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July 8, 2001

Venus Williams


MODERATOR: Who would like to start?

Q. What does it feel like to emulate Althea Gibson?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Am I trying to emulate Althea?

Q. She won twice.

VENUS WILLIAMS: I can't say I'm trying to emulate her. Really, I was just trying to make my own success.

Q. Your celebration seemed much more subdued than last year. What was the reason for that?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think it was the fact that I was up 5-Love, and last year, you know, I won in a tough tiebreaker, so it was two different circumstances.

Q. Does this one mean as much to you?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, I think it means more to me.

Q. Why?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Because I had to work a lot harder to win this one. In my first rounds, I was really not playing very well. I really just kind of had to force myself to play good tennis. So for me it was a real effort.

Q. Was that third set one of the best you've ever played?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Maybe yes and no. Yes because I played a very good set, in important situations, which is super for me. I was really relaxed at that point - really just ready to take it all. You have different feelings that you go through when you're playing. At that point I was really ready to go.

Q. You look at this in a newspaper or something tomorrow, you say, "What a strange match." You lose one game in the first and third sets combined, then she beats you in the second set. How did it go so up and down?

VENUS WILLIAMS: You know, I think in the second set, we were on serve. It was just one break toward the end. Surely if you're going to get broken, it's better to get broken maybe in the beginning and not the end. And I didn't play as many good points as maybe I should have, and she played better points than me. But maybe it was just experience that came through, or maybe she was a little nervous in the third - I don't know. But I'm happy it went my way.

Q. You seemed to whisper a few words immediately after the match. Can you convey what you said to her?

VENUS WILLIAMS: You know, I just didn't want her to be upset because she'll have her chance. She plays very well. She plays a lot of gutsy matches. If she just keeps playing the way she is, good things are bound to happen.

Q. You've won three of the last five majors, which is an extraordinary accomplishment. Martina Hingis hasn't won for over two and a half years. Do you feel you're now the best player in the world?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm the best player today (smiling). I really am happy about this whole two weeks because for me this is the first time where I've served very well every match that I've played. For me, that's a good breakthrough. I always served well at the important points - no double-faults or any of that stuff. So for me that's a good thing. Really just moving forward. Last year I don't think I worked as hard as maybe I should have after my wins. I was just tired. So when you're tired, there's not a lot of motivation to get better. But this year I'm going to take it a little differently, I'm going to work a little harder.

Q. People are always interested in who the best player is overall. You obviously are the best player today. Overall, in the big picture, are you the best player?

VENUS WILLIAMS: In my mind, I'm always the best. I can't see anybody better than me. If I walk out on the court, I think the next person is better, I've already lost. In my mind, sure, I'm best. On paper right now, I'm No. 2.

Q. Could you tell us about your feelings once the match was over, immediately afterwards?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I was really excited. You know, I love Wimbledon. It's great not to have to lose here. I haven't lost 14 matches in a row - plus the doubles, I guess. So for me that's really sweet. It was good because, sure, it would have been nice with the crowd, maybe nice for you writing to have a tough third set. But for me, it was nice just to kind of run through it. And that was sweet. This means just a lot more to me this year because I hadn't played as well in the other Grand Slams as I would have liked, especially with my French Open. And I really wanted it.

Q. You said you're going to do something different, take this win differently.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Last year in between Wimbledon and Stanford, two weeks from now, I didn't practice at all. I won that tournament.

Q. You didn't do so badly.

VENUS WILLIAMS: No. And I won San Diego. I didn't practice that much for the US Open either - then I won two tournaments after that. At the Olympics, I didn't hit hardly at all. I'd get out there, I'd be practicing, I'd just be fooling around. Really, if you start fooling around, your game gets worse, you walk off the court. I was a major pin collector at the Olympics. I didn't do too much practicing. I didn't really practice. I had about eight wonderful days of practice before Wimbledon, that lasted me the whole year.

Q. And this year?

VENUS WILLIAMS: This year I'm going to practice more.

