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April 26, 2003

Serena Williams


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. I have to say, your outfit and sneakers are fabulous.


Q. Did Iveta throw you off in the first set, because you had to face her for the first time?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, there's a lot of opponents out there that I never faced before. I think it threw me off, her being lefty. I didn't know she was lefty. I figured I was playing a right-hander (laughter).

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: I can't believe it! That's great! Well, I'm going to get fired, that's for sure! I'm out of here... (Laughter). Okay, I'm going to sit back and relax and enjoy this.

Q. Billie Jean, did you know you're the only woman on the Top 10 list of ESPN.com heroes?

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: That's scary. That just shows you we have a long way to go as far as women's sports.

Q. How nervous were you for Serena in the first set?

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: I'm always nervous. It's a good nervous. It's just in anticipation of watching Serena do her best. We've been working really hard -- well, she's been working really hard.

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, we've been working really hard.

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: She's the one that has to hit the ball. I can't stand coaches, "Oh, we really hit our forehand well today." She really worked very hard this last week. We talked about what it is being No. 1 and how difficult it is and how you have to stay committed in a daily way, that it's a privilege and a real blessing. She knows that anyway, but she certainly worked very hard this week to prove it and is paying the price. I don't know how hard she's been paying the price before she got here, I don't know, I can only judge what I've seen when I've been with her. But she's such a great competitor. The one thing that all of us realized, you know, through practice this week is she's really the complete package, she doesn't really have a weakness. She has so many strengths. She's quick. She's smooth. Her technique is excellent on everything. It's just a joy to work with her. It's just, I mean, I just sit back and relax and watch somebody who's very blessed and who's worked very hard.

Q. Any concern for you during the match, the first set particularly?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, not at all. I just keep fighting and keep saying, "Oh, this point, this point." I think she played really well in the first set. But same time, I probably should have tried some different techniques.

Q. Billie Jean, a couple of 40-love games for Serena. I'm saying to myself, "She should play serve and volley."

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: This is an ongoing saga since Ancona which was four years - was it four years I think? When Serena and Venus, they were the rookies that year in Fed Cup. Been challenging them, Zina and I and the whole support team, challenging them to go to net and challenging Serena. To be that gifted as an athlete, to be so quick, it's just a matter of making a commitment, an early commitment, to go to the net. But can you imagine if she starts going to the net more often, too? It can only get better. But, yes. To answer your question, Bud, I would like to see Serena going to net more often.

Q. How do you feel about that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I would like to see myself go to the net as well.

Q. What do you have to do to do that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's slowly - and very slowly - coming along.

Q. It seemed like you didn't find your timing until the beginning of the second set, especially on the backhand side. Is it not playing a couple weeks? What was happening there?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I think I was just going for too much. I think I should have just took some pace off the ball and just tried to move her around, do what I've been doing the past year and a half, as opposed to just blasting every ball.

Q. How tough is it playing a lefty?

SERENA WILLIAMS: For me, I'm okay with it. Really no huge difference. I mean, they have different spins, but other than that, it's pretty much the same game.

Q. When you were down set point, did something kind of click in your head? Did you go into another gear and decide you had to go into another gear?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I had to go to another gear. I didn't feel like going three sets today (laughter). I just said -- I was serving, too, so I knew that I had an opportunity to bring it back.

Q. Talk about the situation of the team being up 2-0.

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: It's interesting, people always ask those questions. I don't know. When I played and as a coach, I really try to get the players to stay very intense and think about each ball. I know when I played, I just tried to pretend it was matchpoint every ball and just kept my intensity, and try to pass that on to the players today. I think it's just a matter of staying in the now and being present. That's it. To think ahead and to underestimate or just think, "Oh, everything's cushy," you just cannot do that in life or on the tennis court. It's very important, tomorrow's a new day, new opportunities, take one ball at a time with high intensity, total commitment, and the process will take care of the end result.

Q. Billie Jean, will you change the line-up if Venus and Serena go out and do what they're supposed to tomorrow?

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: Actually, I don't have a choice in the line-up. I wish I did, but I don't. In this ITF event, the rule is that tomorrow the No. 1 will play against the No. 1. It's very set. The only thing we really drew for yesterday was the order in which they would go today. But No. 1 will play No. 1 tomorrow. No. 1 played No. 2 today on each team. That's just the way it's set up. We've been trying to get the doubles to be the middle match. We've been very ineffective in doing that. We would love that. But we also have to think about the smaller countries that don't have the depth, and smaller countries as far as population, if they only have one or two really great players, they always want to play their singles before doubles. So I do appreciate that.

Q. Serena, I watch you all the time. What do you say when you push that hand down? What are you saying to yourself?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I'm getting myself to calm down, saying, "It's okay." I don't even realize I'm doing it. "It's okay." There's nothing I can do about the shot that I missed, so I just stay relaxed.

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: That's what that body language is staying, "Calm down." It's like, "Calm down, girl. It's okay."

