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August 25, 1997

Venus Williams

Flushing Meadows, New York

VERONIQUE MARCHAL: Questions for Venus.

Q. Is the first match the biggest one to get over here, playing in a new stadium?

VENUS WILLIAMS: You guys hear me good enough? Is that better? I like playing in big stadiums. I like playing in this stadium. So that has nothing to do with nervousness. I really wasn't too nervous. I really wanted to pull that match out because I haven't been playing too well the last tournaments I played.

Q. What are your expectations for this tournament?

VENUS WILLIAMS: My expectations, my goal for this tournament is when I play my matches, for not one bead to fall out of my hair.

Q. You've done that so far.

VENUS WILLIAMS: It's two weeks.

Q. Did you have to get over a slow start today?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't think it was necessarily a slow start. Larisa played well. She has slice on both sides. Someone tall as me has to get down for that. Have to keep the balls deep. I was giving her some short balls. She loves to come in and slice it, take advantage of it. I wasn't really playing the game I really can play. I can overpower her if I get a chance to. I just started trying to do that when I got a short ball. Had to start playing aggressive, keep my feet moving.

Q. Playing in a big stadium you said doesn't bother you.

VENUS WILLIAMS: No, I like it.

Q. Let's attach some names for it. Arthur Ashe, 70th birthday for Althea Gibson, 40th anniversary of her winning the national title, and the first two matches involve African American women on this court. What does that say to you? What does that mean to you?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, it was definitely a privilege playing on this court. Definitely a perfect name to name the court after. And Arthur has done a lot for the game, a lot for the world. He was a great role model. Just not off the court -- on the court, but off the court also. It's a good thing.

Q. What were your general impressions of the stadium itself?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I got to play on it a little bit on Arthur Ashe Kids' Day. It's not a fast court. Some of the courts around here are fast, because I was practicing on some, so. I get used to it. But it's a nice court to play on, a lot of running room. I do like to run.

Q. Would you describe it as a slow surface?

VENUS WILLIAMS: It's not a fast court, but it's not a slow court. It's just a regular court. I mean, a slow court for me is a claycourt, I guess.

Q. Is your dad with you at this tournament? Is he coming or did he have any advice going in?

VENUS WILLIAMS: He's always with me with at every tournament.

Q. Physically?

VENUS WILLIAMS: In every way.

Q. Venus, today happens to be Althea Gibson's 70th birthday. Could you talk a little bit about that, the inspiration of her?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I spoke to her once. Obviously she did a lot for tennis. Players like myself and a lot of other African American players on The Tour, she was -- she paved the way for us to play because other than that, we would still be fighting to play on The Tour. So it's important that we recognize this, that I recognize it, and for me to know my history.

Q. It's interesting because Chanda began the program today. She had a real tough loss.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, but she was playing a good player. She's had injuries, so it's not her best year. We all know she's a good player.

Q. Have you spent a lot of time with Chanda, too?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Not really. I mean, I'm not on The Tour too often. But probably playing Fed Cup together or something.

Q. What do you have to do to get your game to the next level? Do you have to play more? Do you have to develop some other aspect of your game?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think most of my game actually is there. I just have to go out there and play my game and not become nervous or become too involved with what the other person is doing. And also, I had to stay focused today, all the time, which I tried to do today. Sometimes I look ahead in the match, look back in the match at what happened. I just want to stay focused on that point, that shot. That's what I have to do.

Q. Do you have an instructor beyond your father?

VENUS WILLIAMS: My mother co-coaches.

Q. So you have no other instructors outside of your parents?


Q. When you were growing up on the courts in Compton, did you ever envision that someday you would be playing a 23,000-seat stadium?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think that when I play -- when Serena and I played, we always just expected to be here. We were playing so long. When I was ten, I had been playing likes six years. So it's just something. Tennis, I was around tennis all my life; I started playing when I was young, so it was just what I expected, not what I hoped. I just knew I would be there, something I lived with.

Q. You had kind of a rough go in the first round at Wimbledon. After the troubles there, does it make it sweeter to win today?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm definitely pretty happy, but I'm not happier than when I was at the French Open when I won first round. I was pretty happy then. I'm happy now. I just want to make sure I play well in the next round.

Q. How do you handle players and even the media who sometimes say negative things about you?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, they don't say too many negative things. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I'm not in the business of trying to mold people's minds. So I just have to go on my program.

Q. Venus, you said you're not really on The Tour too often, as you put it. Do you think there will come a time pretty soon when you'll feel that you are with The Tour, so to speak? You'll be -- enough that you'll feel part of it?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Next year I'll play a lot more probably.

