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March 10, 2018

Serena Williams

Indian Wells, California

S. WILLIAMS/K. Bertens

7-6, 7-5

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Did that feel more like business as usual today?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, my gosh. You guys are crazy (laughter). No. I'm getting there. I have a long way to go. I have such a long way to go.

It definitely felt better than the first round, but, I mean, I'm still a little rusty. I'm still making errors that I don't normally make.

But I call this a trial run, you know. Even with the baby, like, a trial run of traveling with the baby and all of this is just so new to me.

Yeah, I'm getting there.

Q. Do you find yourself being kinder to yourself out there when you're making mistakes or things you wouldn't normally do?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I definitely do. Olympia has tons of footage of me not being kind to myself. So I'm like, Okay, I need to not be so negative, even though it's hard.

Yeah, I have come so far. There was moments literally when I'm in the hospital bed and I just think about that. And I go, Serena, you're doing good, you're doing good no matter what. So I think that's helping me out, too.

Q. Talk a little bit about that first set tiebreak and the emotion you went through in getting that under your belt?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It's always good to get a tiebreak win, especially the first set under your belt. She was playing well. She played really well in that first set. She was ahead.

And that was also really good, because being able to come back, you know, and feel that rush of, okay, I'm down, I'm down, but I'm still fighting, to be able to come back I think was also really important.

Q. Is it crazy to think that only two matches into your return you get to play your sister or is it too soon for that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Definitely. She's had such a good year last year and playing fantastic tennis.

But I have to play a seed regardless, sooner than later most times for the next couple of tournaments. So I have to be ready, you know. Whether it's Venus or anyone else, it's going to be someone.

Obviously I wish it was anybody else in the draw, literally anybody, but that's okay. Just have to go out there and see how I am and do my best.

Q. Does it really matter whether it's third round or a final? Because this is the earliest you're going to be facing one another since that first match you played at the Australian Open 20 years ago.

Q. Second round in Melbourne.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. So what was the question?

Q. Does it really matter if it's, like, third round or final or semi?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Absolutely. I think it's a huge difference to play her in the semifinals or even the quarterfinals or a final as opposed to the third round. You know, we can always stay in the tournament longer if, you know, the both of us are in the tournament. And having to play each other in the third round, one of us is going to be gone. So it's definitely a lot easier to play later on.

Q. I know the match never happened 17 years ago, but it's been a long, long time obviously. Does it seem strange that this match has never happened?

Q. The match you were supposed to play was '01 here.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I literally didn't even think about it. That's, you know, totally gone out of my mind. First of all, 17 years ago seems like forever ago. Yikes.

Yeah, that's good. Again, I wish it were a little bit later, but just happy to still be in the tournament at this point.

Q. So much water under the bridge, but are you happy the match does finally take place here and gets to happen?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I honestly never thought about it. So again, I would prefer to play someone else, anybody else, literally anybody else, but it has to happen now. So it is what it is.

Q. What are your plans for the months to come? Are you going to make massive changes compared to before? Do you want a lighter schedule even for the clay? Have you already decided?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I have a really light schedule already. So obviously I want to work on getting my ranking to where I can, you know, just feel good about my ranking (smiling).

But I don't know how much lighter I can go. I don't really play a lot. I just usually play tournaments and I try to do really good in those tournaments so I don't have to play every week.

And it's different, you know, traveling with a kid. I definitely want to spend as much time as I can with her. My priorities are different.

Q. You said after your first match that you miss the baby so much you almost cried before you went out there. How about tonight?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm doing much better today. I left pretty early, left like around 11:00. It's 6:00, and I haven't come close to tears today, so that's good.

I definitely miss her. I might start coming to press on time now, because all I can think about is wanting to get back as fast as I can.

So considering, I'm doing pretty good today time-wise. So it all helps out.

Q. You talked about 17 years ago, but you have been in this game for a good while. Could you just comment on how you think the game of tennis has changed the most? One or two ways that the sport has changed over the years you have been in the game?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Wow. I feel like, you know, obviously the game is faster, the players are much faster in terms of running, a lot of the players hit harder. The quality has gone up so much.

