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July 2, 2004

Serena Williams


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Serena.

Q. I wonder if you can perhaps cast your mind back to your first Grand Slam final at Flushing Meadows, a little bit how you were on the day before, how you prepared, putting yourself in Maria's place, obviously playing her first round Slam final.

SERENA WILLIAMS: The day before I was playing Lindsay in the semifinal, so I didn't have a day off to prepare.

Q. Didn't have much time to get too nervous then?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I didn't have any time to get too nervous. You know, it's like -- yeah, I didn't have any time to get too nervous. I was playing matches after matches.

Q. Have you hurt your left leg in the third set yesterday somewhere?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, not at all.

Q. It just looked like you might have come up limping on one shot. Are you at all surprised to be sitting in this chair the day before a Wimbledon final, given all you've gone through in the last few months?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, because never I usually grant interviews before the final, so...

Q. Good answer. But in terms of what you have been through injury-wise, the few matches you've actually played, is it a nice feeling to be sitting here the day before a Wimbledon final?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Honestly, it is. I really haven't played too many matches - tournaments for that matter. I think I can still count on one hand the tournaments I've played this year, two of them being Grand Slams. So I got a late start in March, didn't do so well, hot in the clay court season. But that was really tough on my body. I think I'm doing pretty good to be sitting here right now, for sure.

Q. What were your emotions before your first Grand Slam final? Any nerves at all? You probably had a day to think about the final because of the way the schedule is structured.

SERENA WILLIAMS: I didn't have a day off in between. I played my semifinal on Friday and the final was on Saturday. So I didn't have the day off. Nerves? Not really. I knew I was going to win. I just -- I just told myself months before that I was going to win, because I really wanted to more than anything.

Q. I remember you saying to us in Rome that you were fed up with seeing other people lifting up big cups, and it was about time you were back there doing it. Here you are with a very good chance. You vindicated what you thought you might be doing, back to those Rome days.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I guess so. I just, you know, had an opportunity at the French, but things didn't go so hot there. You know, Wimbledon, I still have a chance here. I really want to be able to lift that trophy up more than anything.

Q. Before that first final that you played in, you had not even been in a quarterfinal in a Grand Slam. What made you think that you could win that US Open?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I just -- I just had this intuition that I wasn't going to lose. I played like four three-setters going into that final, so it was a tough battle. It was so fun. I was just living and dying for every moment.

Q. Is it easier to do that when you're younger? Do you think it gets harder to do that as you get older and just have more experiences - good and bad - to have to filter through?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think either way, it's like when you're younger, you have nothing to lose. It's like you can just go for broke. And then when you get a little older, it's like, "Okay, I'm getting older. Have I won a Grand Slam yet" type situation.

Q. Tennis obviously seems to have given you so much, from wealth, the whole range of human experiences, opened doors. Yet your dad sometimes says he would like you and Venus to get out of tennis or wish you hadn't gone in it in the first place. Would you have done it any differently? Are you really glad your parents directed you towards tennis? Are you thrilled to be in the sport?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, there's some days I actually sit down, I think to myself, "Wow, if I could do it all over again, I would just -- I'd stay on the court a little longer when I was younger and work a little harder." Not that I didn't work hard. I don't know if I could have worked any harder, but I would have tried. So I wouldn't change anything. I'm really excited about the opportunity that I've been blessed to have. Not many people get this opportunity to play a sport that they're pretty good at, that can open so many different doors, as well.

Q. Why would you have stayed on the court for more hours?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. Just because. 'Cause it's been such a wonderful experience so far playing. So it's just been great, you know, going out there and competing.

Q. What was it actually like yesterday? We got the sense that it was a real match. There were two players playing some superb tennis. You were really into it. It's been a long time probably since you've been involved in a match like that. Was it really good to get that one and come through it, to prepare for a final?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think so because it's definitely been a while since I played a match that close. I think one maybe. I don't know. I haven't played too much this year, so... It's always good to come through, but especially when you're coming back off not playing so much. It was really a plus. It's really a plus.