Q. You're ready to do that? You told us the other day you don't like it so much.

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think I can capitalise better, just really work on more things in my game - moving forward, taking the ball early - just some new strategy that I can add to the next year coming. I didn't really do that last year. A lot of things happened. I went to school. There wasn't a lot of time . A lot of sponsors, things to do. But I'm going to make time to practice.

Q. You talk about taking the ball earlier. You were moving in today so aggressively and consistently. How much was that part of your plan going in?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Definitely I want to move forward because no one's going to give you a Grand Slam. If you take it, you've got to move forward, or at least be willing to move forward a little bit. Even if you're not going to the net, attack the short balls, something. That was my plan today. I didn't even want to think about it. If I see a short ball, I'm moving in. That's how I like to play.

Q. With your serve, now that you've won two of these, do you get the feeling that Centre Court is yours now, that this is a place you're going to dominate for years to come?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think it's going to be a great place for me years to come. I've really been serving well this past two weeks. Really, everyone I played couldn't return my serve. So for me that was a plus because I have very easy service games. If I get in a tight area, then all I have to do is serve it out. For me, that was a real plus. It's a real plus to your game to have that ability. Serving like this on the grass makes it even more difficult because the ball is coming so fast, and it stays low. I think that was really important these past two weeks.

Q. Do you think about the record number for single's titles here and think, "I can get that"?

VENUS WILLIAMS: It will be tough because, you know, I'll be older. Some people started when they were younger winning titles. My first title is at 20. If I could have started winning at 16, maybe the story would be different.

Q. Bill Clinton yesterday said that on the court you move like a gazelle. First of all, do you agree with that? How does that make you feel?

VENUS WILLIAMS: People have been telling me that for years - actually, ever since I was nine. Actually, I've been working on my movement because I notice that I'd really slowed down and I wasn't concentrating on really getting every ball. So this past two weeks - everything's happened in the past two weeks - really started trying to move a lot faster. That's frustrating for your opponents too. They can't get a ball past you. Once I put my mind to it, I got a lot better.

Q. (Inaudible) the crowd transferred their allegiance to the underdog?

VENUS WILLIAMS: You know, I've had a lot of experiences like that with the crowd. Doesn't seem like that often that, you know, I'm the player that the crowd wants to win. For me, it's not as important because I want to win. Even if the crowd's on my side, I still have to win for me. I still have to hit the ball. They can't do it physically for me. Who knows, maybe there will be a day when they root for me.

Q. They were last year. But were you aware of it today?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, for sure they wanted her to win. I guess it's always nice to see the unexpected happen. But for me it's not an issue. If they don't agree with a call, it's not an issue. I don't function this way, where I have to have approval.

Q. "The Death of the Salesman" you were talking about the other day, being liked and liking yourself?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I guess it fits into that theory.

Q. Will you play more next year and try and become No. 1 or where does being No. 1 sit in your list of priorities?

VENUS WILLIAMS: It's on the top list now. Maybe in the past, it wasn't. Grand Slams definitely are No. 1. Then No. 2, for sure, is No. 1 (laughter). Oh, boy, like a Dr. Seuss book. Really, that's all. I have to make it a priority. I have to play more. Either that or I have to win every Grand Slam, which is not easy, so I'll play a little bit more.

Q. Earlier this tournament you said you were just getting over being a kid. Does winning three out of five Grand Slams and two Wimbledons in a row make you feel like you're growing up, or you are grown up? Does it make you change feeling like you're just getting over being a kid?

VENUS WILLIAMS: No, I don't feel changed. I'm still a kid, and I don't want to grow up yet - but I have to in some things, but not everything. So it's a happy medium.

Q. Will you go to school again in the fall?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. I'm not going to say what I'm going to do. I like school, but then I miss the tournaments. I do. Because there's a lot of places that I like to go. For me, I judge a tournament whether I have good memories there. For me, I'd miss all the places where I had good memories. I'm going to miss it this year, but we'll see.

