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February 23, 2002

Venus Williams

JIM FUHSE: Venus, congratulations on turning No. 1 on Monday. Has it had a chance to sink in yet, and do you have any special plans for celebrating it on Monday?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think my special plan would be just to get home, finally. It's been a long time on the road. I think I'm just looking forward to getting home and getting some rest with my family.

Q. I saw in your comment earlier this week that reaching No. 1 is a dream that started with your parents and then you took it over. How long have you wanted to be No. 1; and the way you've been playing lately, was it just a matter of time?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, you know, obviously, when you're on a professional tour, you don't aspire to be No. 3 or No. 2. Normally you do your best to become the best. At this point, I am the best player in the world, so that's exciting and it's going to be mine at least a week.

Q. The way you've been playing, has have you been in this kind of a zone in a while? The streak you had going in through the Open, and then winning the tournaments in the last month or so, have you been at this level in a while and how much more do you think you've got to go?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, more and more I've learned tennis is just mental and technical. As long as you have the mental game down, your techniques are solid, physically all you need is just your body to be there with you. And physically has been one of my problems in the past. The past two months I have been able to play without pain and that's done a lot for me.

Q. A lot of people have talked about how you are the best player and you have been the last two years; yet, you have not really played a schedule maybe to make yourself in the No. 1 spot by not playing as much and going to school and everything. Has it really been that important and a focal point to you, or maybe winning the titles at Wimbledon and US Open take precedence; is that driving you?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Really, I think that if I had been No. 1 in the world and had not won any Grand Slams, it would be less of a significance. But having won Grand Slams, that really just makes it a lot more enjoyable, and I just feel like I deserve it. You know, being No. 1 and winning Grand Slams and winning titles, that's just all a part of having a successful career. I've worked hard; so I feel like I deserve a few perks there.

Q. A lot of us who live down in south Florida have known you from since when you were a kid have heard your father say you and Serena would be No. 1. Now that it has happened, what has his reaction been?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I just think that he's head over heels. He's going to give me a few pointers to try to stay on top.

Q. How important is staying on top? You just said you'll be there for one week, but how important is it for you to keep it going?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, right now, it's just been great getting there, but it's another thing staying there. So I just have to be dedicated and more than anything, keep enjoying the game, because at any point it becomes a burden, at least to me, that's when it's a problem.

Q. Your dad's prediction years ago that you would be No. 1, certainly, one of thee boldest predictions that has ever been made in tennis history. Did you ever think -- did you ever think, "Gee, I wish he had not done that, to just let me play"?

VENUS WILLIAMS: No, I never thought that. I thought he was telling the truth. I was just being the daughter of a proud father. And more than anything, I think he knew he put the work in and that he had -- we were listening to him, and I think that's why he had that confidence to say that myself and Serena would be Grand Slam Champions. Right now, we are some of the best players in the game, I guess, in history, and I just think that I give a lot of credit to my dad for that.

Q. You obviously did not play a lot of Junior tournaments. You skipped a bunch of other tournaments and never altered from having your parents being your prime coaches. Is there an aspect of your career that you are most proud of, venus?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think the best part is that I've enjoyed myself along the way and that I have not limited myself just to playing tennis or made myself believe that that's the only thing in life. I've always been doing things at the same time and having a career; for me that's the best part.

Q. You and Serena obviously had a rough time in the desert last year. Can you sort of get real with us and tell us why you're not playing Indian Wells, a major tournament in a month or so?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, that was a year ago and a lot of things have happened since then. I think that myself, winning two Grand Slams, and the US Open Finals with Serena and I, and also, just being No. 1. So a lot of great things have happened since then.

Q. You did get pretty rough treatment there, is that the reason you're not playing?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, all in all, it was just basically an incredible scene last year in Indian Wells, but that's part of sports, playing with the good and the bad.

Q. I know you're not playing Indian Wells this year, but will you play Indian Wells again in the future?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I've always liked that tournament, and basically I had my first big break there in the desert; so some of my best memories are there . Actually, the first time I ever got in the quarter finals, I was like 200 in the world. I have a lot of great memories there.

Q. Also, with Indian Wells, you are not the only one who is missing. There are a few other top players who are going to be missing. This year, with adding more points toward Indian Wells, do you have any recommendations on what the Tour can do to attract more of the top players to their top events?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think normally Indian Wells has gotten a really great turn out. Most of the players love it, playing in the desert, with the great weather. And also, it's a combined event, which makes it more exciting for the fans, too. I haven't really seen the entries at Indian Wells at this point, but I don't think it's anything to worry about.

Q. Just would like to know what it means to you to be the first African American to be ranked No. 1 in the world.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, it would be foolish to forget Althea Gibson, also. She was the first. And more than anything, I just feel proud to represent America in my sport.

Q. As Wimbledon Champion and US Open Champion, it's a tremendous achievement to get to No. 1 in the world, as well. Monica Seles was saying this week that it's a very exciting time for women's tennis, because the No. 1 position is being handed around; it's not being kept by one person for a long time as it used to be. Do you feel that? Do you feel this is a very exciting time for women's tennis and that new players are coming to the No. 1 ranking all the time?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think it's a very exciting time. I really thought I had a chance to win in the quarterfinal, but Jennifer was able to hang on. Because of the points race, at this point, it's really just a coin toss. At this point, I'm just happy about my position.

Q. What would be your kind of one little expert piece of advice to anyone who aspires to achieve what you've achieved?

VENUS WILLIAMS: That would be to enjoy the day and enjoy the competition, because a lot of times, it's really tight. My second suggestion would be you'd better have good techniques; in the crunch, so you can rely on your techniques.

Q. Can you talk about how difficult it's been being away from home for so long, and what you've missed the most; and did you intend to be on the road since late December?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I did intend to be on the road. I gave my full commitment for the first two months of the year. I knew it would be really tough, and mentally I've prepared to not be at home. But I really miss my dog and I miss my family and I miss Serena, too. I miss the States more than anything. I did not get to go to the Winter Olympics; so I missed out on a few things, but in the end, it did help me out a lot.

Q. What's the first thing you'll do when you get home?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Eat some candy.

Q. I want to ask you, after Wimbledon, you said you were going to buy yourself a watch to celebrate. What are you going to get celebrate being No. 1?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I never got that watch.

Q. You never got that watch?

VENUS WILLIAMS: It was much more -- at this point, really, I will just kind of give a little pat on the back.

Q. And I want to talk a little bit what role the god, Jehovah, has had in reaching your goals?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think more than anything just help me keep things in perspective and knowing that tennis, it's not the only thing, the only hope I have in life. So that's really helped me a lot, to realize this is just for now and that there's always a later.

Q. And do you want to give a shout out to anybody at home?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Everybody in south Florida and thanks for supporting me.

Q. Are you playing the NASDAQ 100 Open?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I am and I can't wait to get there. Last year I had an incredible time and an incredible finals match against Capriatti. That was one of my most favorite matches I've ever played. I'm hoping to return there and get a chance for the title again.

JIM FUHSE: Venus' next event will be the NASDAQ 100 where she will be the defending champion. And Jennifer Capriatti, the runner-up, has also entered, so they will likely be 1 and 2 in the event. So, we will look forward to that. Venus, thank you for participating and congratulations on No. 1.

End of FastScriptsâ?¦.

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