March 23, 2001
THE ERICSSON OPEN, MIAMI, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: First question, please, for Venus.
Q. What was the feeling in the knee today?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I felt a lot better. Fortunately I didn't have to run too hard or run too fast. I'm feeling good. I'm happy to be competing here because it's one of my favorite tournaments, I play at home. My nephew, my niece can come. My sisters are at school, but my brother is here. So I love it here.
Q. You've got a lot of stuff to defend this summer, big titles. Are you looking forward to that, or is it pressure to defend them? Where's the balance with the US Open and Wimbledon?
VENUS WILLAIMS: I'm not afraid. Really I was looking to gain a lot more points in the beginning of the year, but it hasn't happened yet. I mean, I think a few, but not a lot. That's why it's really important for me to be able to play right now because I have so much coming off those Grand Slams and all the little titles I won last year. So I really want to get in working order.
Q. Last year when you were defending the US Open, did you remember how felt going in as a defending champion?
VENUS WILLAIMS: I was defending Serena's title. That's the best I could do. (Laughing.)
Q. Did you learn anything from having seen what she accomplished there?
VENUS WILLAIMS: Oh, yeah. Definitely. Because Serena, she played every match in the '99 US Open, she went for it, she did all the things at the right time. It was really a good lesson for me. We really help each other as far as learning to play. I take things from her, she takes things from me. We set good examples for each other. That was definitely my turning point. She was my encouragement. If any other player had played the way she did at that US Open, I most likely wouldn't have taken notice. But since it was Serena, I really could notice. I meant a lot to me and it helped me.
Q. Does that mean you take notice about other past champions or champions in the future? Not just your sister?
VENUS WILLAIMS: I'm not so connected to them. So I see it, but I don't take it to heart.
Q. Did you give any consideration to not playing this tournament?
VENUS WILLAIMS: Yes, I did. But I stayed off the leg. I had a couple engagements. So I think that helped a lot because if I hadn't had something to do that I had to do that I committed to do, I would have been trying to practice more. I know that would have thrown me off. But I'm not really off of my game, which I'm happy. I didn't practice too much. And I feel pretty confident. So I'm happy about that, too, because I'll take a few days off and I'll be off of my game. Serena will take some days off and she'll be ready to go, so...
Q. Obviously you want to win and I'm sure you wish the best for your sister. If you should end up meeting in the final in this tournament, do you think that might be a way to answer your critics, by playing in the final? Are you looking forward to the opportunity to do that?
VENUS WILLAIMS: I really, I want the best for Serena, and naturally I want the best for myself, too. But hopefully we'll both be in the final. That's what we like. And we played once in the final here before, and, for example, at the US Open last year, Serena had a tough quarter final loss and I was a little bit sad because I felt like I -- I'm the older sister so I should have the hard lessons in life so that way she can learn from it. That's how it worked out. Serena was second, I was first. She learned from all my lessons and all my losses so when she came out she did even better. I kind of felt like I should have taken the loss, but she learned from it and it was good for her to have that loss.
Q. Bart McGuire was in here last night and gave a detailed explanation of the injury you had. He said he met individually with you and your sister and your father and had some suggestions or recommendations about how to confront these kinds of issues in the future, more on a public relations sort of plain. Could you share with us some of the recommendations he gave you?
VENUS WILLAIMS: Well, as far as really just being straightforward, really not beating around the bush because we usually tend to take everything in stride. Things kind of just run their course and they move on. So I think in this instance we really just need to meet it face-to-face because really we're a good family. We're incredible in everything that we've done, and we've been honest. Really, we're just two young people that are really doing something with our life. We aren't doing anything else other than that. We've only had positives in our life. So that's really all.
Q. Do you think it was good advice?
VENUS WILLAIMS: Oh, yeah. Definitely. He has quite a few more years on me. He's the CEO of this Tour, knows a lot more. Really, the information I can gather, more advice I can get as far as dealing with these things now and even in the future, that's good for me because, you know, so much is so much and anyone can get tired and frustrated. I don't feel like that. I think the Tour has really supported me, my family and even some of the papers.
Q. Do you have any regrets about how you handled I guess what happened last week?
VENUS WILLAIMS: You know, there's a lot of ways it could have been done, but really I just did what I could to be in the match and really that's really why I had a late withdrawal, because I wanted to be there. And I've learned that I can't take anything, I can't change the past, only do better in the future.
Q. Venus, given that you like to take the fall, you'd rather absorb the hurt than see Serena absorb the hurt. How hard was it for you to sit in the stands and hear her being booed or you or dad being booed?
VENUS WILLAIMS: I didn't feel bad about being booed because if people feel like that, if they aren't my fan, I can't change their mind. I'm not into changing people; it's almost impossible. As far as Serena, I don't know how she felt about that. If anything, I was there for her to be strong, encouraging her, and, you know, I just think we learned a powerful lesson about how people can be.
Q. Were you wondering what the crowd reaction, reception would be like for you to today? What did you think about that?
VENUS WILLAIMS: Yeah, I did wonder how it would be today but then I also knew that I am in Florida and whenever we're away from home we're always on the front page in the headlines here, especially in Palm Beach, on the Palm Beach Post. I really felt it would be supportive for us, for me. And plus what happened was last week, it was 5,000 miles away so it didn't directly affect anyone in Florida.
Q. Switching gears, do you design your own clothes?
VENUS WILLAIMS: No. Not normally. Sometimes. But --.
