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January 26, 2017

Venus Williams

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

V. WILLIAMS/C. Vandeweghe

6-7, 6-2, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. That was quite a celebration at the end. Could you tell us what you were feeling at this moment.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I know, that moment was just joy. It was a heartfelt match. If the match is 6-2, 6-2, you know, the moment is kind of clear that it's going to happen. But she played so well. There was never a moment where she wasn't just hitting the ball amazing and striking the ball with just such precision.

It's always very satisfying to be able to get through in such a big match against an opponent who was just on fire.

Q. CoCo said in the second set you seemed to make some adjustments that really kind of bothered her. Can you talk through your mindset after that first set, what adjustments you might have made.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I mean, to be honest, the way she was playing the match, it was like I was just going to have to play defense, try to play offense whenever I had an opportunity.

I want to dictate, but the way she was playing, it was almost impossible to do so. So it was just about trying to control the point in whichever way that was. If that meant that defensively I controlled the point, or I was able to get a little offense, whatever it was.

I mean, just be the one winning the point at the end somehow.

Q. Can you talk about your serve, as well. It started to pick up in the second set, finding some clutch first serves on breakpoints.
VENUS WILLIAMS: In the first set I served more conservatively. In the second, I just decided I was going to go for more. It was just really a mentality at that point. I know she's looking for a second serve. It's important to try not to give your opponent what they want.

As the match went longer, the bigger I went on the second. Thankfully I was comfortable doing that and executing it and just going in. It worked. It worked.

Q. Obviously you come to every tournament with confidence. With how everything went in Auckland, the injury, coming in with doubts, are you especially surprised this is the tournament where you're back in a final?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I mean, honestly, all the signs didn't look that way in Auckland. Of course, I dreamed of it because I definitely worked hard in the off-season. It was not a great start, I'll just say that.

But still I know I can play. You just have to, like, try to figure it out if you can get it to line up all at the same time. That's why you get out and you try. As long as you continue to try, you have an opportunity. That's why I'm here.

Q. As you said in the interview, you spent a lot of the match on the back foot, on defense. How did that feel, to have to deal with the barrage of huge forehands?
VENUS WILLIAMS: It felt very weird because I never do that. Also, at the same time, I'm versatile. I can adjust. I can do what I need to do to win a match.

I feel comfortable when I'm uncomfortable at the same time. Even if I'm in a position where I don't want to be at, it's not going to throw me off.

The good part is that, of course, my game is offensive. To win big tournaments, you have to have some sort of offensive game, whatever that may be. At the same time I also have a good defensive game.

I think the combination was, you know, a difference in the match.

Q. Were you prepared for that? Was that an adjustment you had to make from the start?
VENUS WILLIAMS: The way she's been playing this tournament, it's like knock-out, not missing, just playing beautifully. Unless the nerves get to you or you just have a bad day, I had to expect that she was going to be able to execute that once again, and she did.

Q. These sort of opportunities to play in a slam final are what you work so hard for. Did you ever think, I might not have this chance again, all those might be behind me?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Not at all. Not at all. Even the matches I'm not winning, I'm still in control, normally, of every match that I have the opportunity. It's on my racquet, always putting myself in position to be where I need to be.

Clearly these matches are challenging, physically, mentally, all of that. It's a challenge. But I'm up for the challenge.

Also, if I'm here, that's why I'm here. I'm not just here to hang out halfway around the world. This is a long way to come for a hangout session (smiling).

Whether you win, lose or draw, it's very focused of why you're here.

Q. What would it take for you to win the final, as your matches against Serena are never ordinary?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Honestly, I probably just need to continue playing like I'm playing. I haven't played badly. I lost a set today. I was not happy about it. But my opponent deserved that set. So what else could I do? Try to get the next two.

I will try to do the same.

Q. What do you remember from your last final here?
VENUS WILLIAMS: It was like a battle royale. It was so intense. I just couldn't climb on top her that day. She was so good. It was wonderful.

Q. Do you feel many feelings on revenge right now?
VENUS WILLIAMS: What does this mean?

Q. Do you really want to win it this time?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, God, yeah, for sure.

Q. Is it a special revenge feeling?
VENUS WILLIAMS: These are words I never use.

Q. People often speak about your rivalry with Serena. They tell you it's extraordinary, all of that. From your perspective, does it feel normal, or does it feel kind of extraordinary?
VENUS WILLIAMS: When I'm playing on the court with her, I think I'm playing, like, the best competitor in the game. I don't think I'm chump change either, you know. I can compete against any odds. No matter what, I get out there and I compete.

