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September 6, 2002

Serena Williams


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Serena, please.

Q. I was talking to your dad yesterday. He said if you two were to meet in the final, that you were on top of your game more than Venus but it would come down to who wanted it more. Who wants it more?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I can't really say. Obviously I want to win more than anything. It's been three years since I won the US Open. I like winning here. I was able to win on grass and on the clay. I haven't done so well on hard court this summer, I haven't been able to play. So I really -- it's been my goal this year. After the Australian, I said last year I need to win the French, Wimbledon and the US Open. So it's all happening, so we'll see.

Q. Did you tell yourself you need to win all three?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I did. I always tell myself this. But it's finally gonna happen.

Q. Would the winning of a Grand Slam be a goal of yours?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I'd say most definitely. It would be very hard to reach with Venus and Lindsay, everyone playing so well, it would be a little difficult to reach that goal. But I'd say it's definitely one of my goals.

Q. Incredible comeback. Why do you think it happened?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, last week or a couple weeks ago Venus played Lindsay, she was down 3-5. I figured, "Well... It's now or never." I figured, "Well, if I get to the third set, either way I still think that I would still have as good a chance as she would." But I just didn't want to go that far. I just decided to give it my best. You know, I always used to be known for major comebacks. I tried to stop that.

Q. Andre and Pete have had a great rivalry in men's tennis for a while. They're not related obviously. Do you think you and Venus are capable of having that kind of rivalry with dramatic matches and Grand Slams?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think we're capable of having that rivalry. I think we're kind of building towards that rivalry. This is the third time - fourth time, in, what, five Grand Slams? So I think we're really trying to get it built.

Q. When you look back at when you were on this court the last time in a final, what do you see? What was she like?

SERENA WILLIAMS: She got beat bad...

Q. Why?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I was -- think I was overconfident going into that match. I was like, "Oh, I'm playing well. Beat Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport." You know, I was just overconfident, not focused enough. This year's totally different. Venus is playing great. She's been playing great all summer. So I know that she might maybe have a little bit of an edge going into this match, so I'm not overconfident at all. I've been looking at it, the past two times I've played her, like that. We'll see what happens.

Q. Two sisters meeting in their fourth Grand Slam final is absolutely remarkable. Based on your expectations coming up, developing, how remarkable is that to you?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm sorry. You lost me (laughing).

Q. Two sisters meeting in four Grand Slam finals is remarkable. I just wanted to know, based on what your expectations were, anticipating what your pro career would grant you, how remarkable is that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's definitely very remarkable. It's a feat that's never happened before. Growing up, I figured, "Hey, I want to be No. 1. I want to win Grand Slams." Venus obviously had the same goals. When you're young you don't really think about it on the scale that it's on because it's improbable really to think of it that way. I never thought of the attention we would get, the media. So I don't know.

Q. You said Venus has been playing great but you've been winning all the Slams. Has she fallen behind you a step?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, no, not at all. Not at all. Venus is definitely right there. A little bit ahead of me. I'm always trying to catch up with her and do the best that I can, so...

Q. You've always said that tennis is really not that big a thing in your life in a certain way. Put it this way: You put it in a perspective on the bigger picture. Could you talk about that.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, tennis is really all I have right now, so I'm really more focused. I don't necessarily put, like -- I think there's bigger -- I think with last year, with everything happening here in New York, I think people realized that you just can't -- you never know what tomorrow -- if tomorrow comes, you never know what happens. I've always been able to have my life that way. I figure that one should be very spiritually sound. I try to put God first in everything I do. My family, obviously, is something very important to me. And then my career. So I just try to have everything in perspective. Because as an athlete -- maybe if I was a businesswoman it would be different. But as an athlete, anything can happen. You never know.

So I just always try to look at it that way.

Q. Did your mother give you a lot of that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think it was the way I was brought up, being brought up as a Jehovah's Witness, my mom and my dad always being very firm behind me. So I think so.

Q. Did what happen in New York here last year change the way you approached your sport then?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I can't say it has, no. Not at all.

Q. You said with a little bit of almost irony in your voice that, "Tennis is my life now." Is it enough?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. For sure. It's more than I can handle. I'm really enjoying it (laughing). I really am. I'm having a great time.

