you deserve some time off. The tour is definitely going to be exciting for me because we're going to be able to play each other. It's going to help me get some match play in against my sister, as well as you know, be ready for the Australian Open. Plus, we have a lot of fans there, we do a lot for charities. I'm really excited about that, especially I've never played in Washington or Seattle or Cleveland, so I'd like to go to all three cities.

Q. Serena and Venus, I appreciate talking with you. I wanted to know, how did you get involved in the McDonald's House Charity? Is there a family or some sort of personal interest?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, Serena and I have been partners with McDonald's for close to three years now. Together, we've been able to do some great events. We've been to the Olympics together, we've visited Ronald McDonald House Charities. This is one of the best things that we've done together, was do the Williams Sisters Tour, because it benefits so many charities in all the markets that we go to. So basically we just work hand-in-hand to do some great stuff. It makes us proud to be a part of something that's much bigger and much more important than what we do as tennis players and what McDonald's does as a restaurant.

Q. Serena, same thing?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, for sure.

Q. A lot of talk has also been given on your careers after tennis. Not that anybody's rushing you off the court, but I'm wondering if you're starting to gradually phase into other careers. I know that you have an interest in fashion, and I know that Serena has an interest in acting. Is that something you're gradually moving into, is it something you're moving into rather quickly, or is tennis still your top priority?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, tennis is definitely still my priority. For me, it's what I love the most. It's just my life right now. I just am so into it. We also like to do other things, which I think is just a smart idea to always be involved in something different. Obviously, I can't play tennis the way a doctor can be a doctor for 50 years; I can only be a tennis player for a decade, a little more, you know, 15 years at best. So I just always think it's smart to have, you know, something different in mind just in case something happens.

Q. I'd like to direct this one to Venus, please. I know that you just pulled out of the tournament in Zurich this week. I'd like to know if you think you're going to still be fit to play in Philadelphia in two weeks, and are you planning on being at the year-end championships because it looks like you're going to be qualifying?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yes, I did pull out of Zurich with obviously great regret. I have great memories there - I won the doubles, I hit my fastest serve ever in Zurich, I played a lot of singles there. My first tournament ever playing without my mom and dad or a coach, and I won the tournament. So I obviously have great memories there. I'm just trying to get back on the court next week. I'm planning on getting back on the court. I'm feeling really good. I also took a little bit of time, some personal time, which is hard to get, you know, these days. You know, I'll see if I can get fit. I'm pretty optimistic about competing in the last few events I've entered in.

Q. In the city of Cleveland we have a lot of girls who aren't exposed to this sport of tennis. They'll finally have an opportunity to see it firsthand and in person. What does it mean to you to be able to be an inspiration to girls in many cities who don't get to see you play in person?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I can barely hear you, sir. Can you repeat your question.

VENUS WILLIAMS: I heard the question.

SERENA WILLIAMS: I couldn't hear the question.

Q. The question is, you come into a city like Cleveland where, you know, a lot of girls aren't exposed to tennis, they don't see it in person. The only time they do see you is on television. What is it gonna mean to you to be able to come to a city and be able to be, you know, seen and touched by people, you know, and be able to be up live, in color and in person, you know what I'm saying?

VENUS WILLIAMS: It's going to be great, actually, because we don't play tennis in Cleveland or really in the Midwest, to be honest. We're going to actually be announcing a community event next week that we're going to do in conjunction with the Cleveland Browns, the Cavaliers' foundation. We're going to be working with kids there and obviously playing unbelievable tennis. It's like our opportunity to be in Cleveland and meet people and play tennis and, just like you asked us, interact with people who have never had a chance to see us play live.

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's going to be great because all these areas have a great diversity and have different ethnics -- ethnicities, I should say. We're really excited to come to Cleveland and be able to hopefully be inspired by other little girls there who can hopefully take inspiration from us. And just girls and guys both, just realize that if you put your mind to anything, if you set your mind to anything, you can do it.

Q. This is for either of you. I'm wondering if you could just talk a bit about how you learned about the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center in Washington, and what your hopes are, you know, for doing an event there, what you have in mind, you know, during your visit to Washington.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, we have a sister who's on the Board of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center (inaudible). You know, our sisters live in D.C., some of our sisters went to Howard. We've got a little bit of heritage here (laughing). So it was kind of natural to be involved with the Center. When we're here, we practice there, too.

SERENA WILLIAMS: And when we are going to be there, we definitely plan on going to the Center, having, you know, charities going on there, donating some money to the Center so they can continue to do the fabulous things that they are doing. Also visiting the Ronald McDonald House while we're there as well, and just having a lot of fun. Playing against Venus, you know, we want to do the best that we both can do.

Q. I want to ask you a quick follow-up, Venus, because I'm not sure I heard you correctly. Did you say it's your sister Lyn who's on the Board there?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Isha. Yeah, Isha has served on the Board.

Q. Then she also went to Howard?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yes. Lyn went to Howard, too.

Q. This could be directed to either one of you. I know that you have been active - more than many athletes are - in a number of charities, not only the McDonald's charity, but the foundation, the educational foundation that you started with your mother. I just got some information a little while ago about Katrina relief charities that I think you, Venus, are working on with Zina Garrison, the Fed Cup coach. I'd like to ask you guys, obviously you're getting a ton of requests to help this one and that one. How do you decide how to prioritize what things you put your name and energy behind?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Basically, we always have charities that are near and dear to us that we worked with for years. Also at the end of the year we kind of go over what charities can we work with this year, and how do we personally support and go to events and play for charities. Obviously, things come up during the year and we do our best to go. Basically, as much time as we can give (laughing).

Q. Can you tell me a little more about the Katrina charity, "Tie Together for Action." Do you have any more details?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, it's called "Tie Together For Action." Zina had a great idea. She really wanted to get involved on a long-term basis, not just while people were thinking about it, but long after people had moved on from this tragedy. She asked me to wear the yellow shoestrings on the court. The idea just became bigger and bigger. We're working on helping victims of the hurricane rebuild. That's our goal in three to five years. I have a feeling it's going to even become something more because, unfortunately, there are huge storms and natural disasters that come to the United States. I think it will just be an ongoing thing. We're doing yellow shoelaces, and we'll be doing other colors eventually. Basically, Zina is an unbelievable, wonderful person. She identified me as a person who had a heart just like hers, so I felt really honored (laughing). We're working together to make a difference in whatever way we can.

Q. Do you know yet where the money will go specifically?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, we're going to help people rebuild homes. There's a lot of people who have been unable to get help. It's just hard. Right now there are so many people who are in want. Zina has been thinking about identifying a specific town, but basically anyone who we can help.

CARLOS FLEMING: The shoelaces will be available in the concessions at all three Williams Sisters Tour stops.

VENUS WILLIAMS: That's right.

CARLOS FLEMING: Thank you again for all of you who are attending the conference call. If you need any follow-up information, the media release, both David Tratner and the local contact and McDonald's PR agencies are available to answer any questions that you might have. Please feel free to follow up with us if you do have any further questions. Thank you again for attending.

End of FastScriptsâ?¦.

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