Q. Talk about how well Venus played today.

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: She was so excited after the match. I have not seen her that excited in a long time. She was genuinely dancing up and down, saying, "That's the best I've played all year," striking the ball. She was real happy with her serve, first and second. Just genuinely excited that she could get one up there for the team. I must tell you, it's been a fabulous week, no matter -- I told you what happened. This team has been incredible. The toughest thing we've had to do all week is to stop laughing, I'm serious. We've made ourselves sick from laughing so hard. Our heads hurt, our stomachs hurt, our cheeks are cramping. This group has just been hysterical and absolutely wonderful. The addition of having Jamea Jackson and Ally Baker, two young players, I think has been so positive. And Serena and Venus and Meghann and Alexandra have taken them under their wings, but particularly the three older ones. You just have done a great job of taking care of them, and including them. It's really important that -- Zina and I and Carol Graebner and all of us, we keep trying to create this culture over the years that we don't just want great players, we want champions in life. I know you've heard it before, but I'm going to keep saying it, this consistent message, that it's about character, integrity, to have a good time, have fun, take care of each other so we can be productive human beings. That's really what this whole experience is about. We try to bring the younger ones up as well. I must say, we're very blessed to have such great players but, more importantly, people of great character that are passing down their values to the younger ones as they come up. That's what this is all about. They're not going to be tennis players forever, but they certainly can set a good example for themselves and to others in how they walk and talk the game of life.

Q. What do you do for cramped cheeks? Is it massage (laughter)?

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: Cheryl Wells was doing a lot (rubbing her cheeks), our massage therapist. But it's just been an incredible experience.

Q. Serena, Czech Republic has a great tennis tradition. How much do you know about that and how much do you know about Czech Republic?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, honestly, I can't say I know too much about the tradition of tennis in the Czech Republic. I know Martina Navratilova, I know there's lots of great players who came from Czech. Actually, I believe Martina Hingis is originally from Czech, as well as her mother. They've obviously produced a lot of great champions. Throughout the years, they've produced a lot of intense moments on the tour, on the women's tour, women's circuit. Unfortunately, it's provided a lot of tough matches for me (smiling).

Q. Would you like to visit?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yes, I would. I would love to. I have never had a chance to go to the Slavic area over there, so one day I would love to make it.

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: I would like to go to the Czech Republic, never mind her! I'm running out of time (laughter). I wish I could have gone that time that Martina Navratilova - "Martina Senior" I call her - had gone when they played Fed Cup. Chris Evert, I think, was on the team as well. That would have been great.

Q. Zina was on the team as well.

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: What a great, that was just incredible. Martina keeps saying she'll take me to the Czech Republic and show me around. You know, I've had the privilege of meeting people like George Parma, one of her first coaches, in Palm Springs years and years ago. Jan Kodes won in 1973, the same year I won Wimbledon. It has a great history. Drobny back in '54, playing a four- or five-set victory over Ken Rosewall at Wimbledon. I mean, all those things. I love reading my history. It's been quite wonderful. The Czech Republic has a tremendous amount of Grand Slam victories. I think over 70. Whatever, Bud, you said the other night. How many Grand Slams?

Q. It was Schwartz who said it, but lots. Principally women.

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: Doesn't matter. I think they've been great with women's sports there, though. Girls are very encouraged to be in every sport when they're young. They can all ski, they can do anything. They're unbelievable athletes. I'm thrilled we could play against the Czech Republic here. It's a real honor.

Q. Serena, can you see yourself playing Fed Cup again in July assuming you pick up the third point tomorrow?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I can never assume, but hopefully we'll be able to win, I'll be able to win another singles match tomorrow. But I would really like to try. I know there's a lot of interesting cities that are on the bid for it. I've always wanted to bring tennis to some of these cities and have an opportunity to play.

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: Which one? (Laughter).

SERENA WILLIAMS: There's one in particular.

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: You can tell me later.


Q. Billie Jean, can you just talk about the City of Lowell as a host, how they've done, the hospitality?

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: It's been incredible. Serena and I talk about it, but we've been out, we've been all -- you know, it's not that huge a city, which is great. We can get to see it pretty quickly. But the people, that always makes the difference in life. And they've been incredible to us, their hospitality. I must say the food has been dyn-o-mite. It's been so great, so healthy and so wonderful. We've been to Cobblestones, they've been to the spa, why don't you tell them? You guys went to the spa. Nails, hair, toe nails, very important (laughter). That's the only time we've had off, really, is for them to get manicures and pedicures. We've been to the museum. I know Venus wants to go to the Quilt Museum. She's like excited about that. So it's really the people that make the difference.

Q. Billie Jean, Venus said earlier that her experience this week has sold her on the idea of Fed Cup and playing for the team. How gratifying is that to you to hear something like that?

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: It's very gratifying, but I think it's mutual. That's why I say it's just been very unbelievable chemistry this whole week. It's been so much fun. It was fun watching... (laughing)... Serena, Venus and Zina braiding Meghann Shaughnessy's hair right before they went to sleep. And I swear, they had three of them hanging over her like this with mousse and braiding (laughter). Shaughnessy chickened out. She washed it out the next day. She chickened out. We got 50 percent there. The next time, if we're all on the same team, I guarantee you Shaughnessy is going to come in with the big hair next time.

Q. Serena, what does it mean to you to play with Venus?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's great, just as it is to play with Alexandra and to play with Meghann Shaughnessy. It's just great to be on a team as Americans and all competing together and not playing against one another. It really brings us together well.

Q. Talk about getting back on the winning track after the match against Henin. Just to get back out there and win again, how does it feel?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Obviously, it feels great to win. My focus right now is on Fed Cup. I'm not really thinking about anything else.

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: That's why she's No. 1. She does stay in the moment unbelievably well.

Q. What about tomorrow, Serena?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I've played Daja a few times. I took a few pointers from Venus today, so I'm going to be ready. I'm going to be excited.

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: She's a good all-around player.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. She has good volleys, good ground strokes.

CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: Yeah, she can do everything. Thank you, everyone. Thanks for being here. Thanks for helping get Fed Cup known. Come on, kids!

End of FastScripts….

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