Q. When you stood up out of the chair, walked to start the third set, what words were in your head?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. I don't remember exactly. I was really ready to serve it up. At this point I was very confident in my serve. If I could return a little bit better, that's all that counted. By that point, I was just very relaxed, very loose, just really ready to compete. Maybe when you first get out there, you're a little bit nervous or a little tight. By the time you get to the third set, you've got to be loose. I just felt very loose.

Q. How tough was the rain delay for you?

VENUS WILLIAMS: It wasn't tough at all. I'm used to the rain. I expect it. If it happens, it happens. I still have to play.

Q. You got introduced to that your first year here? Wasn't it five days before you played a match?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah. I don't recall playing that year.

Q. How about yesterday, had to wait and wait, of course never got on court? Were you here? Did you finally realise you weren't going to play?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I was here for a few hours. I went home, then I came back. Really, I was ready to play any time. But I think the delay helped me a lot, just to think things through, kind of make it more simple in my mind. Maybe if I played at 2:00 or whenever I was supposed to, maybe things would have went differently, I don't know. But by the time I got around to today, I was very calm. This time I did a lot of thinking before the final - maybe more than what I needed to. I think that helped me to stop thinking as much.

Q. Is tennis a passion for you or is it just something you're really good at?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think tennis is something I'm really good at. I like playing. It's a great job. Sometimes things get really complicated, especially if you're having a really bad time in your career. But right now, things are quite simple.

Q. Do you like kind of the celebrity that comes with it?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I like the upgrades, special privileges and things like that. But other than that, no. I'm just trying to be me.

Q. When is the time when it's been very hard for you?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Really, just every day, you know, going to the supermarket. If I want to get an ice cream, if I want to go to the health food store, if I want to go to the mall, or if I want to go to Blockbuster, just things like that. I just like to be solitary, just me and my little dog, we go everywhere.

Q. You say there's been times in your career when it gets complicated.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Like after the Olympics, that was a really tough time. Everyone was thinking about the Olympics, I guess. But as far as when things get complicated, when you have tough losses or you're not playing very well, then tennis seems really complicated, just with the technical aspect maybe. But when you start to play well, it's not as hard.

Q. When you look back on today and this fortnight, what will stand out most for you years from now? Obviously, it's different than the first experience of winning.

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. Maybe the finals will because it's different playing someone like maybe Capriati in the finals than playing someone who's there for the first time. I think that will stand out. Maybe it's more difficult.

Q. More difficult in what way?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Really, you know, she had had the win before, the one time that we had played. But that time I didn't play well, so... This time I had a better plan.

Q. Your approach to this sport has been so unconventional, and I guess continues to be, like when you don't play as much as some of the other players. Is that something you take pride in, kind of don't want to fall in line with everyone else with a full schedule?

VENUS WILLIAMS: No, I don't like to be like everyone else. It annoys me. That's what I mean about fashion trends. Like I'll be doing something, and all of a sudden it's trendy, so I have to put it away. If I want to pull it back out, suddenly I'm out of style. I don't like that. But with tennis -- that was irrelevant (laughter). Really, I like to do things that make me happy. That doesn't mean I have to do everything the way maybe the next person does it. Everybody has their own way of doing things. For me, if I want to play, I'll play. If I don't, I won't. If I want to go to school or if I want to retire, for me, whatever is important for me at that point, not for what's conventional.

Q. Justine Henin today said she thinks it's going to be hard for anyone to beat you here for quite a long time. She acknowledged the other players. Do you start to sense that, that the other players now fear you maybe the way they feared Sampras here?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Ooh. I don't know. We'll see. I just have to keep playing well. I think I have a good combination because I return very well on the grass, in my opinion, especially maybe my semifinal, and I serve very well. I hit my groundstrokes well, of course. Plus I'm willing to move forward when I get to Wimbledon. At other tournaments, maybe not as much. But at Wimbledon, I will move forward. I think it's a good combination.

Q. What do you think of the Duchess' outfit? A bit like Serena's dress at Roland Garros?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I have to tell her.

End of FastScripts….

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