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September 17, 1999

Venus Williams


USTA: Questions, please.

Q. Billie Jean, will you talk about your process for determining who was going to play where and all the things you took into consideration?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Basically, I try to go mostly by the rankings, not always, but mostly.

Q. Billie Jean, how do you get the team motivated when they know they're playing players they essentially should beat pretty handily?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Most of the top players, what makes them so great, having the 2, 3, 4 and 5 players in the world is the fact they don't underestimate their opponent. You always pretend or visualize that your opponent is going to have the best day of their life, and you're still going to find a way to beat them. And that's why all these players are where they are. I don't have to do too much with this dream team.

Q. Billie Jean, when you use that term, and I saw you using "Dream Team" on TV last night as well, is it almost setting yourself up to being held to a higher standard? I know with dream teams in the past, with basketball in the past, if they didn't win by 50 points, people said they didn't play well.

BILLIE JEAN KING: I like high expectations; if you expect it, usually it will happen. And we just want -- the pursuit of excellence is very important to all of us.

Q. Monica, you've been on all three, I believe, played on all three ties. Do you want to talk about how this experience has been to you?

MONICA SELES: It's been fantastic. Last year we made a promise to Billie that we were going to try to win back the Cup, and we have a fantastic chance to do it this year in America. And we have an unbelievable team. Really, it's a perfect scenario.

Q. Monica, how tough is it for you knowing that you're not in the lineup to play this weekend?

MONICA SELES: It's going to be a little bit different than the first time I experienced it, but otherwise, I can enjoy watching it. Root really hard. And it should be fine.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Can I interject, there? Monica came to me before the year started and said she'd be available for all of the Fed Cups and she would do whatever she could to bring back the Cup, whether she played or not.

Q. Serena, after the craziness of the Open, and the unbelievable media attention, is this going to be a relaxing weekend? Is this going to be low key for you?

SERENA WILLIAMS: This is definitely a great experience. And it's not going to be relaxing, but I definitely have to be on the sidelines cheering everyone on, because this is exciting to have America win again for the Cup. We're going to do our best here.

Q. Assuming after the US Open the former mayor of the City of New York and USTA board member, David Dinkins said this is the greatest moment in tennis history, and one of the greatest players, Zina Garrison, was in the stands in tears. What do you think the impact of your victory has been?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, it's definitely been a great impact on everyone. Everyone is pretty excited about it. Tennis is really on the rise now, everyone is excited about watching it. And right now I'm just focusing on Fed Cup.

Q. I'm sure you've gotten hundreds of responses. Is there one e-mail or voice mail or comment in particular?

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: We all know the answer.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, things are going great. And Lindsay e-mailed me.

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: I don't think that was the one (laughter.)

Q. Just tell us. We won't tell anyone.

SERENA WILLIAMS: It was pretty exciting when the President called.

Q. Are you going to hook up with Chelsea, perhaps Monday; have you taken that further?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I would like to stay an extra day here to go up and just see the campus and stuff. That would actually really be nice. If she's around, I would love to.

Q. What did Lindsay say on her message?

SERENA WILLIAMS: That's between us.

Q. Serena, are you okay not playing singles?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, definitely. Usually in Fed Cup they go with the better rankings. And both players have actually accomplished a lot, a little more than I have; so I'm really definitely okay with it.

Q. Billie Jean, is that awkward at all, as good as Venus and Serena are?

BILLIE JEAN KING: It's very difficult for me to have these great players -- yes. It's hard.

I think it's going to be more difficult when the Olympics come around. Because we're only allowed to take three -- they might change it, but even if they change it to four, the United States still has the best players in the world. So it's -- the good part is we've got the best players in the world. The down part is we have so many great ones, we have so much depth, that in certain situations, they're not going to get to play when they probably deserve to.

Q. Serena, what's been your favorite part of this week, after winning the tournament?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Definitely coming here to Fed Cup and having a lot of support with all the team members. And just relaxing a little, trying to get away from the atmosphere, and just enjoying life.

Q. You did Rosie; I saw that. What else did you do after you won?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I just did the Today Show and Good Morning America.

Q. Lindsay, do you know anything about --

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: I've heard of her. I've never watched her play, but I think Venus and Serena said they knew her pretty well. I thought Panova would play.

Q. Lindsay, do you want to contrast a week ago, you're getting ready to play Serena, and now you're teammates. And likewise, with Venus, who you've played with twice in the finals?

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: I think you get used to it. All the people are your competitors, but luckily, Fed Cup is a great week to get to know some of the players. And you get to do a lot of things you wouldn't do at normal tournaments. And it's been great the last few days. And I think once a loss is over or the match is over, everyone is pretty good about just moving on. And everyone came here a couple of days ago with everything geared towards trying to win the Fed Cup this week.