Q. Competitive juices were really flowing?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. It's like, you know, I still have those competitive juices and the desire. And so that's something that you wonder if you will still have, of course. Still have it, of course.

Q. A year ago you would have been preparing to play your sister. In other Grand Slams, recent ones, you've been preparing to play her. Do you wish she was here and you were playing her in the final tomorrow or is it nice not to have to deal with all that sister-versus-sister stuff?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I definitely wish she was here and I definitely wish that I'd be ready to fight her in the final. I would be extremely, extremely nervous, because she was playing so well. But, you know, I'm really focused on my opponent right now. I can't really think about that. That's not something that really crosses my mind. But if you ask me the question, I'll definitely say, of course, I wish she was in the final. Why not? Who wouldn't?

Q. Speaking of your opponent, technically what do you see in her game?

SERENA WILLIAMS: She's a really good player.

Q. Can you be more specific about her groundstrokes and her serve?

SERENA WILLIAMS: You can read the transcripts that I answered that question yesterday.

Q. How would you compare yourself at 17 playing in that US Open final to what you see from Maria Sharapova at this Wimbledon?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm sorry, I didn't catch that.

Q. Just wonder if you see many similarities between Maria Sharapova here at Wimbledon this year and the sort of person that you were, the sort of tennis you were playing, when you were in the US Open final also at 17?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, she's playing really well here. She's really focused here. Similarities? I don't know. We both were really in the final at 17. We were really excited to be there. We'll see.

Q. What are your recollections about your match with her in Miami? That was just your third match back.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, so, I know she played pretty tough against me, and I pretty much have an idea of what her game plan was.

Q. Do you see her game having evolved quite a bit from then to now?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Most definitely. Most definitely. She's a better player, I think, than she was in Miami. But I'm a much better player than I was in Miami, too. I don't know how I won that tournament. So we definitely both have improved. So I think it's going to be a good show tomorrow.

Q. What would it mean to you to win this three times in succession?

SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, that would be great. That's obviously what I want. It's obviously not what Maria wants. She wants the Grand Slam, too. That would really be amazing for me, for records. It will be like, "Okay, I'm finally doing something that's chasing a record." But regardless, I think if we just put it all in perspective, I think that I'm pretty proud of myself to be able to come through tough matches and to be, you know, a whole year later in the same position again. It hasn't been so easy at all.

Q. You're playing somebody young who is just coming up. Is there any part of you -- is it different from playing an older player? Do you sort of feel like, "I'm going to show her that she's not maybe ready yet, or welcome to Serena tennis"? You know what I mean? Is there extra motivation when it's the young "it" girl that everybody is excited about, to try to squash that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I always try to play each player as a person, as a player. I'm not necessarily the one to try to "squash," you know, her dreams or anything. I'm just going to go out there and play the ball.

Q. It was looking like we were going to have an All-American ladies finals. Lindsay came up short. How do you see the future of ladies tennis in America in relation to Russia and the Belgians, all those countries?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I think the Russians have more players right now because everybody is, you know -- there's like 50 players from Russia in the Top 10 (laughter). It's like there's so many Russian players. Every week you have to play an "Ova". There's not that many Americans. It's just that there's more players right now. So obviously they have bigger chances because there's more of them.

Q. Do you have trouble keeping track of the "Ovas"?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Definitely, definitely, I've played so many "Ovas." They ask, "Who you're playing?" I say, "I'm playing an Ova today."

Q. Are you Ova the hill yet?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Am I ova the hill? That's weird.

Q. What's the "ova and unda" of this match tomorrow?

SERENA WILLIAMS: What's the "ova and unda"? I don't know. I have to call Vegas and see what the odds are.

