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March 12, 2015

Serena Williams


THE MODERATOR:  Questions for Serena, please.

Q.  (Question regarding last match played at Indian Wells.)
SERENA WILLIAMS:  I am not sure.  I think it stayed with me for a few years, to be honest.  Yeah, so probably a long time.

Q.  (No microphone.)
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Well, the whole point of me coming back was not to necessarily focus on what happened 13 years ago.
It was more or less to focus how I felt, if it was the right opportunity for me to come back now and for me to be at this tournament.
So I think I kind of let that go.

Q.  Are you impressed with how much the tennis gardens have changed?  Really remarkable tournament now.  Set attendance records last year, and will this year, too.
SERENA WILLIAMS:¬† Yeah, I can't say I remember what it looked like before really.¬† I think when he was here before it kind of just ‑‑ this facility just went up maybe two years.
But I hear a lot about it all the time, every year how to grows and grows and it's such a good event for tennis.

Q.  Did some of those rumors about its growth help you to make the decision?
SERENA WILLIAMS:¬† No, I think the decision was definitely self‑ made and an internal decision for me.

Q.  (Question regarding why now is a good time to come back.
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Well, it was just a really good opportunity for me.  I just felt like it was time.  There is not one thing that says I should come back, I should come back in 2015.  I didn't even know I would be playing this year.
It was more or less timing.  I just kind of felt it.  I just felt like everything was a right time for me to just come back and try to do the best that I could here again.

Q.  Years ago you always followed Venus.  You've taken a lead role.  Talk a little bit about that, how important that is in your life to learn how to forgive and move on.
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Well, you know, like I wrote about, I said I was taught when I was young to always forgive and to always try to look at the bigger pick charger so to say.
With that being said, I think it's been a good opportunity, not only for me to be here, but I was able to raise awareness for charities like EJI, Equal Justice Initiative.  Point out different things that you can be better.  You can overcome things, even though they might not be the best of situations.  Just depends how you look at it and how you overcome them.

Q.  There were mistakes made on both sides in 2001.  Just wondering if you feel like you have anything to apologize for.
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Like I said, I'm not here to focus on what happened in 2001.  I can say that I was a teenager.  I have a tremendous amount of integrity from the day I stepped out on the court professionally until today.
Yeah, that's all I'll say about that.

Q.  Your father is an incredible man.  Many people feel what he's done with you and Venus is one of the greatest accomplishments in all of sports.  Still to this day there are voices.  As a tennis reporter I have to ask.  People are still saying that match was arranged.  What would you say to that?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Well, I think I just addressed this.  I have had nothing but integrity for my whole career.  Even in doubles if Venus or I touch the ball we say, That's not our point.  We're clearly are incredible athletes and our whole career we've focused on that.
So to be honest, I think everyone knows that that's not necessarily a true statement.¬† But I guess you have‑‑ you do have to ask those questions.

Q.  You said that you learned more about the meaning of forgiveness.  Can you reflect on that?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  In order to forgive you have to be able to really let go of everything.  I kind of did that a long time ago, but I still wasn't at a point where I was ready to come back to Indian Wells.
I was a little nervous as well.  I went through something that wasn't the best thing for me.  You know, so trying to get over those nerves of coming back and how will I feel and what's it going to be like.
Well, I have to experience that.  I think when you do forgive and you do try to let go, you have to let a lot of those emotions go as well.

Q.  Do you think there will be added nerves when you walk out for the first match tomorrow night?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  I think there will be added nerves.  I would really not be telling the truth if I said that there wasn't.  To be honest, I was a little nervous to come out here.  In the beginning I was like, What was I thinking?  I kind of had to overcome that hurdle.
I spent an extra day in L.A.  I'm like, I'm just not ready yet.  I'm not ready yet.  I had to just overcome that.  Then once I get here everything has been really amazing and really great.
I'm looking forward actually to stepping out on center court and letting the whole world know that it doesn't matter what you face, if it's something that wasn't right, hurt you, hurt your family, you can just come out and be strong and say, I'm still going to be here.  I'm still gonna survive.  I'm still gonna be the best person I can be.

Q.  You've spoken in the past about what an influence Nelson Mandela's biography was.  Did reading that book have a bearing on you returning here?
SERENA WILLIAMS:¬† Yes, absolutely.¬† Interestingly enough, I read the book about a year ago and then I saw the movie.¬† I think it came out two years ago or‑‑ yeah.
So I read book two years ago then too.  That hit me hard, because I met Mr.Mandela a couple times, and we had some interesting conversations.  I just really thought that he made such an on impact on my life and the things that I do with charity as well as having an opportunity to meet him.
I thought it just‑‑ in reading his story, it really hit me in an interesting way.

Q.  Did you think at all you'd be back?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  You know, I can't say that I thought I would come back.  I didn't think I would come back, to be honest.  I felt like I did what I needed to do.  I finished my career in terms of being here at a particular tournament.
But at the same time, yeah, I actually never thought I would come back.

Q.  Did you always know that you'd come back?  Was it in the back of your mind?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Well, I don't think it's necessarily a decision for her to stay away.  I feel if she didn't support me I wouldn't be here.  If she said, Serena, I don't think this is good, I don't think you should go, then there is no chance I would be here right now.
She 100% supports me and is very happy that I'm here and even encouraged me to come.  I think that kind of covers that.

