April 25, 2003
CZECH REPUBLIC vs. USA, LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS
THE MODERATOR: Questions from the press, please.
Q. Venus, can you tell us about your opponent. What do you know about her, your opening round opponent?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yes, I've played her at least once. I don't know if I played her again, but she's a very good player, has a very solid game. It's a very funny thing that happens when you get in a team competition - you feel more motivated because it's not just for you, it's for your team and the whole country. That's the kind of competition I'll have to be ready for tomorrow.
Q. Venus, Serena, you've done this before but not since 1999. You say there's more motivation, but is there more nerves playing for your country? Is it a little different? The Davis Cup players say that's all different, but they're guys so they fall apart (laughter). But how about you kids?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. I don't know. I suppose in a way it does feel different because it counts toward going to the next round and goes down in history to be a winning team on the Fed Cup. But more than anything, it's just the whole experience of being on the team with the other players and with coaches, and the whole experience is what you take to memory for the rest of your life.
Q. Can you talk about why you decided to play this year. Was it because the last couple years you saw the U.S. go down and you thought, "Well, maybe they need us to come in and help them out a little bit"?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Serena...
Q. You have to talk, Serena, a little.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I've always wanted to play the Fed Cup, but with the way the schedule is on the tennis tour, sometimes it's tough to make a commitment so early. And sometimes I do take a week to rest, but it definitely is a high priority for me and probably for Serena also. We love being here and love being with the other players also.
Q. Serena and Venus, can you talk about working with Billie Jean this week and how that's gone for you guys?
CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: I'm leaving (laughter). No, I won't leave. Wait a minute (covering her ears).
SERENA WILLIAMS: It's been really great to have an opportunity to work with Billie. She's such a great coach. And Zina as well, she's also the assistant coach on the team. They really are able to see some things in my game that maybe my dad or my mom aren't able to pick up on at the moment. It's always good to get a different view and to get different people to look at your game. I think Billie is just fabulous to work with. She has the best sayings. She's extremely motivating. It just makes me want to work harder. Just to be able to be out there with her, I think, is a great opportunity.
Q. Alexandra, it's your first time on the team. Talk about that. Billie was saying yesterday you've been bugging her for years to put you on the team, and that you're excited as anyone out there now.
ALEXANDRA STEVENSON: I'm very excited to be on the team. My first year, I'm going to be a very good bench-warmer, good cheerleader this week (laughing). It's a great learning experience for me of just being with everyone - Meghann, Venus, Serena, Allie and Jimmy and Zina. Lynn Rawley is here. I think it's a great opportunity to learn a lot this week. I've already learned a lot with my volleys. You have the two best serve-and-volley players in the world coaching us this week. It's just an awesome experience for me, and I'm really excited to be here.
Q. Billie Jean, how do you keep this team from being overconfident?
CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: Well, I think actually the better you get, the more you understand, the more history you have, the more you understand that you can never take anything for granted. To keep your position at such a high level, as all of these players do, they know that they actually have to work harder to maintain or to improve. So I think being overconfident, that's the least of our worries on this team actually. The most difficult thing on this team is not to laugh... I'm serious. We have laughed so hard this whole week. It's been a wonderful experience. So, I mean, we talk about that, take one ball at a time, and really have high intensity is very important. But these players did not get where they are without those qualities, so they really do understand. If you talk to every single player or coach, they can all tell you how many losses I've had. You lose a lot, too. You learn that you don't like it, and that you improve from that. But everyone here is not overconfident, I can tell you that. Zina and I and the rest of our hitting partners and everything, we're very clear to keep everyone grounded. These players are very grounded also because of their caregivers. Their parents are people who have taken care of them all their lives. You can tell they all come from very good families and are very grounded and they know they're very blessed. I think that makes for a great team.
Q. Had any of you ever heard of Lowell before (laughter)?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, we hadn't. I hadn't.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I haven't.
MEGHANN SHAUGHNESSY: No, I can't say that I had either (laughing).
ALEXANDRA STEVENSON: I haven't either, but I have to say Venus says "Lowell" very musically. She calls it "Lo-well" (laughter).
CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: I've heard of Lowell because my grandmother was born here (applause).
Q. Do you know anything about your opponent, Serena?
CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: Why don't you repeat the question so everyone knows what the question was.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Have I played my opponent, do I know my opponent. Which one, both of them? My first opponent I've never played, Iveta Benesova. I never played her. I don't really know her name. But in tennis, you just have to go out and play your game.
Q. Meghann, you're the only player on this squad who played last year and suffered the defeat. How motivating is it for you to be back on the team?
MEGHANN SHAUGHNESSY: The question was the difference between last year and this year. Yeah, last year was my rookie year on the Fed Cup team. Although it was different to say the least, it was a great experience for me. I was really looking forward to this year and to hopefully have the opportunity to come and play again. It's so exciting for me to be on a team with such great players and great people. I hope that I will be back many years to come.
Q. Have you been able to do any sight-seeing?
CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: Alexandra said Bally's Fitness Center. That's been what we do, and the spa. The spa and the Bally's Fitness Center, where we do weights and work out. It's a very full schedule.
VENUS WILLIAMS: We saw City Hall.
CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: That's right. You talk, go, go.
VENUS WILLIAMS: We've seen the whole city, City Hall, that takes time. Museum.
ALEXANDRA STEVENSON: We had a police escort. How many people have a police escort in their lives? We got there in like 20 minutes. It was really cool.
CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: The Lowell Police and the Boston Police coordinated, thanks to Pete and Tom Pistoni, who are security people. They got that totally organized. It was absolutely flawless going into the city and back. Thanks to the police of both cities.
ALEXANDRA STEVENSON: We had a fabulous dinner at The Palm thanks to Carol and Ann Marie, and Cobblestones in Lowell. No one can forget the Doubletree, on the 9th floor.
CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: Don't tell them (laughter).
ALEXANDRA STEVENSON: Sorry. Okay. I never said that (laughter).
CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: The rookie. Now the security alert - red alert, red alert.
ALEXANDRA STEVENSON: Orange.
CAPTAIN BILLIE JEAN KING: Geez Louise. It's red, not orange.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you all very much.
End of FastScriptsÃ¢?Â¦.