Q. Coaches of your opponents think you're not just better physically than a lot of players, but also you have developed mentally. Was that something you concentrated on specifically?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I've always been able to think, I think (smiling). When I was younger I never -- like I said earlier or in another press conference, I never really hit hard, just hit angles, always thought my way through because I was really small. I guess I got older, I got a little bigger and stronger. But I think, yeah, I think -- I don't think it was just over this year. I think over a period of time since I've been a professional, I think I've gotten a lot stronger mentally. At times I would crack. I'd get angry, throw my racquet down. Yeah, so I've gotten -- definitely gotten stronger mentally.

Q. Lindsay commented she thinks facing your serve must be what the men face with Pete. She couldn't read you at all. You moved it around so well. Is that something you think you've gotten substantially better at?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, especially -- I think this tournament's the first time I served well this year. I'm very happy with the way I served. Been working really hard on getting my toss different, just some technical things on my serve. I think I was able to mix it up well, go out side, go up the T. I tried to mix it up.

Q. Who helped you with it? How did you come up with a new toss?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's not necessarily new. My dad. My dad, he does everything for me.

Q. It's been said that when you were young, you not only admired Pete but you modeled your serve to some extent towards that. Is that true in any way?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it is. I used to bring my foot up the way Pete does. But I kind of cut that out a little bit. I think my swing is a little -- like the way I get my shoulder turned, is a little bit like his. You have to have -- people that you admire when you're younger, you want to be like them or you want to serve like them or do whatever, so...

Q. Hank Aaron was in the crowd today.


Q. Did you admire him as a young person?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't... I can't say I really even knew at the time. But obviously, I know who he is. I really, really do admire Hank Aaron. I didn't know he was here. I was watching a program about him a while back, and I've done a lot of -- I've read a lot of things about him. That's really cool.

Q. Considering you've been beating Venus and you're ranked ahead of her, why do you feel you have to catch up to her?

SERENA WILLIAMS: That's what I keep telling myself, so I can have a goal.

Q. When you look back at the finals, what was the difference? Why were you able to win those two?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I guess I won some key points at some key times. My serve was doing well in the final, I think. I didn't make as many errors. I just -- maybe was just my turn, who knows? I know at Wimbledon, though, Venus' arm was hurting a bit. She was having a little trouble there. So I don't know. I just... I think just the way you win any match normally, I was just able to make the right shots at the right times.

Q. How good a player is your father?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Who asked me that?

Q. Back here.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, my dad's a really good player. I was hitting with him. He was returning my serve I think a couple days ago. He's really good. He used to beat us all the time when we were younger.

Q. When you're playing a match out there, are you aware of what he's doing? He walks around, takes pictures, sits down here, there. Dances a little. Are you aware of all that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I kind of see everything. Used to be one of my problems, I just see everything that's going on. So I kind of notice that he's walking around. But when he gets down to the knitty-gritty matches, he stays in one place normally, or we're in trouble, he always stays in one place. You know, that's my dad. He gives us lots of pictures, so it's great.

Q. Are you satisfied with the justice system taking care of the German who is being deported to Germany?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, the police here did a very good job. They were out on the look for him. I know a couple people stayed up over 24 hours just, I mean, for me. I really -- you can see why New York has been applauding so many of their police officers and firefighters. They really do do a good job. I just really owe them all a lot of thanks. They were wonderful. The district attorney went out of her way. She was a very nice lady. She went out of her way to ask me and help me out and settle this case. Hopefully, it will all be settled now and in the future, but it started here. This is a big step because he's been doing this for a while. So this is definitely a big step. He came to New York. He came to the wrong state maybe (smiling). Maybe if he would have went somewhere else, it might have been different. But they did a wonderful, wonderful job.

Q. You said you modeled your serve after Pete. Andre used to be the one that would come to the Open in new clothes, different hair styles, was the flashy one. Did you admire that when you were watching him, too, the willingness to take chances?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Honestly, I don't remember Andre that much. I remember him as a player, but I remember more like Boris Becker and Pete Sampras and Mats Wilander, Ivan Lendl. I don't know why he's not -- I've always liked Andre for sure, but I don't understand why.