But, you know, it's a lot of -- I think a lot more camaraderie on the tour, as well. It's just fun times.

Q. You just touched on the ranking aspect, and then obviously a lighter schedule. What are your thoughts as far as ranking targets and what time or date or whatever that you might have in your mind?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I have a lot of goals. I don't usually talk about them, though. I definitely have some set and some targets in my mind that I want to reach, and it will be fun to reach those.

Q. What have you missed most from the tour while you have been away?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I love competing. You know, I love going out there and doing what I think I do best, and I think that's what I missed most was just competing.

Q. In your book "On the Line," you talked about notebooks and how you would keep entries. What type of entry would you make today?
SERENA WILLIAMS: So the notes were just things that I would want to do on the court. Like, you know, just tips that I would tell myself to do on the tennis court. It wasn't necessarily after -- although that's a really good idea. I should keep things after so I would know how to -- what I would want to improve on, but I never really did that.

Q. Could you talk about the first time you ever played Venus, if you can recall back? And also, was there a favorite match you can recall playing against Venus?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think the first time I played her you guys weren't there. It was somewhere in Compton. Although that's not true. Well, you weren't there. That's true (smiling).

It was in juniors. I think I was, like, 8. She was 10. Or -- yeah. That was the first time we played. She beat me, beat me good. But she was really nice.

Q. Is that the time she gave you the trophy?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, she gave me the trophy because I was so upset. I have always been a sore loser, but she's been really amazing. I can really learn from her.

Obviously the first time professionally was at Australia? I think? Was that -- yeah. And I thought I played well. I remember, you know, playing well in the first set and not doing so well in the second. Overall, I think I played really well. We have so many great memories.

My favorite match against her? I don't think I have a favorite match. I definitely don't have a favorite match. I really abhor every time we play, but I do enjoy the battle when I'm out there. It's just afterwards I don't like it as much.

Q. Vika told us that you have been very supportive to her and what she's going through, and I just want to know what was your reaction when you saw that she won after you had won that night?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I was really happy for her. She texted me right after her match and she said congrats to me, and I was really happy for her, too. You know, she's doing so well. She's going through so much, and she's so positive. You know, she just has this great energy about her, and I just love it.

Q. When you walk out onto the court these first two matches, the announcers say "Welcome home, Serena." It's something that the sideline reporters have said to you and your sister and the fans have yelled from the stands. Do you feel at home here? Do you feel at home here? How does it feel to play at Indian Wells?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I have so many friends that come here, so it definitely has more of a homey feeling. I love that. I love that reception that I get and I love the welcome home. I'm from Southern California, not this far south, but pretty far south. But yeah.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the ball boys and the volunteers and how important they are for a player? Because I always hear at the end of the tournament players saying ball boys were great. So I wonder, are there any ball boys that really suck? Can you just talk about ball boys and volunteers and how important they are for the tournament and players themselves?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think the ball kids they do really, really good. I can't say any of them are really bad. I mean, they're kids, you know.

No, they all do so well. Sometimes they get nervous and you have to think, like, these are kids that a lot of them play tennis and a lot of them are out here. And they have this such amazing opportunity to be with their idols and people they have grown up just really watching, and now they're there at center court.

So, yeah, and the volunteers are great, too. They are volunteering their time to sit in the locker rooms or to, you know, help with security. And so it's really amazing how things are run.

Q. Have you ever been a ball kid even if not in a big tournament or for Venus in practice or something?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't think so at a tournament. I have been a ball kid in practice a zillion times over, but I was a ball kid a lot when I was pregnant.

Yeah, I don't think I was ever a ball kid.

Q. How much of Venus' matches last year, how many did you get to watch closely? What do you think about the way she was playing versus the way when she was younger?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I didn't watch a single match of hers. I think she's playing great compared to when she was younger. I think she played great when she was younger, but I think she's playing great now. Obviously she's a lot better now, a lot, lot, lot better. But she's just always been someone that I have admired both on the court and off the court.

Q. Why did you not watch the matches?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I can't. I get too nervous. I never lost a match sitting down. So if she makes a mistake, I just -- a little bit of me dies. So, yeah, I didn't watch any.

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