Q. What will determine that? School?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Next spring I'll play a lot more. Just depends on what I want to do. If I don't want to be out there, I'm not going to go.

Q. Do you have any further schooling plans?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Schooling plans? I can be out of high school right now, but I wanted to go back. I took algebra two last year, but I did not do well in it, so I had to go back to algebra one. I took geometry. I did well in that. Actually, people told me it ruined their high school, but I liked it. When they just gave me the rules and I could apply them and memorize them, it was good. This year I want to take algebra two because later on I'm going to want to go to college, I want to know that. Physics and --

Q. How far are you from graduating?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm actually kind of graduated right now. Actually I have about 24 credits, 26, something or other.

Q. Venus, do you feel that you'll be able to attend college --

VENUS WILLIAMS: And play professional tennis?

Q. And play professionally?

VENUS WILLIAMS: This year I took some college classes in the fall and I hardly played any tournaments. I played during the -- during the classes, I played about three tournaments. It wasn't easy. I would have to stay up late at night and write reports. I couldn't even type. I had to type my own. It was just a lot of work. It can be done, but I don't want to do it. I only had a couple classes. I didn't have a full load, so. Right now I think tennis is like one of the most important things in my life and I have my high school education.

Q. Where did you take these courses, the college courses?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Palm Beach Community College, short drive from my old home.

Q. What did you take?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I took freshman communications, a writing course, cohesive writing. I didn't like it too much. I took political science. I liked that. I was supposed to read all 22 chapters. I made three and a half.

Q. If your communications teacher told you your assignment is to write a story about your experiences and your match so far today, how would you start your story? What would be your lead?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I would say I held serve, my serve started breaking down. I began to think what I was taught about, my serves going in, hit a first serve, second serve. Stay at home, stay with the tournament, never give up. A lot of things went on in that match. Actually I wrote a story about my match. I ended it with Serena's and I double's match. I ended it in the second set. The teacher asked if I was going to write more. I ended it at the high point. I think I did finish it.

Q. How did you manage to stay calm today?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I've been in the situation a couple times. I played my fair share of three sets in my little career at this moment in time. So I've been there. I know that I could pull it out. I knew that I could play well, knew I could win that match.

Q. What did you get on the paper?

VENUS WILLIAMS: On the paper? An A.

Q. Of course. Venus, your tennis career has been accelerated, academics are accelerated. Is there any part of your life you feel like you're behind and why?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Behind? There are some things I want, some people my age don't know what they want, but I do know what I want. Other than that, I don't think I'm behind anything. I don't know too many more that have much more than I do, I have a good family, good career, 17, three dogs.

Q. Venus, you said before that you haven't made up your mind whether you're going to join The Tour full-time next year. Is there a chance you might not?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I just said like next year I was going to play some more. I don't know. I might start my season in January this year. Who knows?

Q. What will determine that, though? Is it discussions with your parents that will determine it? Is it your own willingness to say that you have to step it up in order to be a champion?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Just depends what I want to do usually. If I wanted to play in Australia in January, I would do it. But I didn't want to because I won't be there. Of course if I tell my dad and my mom I want to play, usually they'll allow it. Except last year I wasn't allowed to play the Slams. I just was not there.

Q. Venus, you mentioned you met Althea Gibson once.

VENUS WILLIAMS: I talked to her once.

Q. Did you ever meet Arthur Ashe?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yes, I did. He had a program in Philadelphia. I was about 12. Took a picture with him.

Q. Other than a picture, what do you remember about him or anything he said?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, he was mostly just like tall, graceful. I don't remember what he said. I'm sorry. It was like five years ago.

Q. Was it like a tennis clinic?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, it was a clinic. A lot of the top junior players.

VERONIQUE MARCHAL: Any last questions for Venus?

Q. You mentioned that you thought you could overpower Larisa. Do you feel you can do that with a lot of this field? Does it come to a point where you're meeting players who aren't going to be overpowered by you?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, it depends on the player. Some people get excited when they get overpowered. A lot of times if I move up to the ball, take it early, I don't even have to hit it as hard. It's just you take the time away from your opponent. If I do that and have power, then no one can do too much with it. But some players are able to handle the power. But if I want to, I can hit it hard. If I want to, I can hit a slice. I don't too often hit those because I just prefer to go with the two-hand backhand. If I have the power, no reason for me not to use it. Sometimes she had late preparation on her shots. If I overpowered her, hit a lot of power on the ball, speed on it, sometimes it probably could ruin her timing.

VERONIQUE MARCHAL: Thank you, very much.


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