Q. Venus, really tough loss at the Open to Martina. How are you feeling now? Are you still pretty upset about that loss? What are your thoughts?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't think it's ever really possible to move on from a loss, especially -- any loss is one that I don't want to take. And right now here in Fed Cup, it's a totally different week; it's a totally different competition. I'm ready to play, to compete, and work on my game and get better.

Q. What are you going to work on, Venus?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Starting yesterday, I actually became a serve-and-volley player.

Q. Is there any influence on Billie from that?

BILLIE JEAN KING: How about the whole team?

Q. Billie Jean, what's better for the United States than Fed Cup's place in U.S. tennis, to have a final where your team goes out and wins in straight sets, or something more competitive or more dramatic?

BILLIE JEAN KING: We've had enough dramatic matches to last me for a lifetime. We lost to Spain last year in Spain. That was dramatic enough; that was worth 100 years of Fed Cup for me. I think we need to try our very, very best, and just make the scores just as tough as possible, because believe me, as everyone knows in sports, with the human element, you never know what's going to happen. And I think Russia, and a lot of the other -- with Judy Levering, our president, said: In 1963, we started with 16 teams, and here we are in 1999 with 99 teams. And the Davis Cup is up to 130 or so, plus. So it just shows you how the growth of our sport and the growth of international play for both men and women, but we have to try to win Love and Love in every match if we can.

Q. Let me get comments from Billie Jean, Monica and Lindsay. Since you've been around Fed Cup for a long time, do you think it will ever approach the popularity of Davis Cup, and do you like the changes for next year, and might that help that happen?

LINDSAY DAVENPORT: I just think it's really tough to try and get publicity for a huge tennis event the week after the US Open. Seems like in the eyes of a lot of Americans, they don't understand that next week is another huge event; it just doesn't make sense. But we're trying. That's why we're all here, to show that -- how important the Fed Cup is, and how important playing for your country is. And the effects hopefully that it has on Junior players, and just trying to get it more popular in the United States. I'm not a huge fan of what's proposed or what's going to happen for next year. I think it's been pretty successful. Especially in every other country we've played in, it's been sold out; and here, obviously, we're going to have a great final. And so I just don't think it's a great idea.

Q. Monica, do you want to comment on that?

MONICA SELES: I have the same opinion Lindsay gave.

Q. In the bigger picture, how can Fed Cup become more of a household name compared to Davis Cup?

BILLIE JEAN KING: First of all, Davis Cup is 100 years old; we're not. They've been around 60 more years than we have, whatever. But more importantly, it really talks to you about the culture of the world, and that women still are second-class citizens, compared to men; that people invest more money and time and attention with boys and men. It's very clear. It's very obvious if you look at women's sports, the money behind women's sports, not just women's tennis, versus men's sports. You need people to really put money out there to believe in a long-term vision. And that's what we need to do with Fed Cup to make it bigger and better. But I think the United States has taken a leadership position, that we have the top players in the world supporting these events. I think that really sends a very wonderful message that we are trying to elevate and push it forward and make it better for everyone. But we have a long way to go. Just like women have a long way to go. It really tells you about the way the world works. We are a reflection of the way the world works with both genders. Obviously, by having Fed Cup, having more and more people come and watch and try to elevate not only women's tennis, but women's sports, and help women in social change, that's what this is all about, if you look at the big picture. As far as to discuss the format for next year, I don't think it's been finalized. I think it's still being tweaked from my understanding. I understand from the scheduling point of view why they want to do it; it makes sense. But it's hard when you're not playing -- I don't know, it will be nice for the scheduling, but otherwise, I'm not so sure. We need to do whatever it takes to make our game more popular, because the public owns the game of tennis. No organization owns it. The public owns the game. It's our job -- tennis has been great to every single one of us up here. I think it's our job and responsibility to help promote it, and I think what Serena did at the US Open totally transcended tennis, and that's what we want.

Q. If you could give John McEnroe, Billie, one tip on how to lead a team into battle for America, what would that tip be?

BILLIE JEAN KING: I think John knows how to lead, and he certainly likes a battle, and he certainly is passionate about the sport. I think it will be the first time in John's life he has to work within the system. So that will be his challenge, without any question. But he and I have talked quite a bit, actually. And he and I have thought about working more and more together as captains together to make both Davis Cup and Fed Cup very popular, and really helping each other through all of this. We've talked quite often, especially over the last two months. But I also would like to say that I think Tom Gullikson did a great job. I think a lot of people don't realize how difficult it's been for him. I think he was trying to do the right thing. And I think he got a bad rap in Boston. And I really would like to thank him for his six and a half years that he gave to his country as captain of Davis Cup. And I know John McEnroe made a point to thank him, as well. I think we need to remind ourselves that one player or captain or leader passes the torch onto the next generation. It's John's turn. John has wanted this job for a long time. But believe me, like everything in life, it's much more difficult than you think, from the outside looking in.

End of FastScripts….

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