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March 2, 2009

Ana Ivanovic

Jelena Jankovic

Venus Williams

Serena Williams

PETE HOLTERMANN: I think you know these ladies, but we have Jelena Jankovic, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, and Ana Ivanovic. We'll open it up for questions.

Q. Venus and Serena, could you tell us how much having a sister on the tour all these years has helped your longevity in your career. To Jelena and Ana, how much do you think it is an advantage to have a sister on the tour and how much would you like that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I think having Venus on tour is cool because we're really close and really good friends. It's like having a built-in hitting partner, a built-in doubles partner.
I think, if anything, it provides a lot of fun.

Q. Would you still be doing this if she wasn't here?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I definitely think so, for sure. But it just makes it that much better.
JELENA JANKOVIC: It would be nice to have a sister on the tour, but unfortunately that is not the case with me. I have to play by myself (laughter). I have to travel without my sister. I don't have a sister. I have two brothers.
You know, it's nice to practice with somebody that's in your family, share their experience, travel together. So I think it's really great and it's very fortunate for them.

Q. Playing in the Garden, for those of you making your debut, I wanted to get your thoughts on that, and the importance of cultivating future champions, U.S. champions, through programs like this big kickoff in all the States, facilities that are involved.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I can talk about playing at the Garden. It's exciting. At least growing up in the U.S. I would see all the big events at the Garden. Of course, I had a chance to play at the Garden in 1999. That was many years ago.
I think this will be an even better opportunity for me because I'll have a chance to win at the Garden. So for all of us, we're really excited about having BNP Paribas because they've been a wonderful partner in tennis. They put on a great event. Hasn't even happened yet, but it's already great.
ANA IVANOVIC: This is my first time here. I was actually hoping it would snow because we always play in places where it's very warm. So it's fun also to get freezed a little bit.
I've been out every morning. It's really nice. The view of the Central Park, it's amazing. I'm really enjoying my time.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think I'm really excited to have an opportunity to play in the Garden. I never played there. With having so many wonderful sporting events there, growing up, watching everyone from Billie Jean King, to Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, just winning there, it's just a great opportunity for me to have an opportunity to play there, as well.

Q. And the kickoff to make tennis more accessible to everybody, there will be future tennis players like yourselves somewhere down the line. Any of the thoughts about the kickoff itself?
VENUS WILLIAMS: It's going to be great. I think obviously Serena and I are playing for the U.S. so we're grateful for that, just to have more champions.

Q. The WTA made news recently on the whole Shahar Peer incident in Dubai.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think everything was resolved. Unless there's further issues, I think it's all been resolved. I think we'll be fine for next year.

Q. How do you feel about receiving a pension plan when you retire while Miss King and the founding mothers are ineligible?
VENUS WILLIAMS: We should put BNP Paribas on that, right (laughter)?

Q. For all four of you, to be able to do this representing the WTA Tour, but also to represent Billie Jean King, someone who has done so much for women's tennis in general, how about that honor for all four of you?
ANA IVANOVIC: It's great honor for me to, first of all, be here and have opportunity to play in such a stadium, such arena. Obviously Billie Jean, she done so much for women's tennis. It's great to have an opportunity to have a chat with her and share experiences.
It's amazing. I hope later today I'll have another chance to talk to her a little bit more about it. But I feel definitely very honored to be here.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Also I think, because of Billie Jean King, we're all here, and we all have this opportunity to play. It's great. She was definitely an unbelievable pioneer, someone that I strive to be, definitely a big role model.
VENUS WILLIAMS: As for me, I mean, Billie Jean King has given so much. She really lives to give. I just can't think of anyone like that - that would be including myself. She's a really awesome person. She's given so much. I'm looking forward to tonight. Tonight is another gift from her.
JELENA JANKOVIC: I'm so excited about playing in Madison Square Garden. It's an honor for me to be a part of the event.
Billie Jean King has done so much for the game. She's really a true legend in the sport. I think this is a really great tribute to her.

Q. Serena, Venus has won the last two times you played. She's ahead 10-9 in the series. If you play in the final tonight, will it be more than just an exhibition match for you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, you know, if we play, it will just be a great opportunity. I'm just excited to be here. First off, I have to get through my semifinal, which is going to be a really good match.
For the most part, we definitely take it seriously. It would be a great opportunity to show the fans, I think, another good match.