Q. How much of a factor is desire when it comes down to the finals? You guys are obviously both playing great tennis. How much does it come down to who just wants it more when it comes to a final?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think that's in any match, whether it's the first round, second round, quarterfinals or the finals. Really it's going to boil down to who wants it. And also, you know, you got to be able to be playing some pretty decent tennis, as well. You can't just want it, can't do anything else. A lot of people want stuff, but you actually have to go out and perform and compete. So it's going to be a little bit of both factoring in.

Q. What did yesterday's semifinals say about women's tennis? People were complaining, whatever. It was two very exciting three-set matches. Can you talk about what those two semifinals meant for tennis?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it meant a lot. It was really exciting tennis, I suppose, both of the matches. I mean, I was excited out there. I felt that it was a great performance. The match before, I didn't really see too much of it because I was trying to prepare for my match, but from what I understand, it was pretty exciting, as well. So, yeah, there's a lot of excitement in women's tennis. I've always said there was.

Q. What are the differences between Sharapova's style of play and Mauresmo's, and how does that pose a different challenge for you?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm not sure. Sharapova is a serve and volleyer. Mauresmo came to the net a lot yesterday. I saw Sharapova come into the net a few times, so she's obviously improved that aspect of her game, as well. I mean, I think it's not going to be as much net play. Like Mauresmo was at the net almost every other point. So that was -- that's something I don't think -- maybe it will happen. I don't know. But I don't think that's going to happen tomorrow.

Q. A really important part of the game tomorrow. What do you have planned for us costume-wise?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't have any surprises. I'm wearing my lucky dress again.

Q. What is the lucky one? The one you've had on so far?


Q. Because you were talking about some white cat suit that previously got banned. You're not going to try to push that one through?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No. They won't let me wear it here.

Q. Maria likes to do a little walkabout between points, compose herself, slow things down a little bit. She never exceeds the time period. Did she do that at Key Biscayne in your match?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Did I slow things down?

Q. No, Maria, between your serve, did she turn her back, go back to the curtain, fool with her strings, then come back and get ready to take serve?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it's -- she definitely did. I noticed that about her a lot, that she doesn't play very fast. It's like you look at Steffi Graf and Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati, Serena Williams, you know, Martina Navratilova, you look at all those players, they all played really fast. Especially Steffi and Jennifer, they just kept going and going and going. So it's kind of difficult to play someone that's not playing as fast.

Q. Did it irritate you?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Not at all. I mean, it's great. I get breaks in between. Because sometimes I need to slow down, so it's perfect.

Q. Having not played a match like that for a while, would you have watched it again last night? Did you watch a replay of it?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, it was too late.

Q. Not something you'd do today, have a little rerun, look at some of the shots you played, the winners, et cetera?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's definitely something I'd hope I'd do.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about what Wimbledon means to you? Do you see it as your domain, your territory?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think yesterday I felt like it was. Obviously, I didn't want to give up so easy. I wanted to keep fighting for whatever I could. I love it here. I love coming back to play at 1:00 on Tuesday. I mean, hopefully I can do that again.

Q. A lot of times we see you with a gesture out there, sort of "slow down, calm down." What are some of the things you're telling yourself at those tough moments?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Just telling myself, "You know, it's okay. It's okay. Things could be worse." I always try to look at the positives. Like I was down 1-3. I told myself, "That's okay, you could be down 1-4." That's how I try to look at it. That's what I'm usually telling myself, "Just calm down right now."

Q. You showed a lot of emotion on court yesterday. Was that the most emotional you've ever felt?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think that's the most emotion I've ever shown. I felt like Lleyton Hewitt out there.

Q. When is the last time you broke a racquet? Do you remember?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I can't tell you. I don't know.

Q. Practicing with Venus maybe?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I know I cracked tons of racquets in practice. It's hard to crack racquets on grass (smiling).

Q. Do you want to give us a preview of your game plan, how many times you plan to serve and volley?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, of course. Tune in (laughter).

End of FastScripts….

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