Q. Does your contract with Reebok involve designing in the future?
VENUS WILLAIMS: I have the leverage to design some pieces. I don't really want to if there's not a line for them. I think they more or less know how they want their lines to go and their planning for the future and their marketing and so on and so forth. So I don't really try to bother with that because I don't know as much. They're a huge corporation.
Q. You're learning about it though, right?
VENUS WILLAIMS: I'm learning about it. It's good because I can learn more.
Q. Do you consider yourself an artist?
VENUS WILLAIMS: Yes.
Q. Did you think the response to last week via the crowd and press was unfair, or do you understand how that response was?
VENUS WILLAIMS: Well, I think the crowd may have felt slighted in a way that they didn't have the opportunity to see the match, and I understand that they, you know, paid money, possibly the semifinals -- I don't understand the ticketing. Maybe it costs more than a first-round match, the ticket. I can understand that. As far as the press, I don't always understand you all but I do know that you want a big story. I do understand that, you're interested in selling papers. It's all a business. Everything is tennis for me, it's my career and it's entertainment but it's also a business. But all of it, I think, was a lot -- not very necessary.
Q. Is this injury related to the growth spurt you had during your early teenage years?
VENUS WILLAIMS: I've had a knee injury since I was six, pains. I think it has a lot to do with my body build, the way I'm put together. So a lot have it, my injuries are preventive if I know beforehand my weaknesses. Most of the time you don't find your weaknesses until you get injured, so...
Q. The reason why you waited until almost the last minute to call the match was because you didn't want to call the match?
VENUS WILLAIMS: No, I wanted to play. I could use the points. I could use the title.
Q. What's the treatment for the knee?
VENUS WILLAIMS: Ice, exercise, stretching surrounding muscles and quadriceps.
Q. What did the doctor say about how long it's going to take to heal?
VENUS WILLAIMS: I've had this injury before. When you sit around with it, it doesn't help. It's even more sore. If I do take time off and I can't just rest, I have to do my exercises and things like that or else I come back even worse. So I just have to exercise and keep moving.
Q. You tempted to go out and try to play and perhaps quit on the court if it was too much?
VENUS WILLAIMS: Yeah, I was. There was a lot of factors involved including that I was playing a top player. If I'm not at 100 percent, what can I do? So in the end, I had to make the choice that was best for me because at the end of the day I have to go home and I have to take care of myself and I have to be healthy and no one else can do that for me.
Q. Have you and Serena ever sat down and had a very serious discussion about the future, about how it might be necessary for you to start playing each other more often and it's inevitable that you're going to play each other, why don't we just see if we can -- by playing each other more often we can get over the emotional difficulty of playing?
VENUS WILLAIMS: Well, the first part is that we don't have an emotional difficulty playing each other. We never had a problem playing with each other. We played each other on five occasions already. I just think that people keep thinking there's an emotional problem. Serena and I, we love each other. There's nothing -- we don't talk about tennis normally. A lot of times we'll talk about a lot of the difficulties we had the court, "I couldn't keep the ball in, I didn't know what to do." Things like that. But we don't talk about tennis at all.
Q. Why don't you play more tournaments together? You've actually played one tournament where you play doubles together, not singles?
VENUS WILLAIMS: We play what we want to play.
Q. You're talking about, you know, not being able to change peoples' minds. There's obviously a lot of perceptions out there. People make their statements, how they want to think. What else do you do mentally to sidetrack yourself from falling into what their thoughts are?
VENUS WILLAIMS: Yeah, it's easy to worry about what others think, everyone does that unless you just really just don't care. But I do care. Because naturally, you don't want someone to think bad of you, especially if you think good of yourself. So I have to realize that I can't change what you write. You guys make that decision. I can only control my actions and what I do, and that's all I can do. I'm only one person overall.
Q. Andre Agassi said yesterday that if somebody charged that there was a match fixed in any way that he would be very upset about it. Would you give your response to what the charge that was made this week in the Enquirer that the match against your sister at Wimbledon, your father had asked Serena not to win that match or to lose the match? What is your response to something like that? Is it upsetting?
VENUS WILLAIMS: My response is that the accusation is false; that it's not true; that my dad would never do anything like that. What can I think? The magazine isn't exactly the top-notch or exactly credible. I have to move on. That was last week.
Q. Does it blow your mind that they ran a story on it?
VENUS WILLAIMS: No.
Q. Can't believe they'd do that?
VENUS WILLAIMS: If anything, Serena and I have become pretty famous.
Q. Is it disappointing to see one of the sources is a relative? Have you read it? Did you read the whole thing?
VENUS WILLAIMS: No, I haven't read it. I've heard about it. Really just what can I say? Maybe I should check to see if he's really a relative for all the things he said.
Q. What, if anything, can you and Serena do to change these misperceptions about the way the two of you approach your matches against each other?
VENUS WILLAIMS: I don't know. I don't know. I just think that it's inevitable that we'll play each other again, especially if both of us are playing and we're healthy and we're winning. It's going to happen, and we have no issue with it. It's what we always wanted because we both wanted to be professionals, always be the best, hopefully we'll be 1 and 2 in the future. That's our goal. And, you know, with time, everyone will see.
Q. You pulled out of the match. You were honest with yourself. Could you have imagined that it would have created a worldwide controversy?
VENUS WILLAIMS: No. It always seems to happen with Serena and I, and I don't know why. I don't know why.
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