Q.  What was it like to tell your parents?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Yeah, I told my mom, and I was a little nervous about what she would say.  She just listened to my whole story.  I kind told her about what I was writing and what I felt about it what she though about it.  This is in the very beginning, long before anyone else knew.
When I was done with my whole story, she said, I'll be there for you.  Whatever you need, I'm going to be there to support you.  I was a little shocked.  I don't know why, because she's always been really supportive.  For whatever reason, I still was.  It was a wonderful feeling.
With my dad I was a little nervous for him as well.¬† I wrote about that, because he's been through some things when he was growing up as a young man.¬† When I was done telling him ‑‑ it was really emotional time for me when I was talking to him.¬† I was like, I think I should go back, but I'm not going to go back if you don't want me to.
Last thing I'm going to do is do something that I don't think is right for all of us.  He said it would be a big mistake if I didn't go back.  I thought that was really admirable.

Q.  Take us back to your thought process when you finally decided to come here.  When did that occur and what was the setting?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Well, it was an interesting thought process.  I talked to a lot of people on my team.  Talked to my family.  I even called, you know, the Indian Wells team here with Larry Ellison and Simon and everyone.
We kind of all got on the phone and I'm like, I'm thinking about coming back.¬† No pressure.¬† I'm not certain yet, but let's see what are the‑‑ what is the thought process there?¬† What will the crowd be kind of opening?¬† How will that go?

Q.  (No microphone.)
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Well, we all travel together for the whole year, so it's kind of like a big group that's always together.  So I think it's just a good opportunity for everyone and everyone in tennis just to be supportive.
I think it's been really great from the players.  They're always super supportive, so I think it's very wonderful.

Q.  Can you remember in 2001, the final, being happy at all?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  No, not at all.  Not too much.  But that was that.

Q.  You smiled a little bit.
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Did I?  I don't remember.  I don't remember.  I don't really watch that match actually.  Not a fun match to watch.
But I don't remember being‑‑ having any emotions besides happiness.
I remember sitting down and praying.  I think I was losing actually in the first set and I said, I don't want to win this match.  I just want to get through this moment.  I don't know what happened.  I just won after that.
It was really just a moment of just praying and just trying to get through the match.  Not win the match, get through the match and got off the court pretty much.

Q.  With all your accomplishments, how important is it to still be receptive?
SERENA WILLIAMS:¬† Well, I think for everyone's accomplishments you're always going to have fans and always going to have people that‑‑ well, for lack of a better word‑‑ aren't as big of a fan.¬† (Laughter.)
But I think it's really important to accept you for who you are yourself.  Not everyone is going to accept you.  I think if you do go through your life wanting everyone to accept you, that can cause a whole 'nother set of issues.

Q.  Now that you decided to come back, how are you preparing?  How are you yourself preparing for this?
SERENA WILLIAMS:¬† I'm trying to be as fit as I can be, because on the heels of this I have Miami.¬† I haven't done a double‑header in a really long time.¬† I'm just working on my fitness a little bit.
We'll see.¬† Not really putting any pressure on me in this tournament at all.¬† Haven't really played since Australia, so I'm just going to ‑‑ I'm coming in here just getting through it.

Q.  How was the practice session?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  I felt good.  I think I served a lot.  Kind of hoping my serve comes through.  I hit a few of them out so I just kept going.  I just felt like I got to do the work here.  Got to do the work.

Q.  Looked like you were in distress in practice this morning.
SERENA WILLIAMS:  No, not at all.  I did see that picture, and I agree.  I did look in distress.  I just don't remember that moment.  I'm like, Wow, why do I look so stressed out?

Q.  This comeback would be a big story regardless, but being dominant so many years later really makes it impactful.  Can you talk about your longevity in this sport?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Yeah, my longevity is very difficult to speak about.  I don't know how it happened.  I just know that as the years have grown I really have had a wonderful appreciation of the sport and I've really enjoyed being out there.
Even the other day I was working out and I was like, Wow, this is so much fun.  I just feel like my appreciation for tennis and everything that it takes to do everything has just changed throughout the years.
The motivation is always there.

Q.  Talk about the part with Sascha.
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Yes, well, it wasn't an easy decision.  Sasch said he wanted to be more of a coach, so, yeah, he decided to do that.

Q.  Talk about EJI and how much of coming back here was trying to spread that message.
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Yeah, I think a lot of the things that have been happening lately I think definitely played a part in the whole picture.  It wasn't just one thing.  It wasn't two things.
It was just a lot of stuff.  And I thought it was really good timing, not just for me but for Americans in general, to step up and say, We as a people, we as Americans, we can do better, we can be better, and we are better.
So I think in terms of with EJI I had an opportunity to get to know Byron Stevenson.  Seeing the work that he's been doing in terms Equal Justice Initiative, in terms of getting the right representation for many, many minorities and for the prison system I thought was a perfect opportunity and a perfect place to spread the word and try to help others in different situations.

Q.  You consulted with your team, your family, the team here at Indian Wells.  Was there a specific turning point?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  It was definitely a big combination of things.  There definitely wasn't one thing over the other.  It was a big combination, and it was just I think really good timing.

Q.  What have you been doing between winning Melbourne and here?
SERENA WILLIAMS:¬† Wow.¬† I have been just ‑‑ I took some time off, and then obviously I played Fed Cup.¬† I have just been training and hanging out with my dad a lot actually.

Q.  You said it's time for us to do better.  What are some of the things we can do better?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  You know, I think it's a great opportunity.  If you're in a position where you can stand up and speak and be a role model, then why not do it?  I feel like this is a perfect opportunity and a perfect session for me to do that.

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