Q. You're halfway towards another Serena slam. Do the Grand Slams motivate you more than being No. 1?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I live to play the Grand Slams. I think they're fun. I just get up for them. I just really enjoy the opportunity to play for two weeks. It's just a great thing for me.

Q. And your knee is okay these days?
SERENA WILLIAMS: These days, yes (laughter).

Q. (Question about the difference of the format compared to a regular tour event.)
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think we've all had experience playing two matches, playing singles and doubles in one day, playing a night match at 7 and then coming back and playing the next afternoon, those kind of things.
We're all fit, extremely professional (laughter). So we're ready.

Q. Will you play doubles together in the future, since you don't have sisters, Jelena and Ana? Who would be the leader?
JELENA JANKOVIC: I don't know. We haven't played before doubles together.
ANA IVANOVIC: Actually once.
JELENA JANKOVIC: I forgot, sorry. We played once in Fed Cup. It would be nice to play again in Fed Cup. We are playing in Spain again. For the first time we have a chance to get in the World Group. If it comes to doubles, we will play together.
I think when we play our individual tournaments, we're more focused on singles. We're basically singles players. I think for me at this moment, it's very hard to play both singles and doubles. I'm very focused on my goals.
For now I'm not really interested to play doubles. But in the future, why not? It's always fun.
ANA IVANOVIC: Yeah, I completely agree with Jelena. We will have opportunity to play some more doubles in the Fed Cup. Hopefully in a few years' time in Olympics, too.

Q. We learned recently that the WTA Tour signed with a PR firm to promote the tour and the ladies, to create visibility. I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about your roles to generate visibility, not only for the tour but also for the game of tennis in the United States and elsewhere to get people playing.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I think events like this are fantastic. Everyone pays attention when you're at the Garden. We're playing at the Garden tonight, so I think playing events like this, having tennis at venues like this with great players, like the ones surrounding me, is the way to do it actually.
ANA IVANOVIC: I think it's great that we have opportunity, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour is doing something like this to promote women's tennis. We are all very happy to be a part of it and to try to promote it in the best possible way.

Q. Back in the day of Billie Jean King, I think everybody would be shocked to think 25 years hence there would be a showdown challenge in Madison Square Garden of two Serbian women against two African American women, and you're all champions. Can you tell us in what way you've been affected and have become better players and better champions as a result of the adversity that either you or your families have encountered over the last 15 years or so?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I haven't had too much adversity in the last 15 years. Maybe adversity across the net, yeah.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Obviously, it's important to work hard in what we do. I think all four of us are sitting here because of hard work, putting adversity aside, just plowing through it with a positive attitude.
With that being said, being African American, we've had doors opened up for us with Zina Garrison and Althea Gibson. For the Serbian players, they've had opportunities to improve tennis in their country as well. We're opening up doors in both our countries for great opportunities for the future of tennis.

Q. Venus, did you feel like someone on the players' side had to speak up about Shahar Peer not getting a visa in Dubai?
VENUS WILLIAMS: From the players' side, we weren't really that informed as to what was happening. As players, we all support each other. Obviously, when we play, we play. Other than that, we all are very supportive of each other on the tour.
So, of course, we were very supportive of Shahar Peer, and she would be just as supportive of us.

Q. You mentioned at the trophy presentation you'll defend the title next year if everyone was given the equal chance to play. What guarantees have there been that it won't happen again next year?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Andy Ram had his visa. He had a chance to play with very few issues. I don't see any reason why Shahar won't have one next year.

Q. Did you happen to watch the match last year, the Roger/Pete match, and did that impact your decision to want to play this year at all?
VENUS WILLIAMS: We all heard about the match here. I had a chance to play, I was immediately ready. Where do I sign?
ANA IVANOVIC: Yeah, same for me. I was very excited from the first moment on. Unfortunately, I didn't see the match last year from Pete and Federer. But I'm very excited.
PETE HOLTERMANN: I want to thank all four of you for your time.

End of FastScripts

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