Q. LA is a real flash capital. Are you going to come up with something interesting fashion-wise? You have to for the championships.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it is in LA. No, not this year. But maybe. Maybe I'll go and do something a little special.

Q. How is your attitude towards an opponent any different from your attitude towards Venus when you play her?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, my attitude's the same when I'm playing Venus because she's my opponent. I'm sure her attitude's the same because I'm her opponent. This is for all the marbles. This is for the championship, the points, a Grand Slam. So it's definitely something that we're just really fighting for. It's going to be a slugfest.

Q. You're going for your third Grand Slam title of the year. The stalker guy was around, you were just able to block that out. How were you able to do that? It's amazing, really.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I guess... Nothing surprises me anymore these days. I'm pretty much jaded in every aspect (smiling). No, all right, I don't know. I guess I'm blessed to be able to block things out in my mind.

Q. Never got in your head?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No. I never -- I don't really get involved too much with the press. I try not to get too involved. I just try and stay focused and things like that. So I don't really get involved.

Q. Do you think you might hit some balls with Venus before the finals?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I mean, maybe. We do. We normally hit with each other.

Q. You normally spend time together the night before?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, you guys are crazy. Of course. I mean, we're -- until 8:30, we'll be friends. Then when the match is over, we'll be friends again.

Q. Would you be reluctant to distance yourself from your sister athletically? Do you sense a reluctance to do that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't understand. What do you mean? How would I distance myself?

Q. To really say, "What if I am better?" The way any athlete might say that about themselves, regardless of who their opponent. Would you be reluctant to do that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I would never be reluctant to go out and work hard and try to get better. But at this point, I think Venus and I are very even, are very close to each other.

Q. If you thought it were advantageous to your game to not be around her all that much, would that be something that you would do?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's definitely something that's not serving as an impediment to my game, being around Venus. It's like I said, we're -- family's first, and that's what matters most. Because anything can happen. I don't want to get a bad rap with her and ten years down the road, I need help. That's not the way we do it. We realize that our love goes deeper than the tennis game.

Q. When you're on changeover - I've been fortunate enough to watch all three of the Grand Slams you played this year - what are you thinking about when you're sitting there? I look through my lens and it seems like you're focusing, your eyes are closed. Can you hear the noise around you, the comments people make?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I hear. I don't really hear the comments or anything, but I hear just noise, people just talking. I don't really hear it much. I'm just focusing on what I want to do when I get out there. If I'm sitting down there, I take a deep breath, I think about my serve, where I want to serve for four -- hopefully only four points. I go from there. That's what I think about.

Q. Which major do you have the most fun?

SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I love New York. Venus said she likes Wimbledon. I said, "Well, you know, I like New York." But I hadn't won Wimbledon at the time (smiling). I can't really say. I love them all. It's a different experience when you're able to win, so it's a totally different experience. I won Paris and, you know, I love Paris, I love the clay. I won Wimbledon, you know, I love England, I love the grass.

Q. Do you find the comparisons between you and your sister with Tiger Woods to be fair?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't understand why...

Q. You're considered so above everyone else.

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't see anything negative about it. I think Tiger Woods is -- I think he's obviously a great athlete.

Q. But that the opponents have a defeatist attitude that they can't compete on his level on his normal day.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, wow... Well, I don't know. You guys do the comparisons.

Q. I've covered Tiger at a lot of tournaments. The players talk about feeling a great opportunity to be able to play in his era because he's forced them to raise the level of their game; he's brought out the best in them. I just asked Lindsay about her thoughts in playing in the Williams era. She said she felt also that it was a great opportunity because it forces them to raise the level of their games. How do you feel about that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, that's a huge compliment for Venus and I. I don't really know what to say about that. We just were starting out as young kids playing tennis and practicing and practicing and promising to be the best and promising to at one point be at this stage in our lives. It's... it's shocking (with an accent).

Q. (Laughter) You're not at Wimbledon.


Q. It seemed like such a smooth ride to the top for both of you. Was there ever a time, once you had broken into the tour, that it's been rough?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It hasn't been a smooth ride at all. There have been a lot of hiccups. I've had a couple of injuries, lots and lots of losses. It's never a smooth way to the top. There's always a rocky place that you can just put your foot on in order to get to the next area.

End of FastScripts….

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