So it's like two players who really, really can compete, then also they can play tennis. Then, okay, won't be an easy match. It's like I know that it won't be easy. You have to control yourself, then you also have to hopefully put your opponent in a box. This opponent is your sister, and she's super awesome.

It's wonderful.

Q. It's been seven and a half years since your last slam final. Do you think it will feel like a familiar feeling or something you have to readjust to playing on that stage for those stakes?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I haven't thought about that. I don't know. At the end of the day, my main goal will be to execute my game. I've had to do that in the first round. I had to do it in this round. In the final, too.

If I can achieve that, that's more or less what I'll be thinking of, not necessarily that it's the final. Of course, you think of that, too. I mean, that's normal. But if you're especially mentally strong, you can block that out, too, so I'll try.

Q. It's said with your courage, your longevity, sporting ability, that you're an inspiration to children, to people everywhere. Talk about your role inspiring people and the role of athletes to touch people's lives. Is that something you reflect on?
VENUS WILLIAMS: What I will say about sport, I think why people love sport so much, is because you see everything in a line. In that moment there is no do-over, there's no retake, there is no voice-over. It's triumph and disaster witnessed in real-time. This is why people live and die for sport, because you can't fake it. You can't. It's either you do it or you don't.

People relate to the champion. They also relate to the person also who didn't win because we all have those moments in our life.

Is it an athlete's job to inspire? Inherently what I think athletes do at a top level inspires people, but each person takes that responsibility differently.

Q. You and Serena have grown up, if you like, and I don't mean that disparagingly, since you used to play Grand Slam finals. Will the dynamic still be the same? Will you see each other a lot before the final?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't think we'll be doing anything too much different than what we have already done these past, er, 20 years. No need to change something that's already working.

Q. How different do the stakes feel from your first Grand Slam in 1997?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I had no idea what I was doing then. But, you know, got to get to one before you get to another. Not all of us win our first one. It's a very difficult thing to do. I was a child. I'm still a child at heart.

The stakes are different. It's history. It's a wonderful place to be at both times.

Q. You say you're still a child at heart. One of the things about the finals coming up is the average age of people who are playing. Today you unnerved CoCo in the second set. Do you think part of that is that decade more of experience and more strategy that you might have in your arsenal that other players may not necessarily have?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm not even sure how old she is, to be honest.

What was the question?

Q. Do you think that you're more experienced than other people, and in general the reason why there's so many 30-year-olds in the finals, what does that say about experience?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think people realize this is an amazing job, so it's best to keep it. I think this generation is going to inspire the rest of the generations to, obviously, play a schedule that's achievable, sustainable, and that you can play Grand Slam tennis for a long time.

This is beautiful for the game because it will be able to retain its stars for a long time, which is a great business model.

Also in terms of experience, I mean, I've won majors and played in finals at this age, I guess, and also before. Experience definitely helps. Being there for the first time is not easy. As two big servers in the second and third set, I served second, so it's not ideal, but it worked out.

It's a first time for her. She'll learn from it. She'll grow. She's determined. I don't see anything stopping her from continuing to be successful.

Q. What part of Serena's game do you hope to exploit in the final?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't think there's necessarily anything to exploit. It's just about building a point that works for you, that's going to work for me. If I can build a point, you know, to win it.

Every point's going to be a little different. She doesn't have too many weaknesses.

Q. What will it mean for you to win on Saturday?
VENUS WILLIAMS: It would be beautiful. It would be beautiful. I have to earn it, so... It's not a given. I'm going to do what I can to earn it. I'm not thinking about, Oh, what would it be like to win? I'm thinking about, What do I have to do to earn that? That's my mentality right now.

I'm so excited after that last match. But my mind changes over quickly into what's at stake next, so that's where I am.

Q. You and Serena both had, throughout your careers, a lot of other interests outside of tennis. Has that contributed to your longevity in tennis?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I believe there's a genuine love for competing. You have to enjoy that because there's a lot of moments out there where you are not happy with your game. It's not necessarily a ton of fun, that frustration.

You have to enjoy that process, and you have to love the game. I think you have to balance your schedule and maybe not train yourself into the ground. So you got to find that happy medium.

Thank you, guys.

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