August 26, 2001
NEW YORK CITY
MODERATOR: Questions for Venus, please.
Q. How are you feeling?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Feeling good.
Q. Who do you see as your biggest threat this year?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Really, I really haven't thought about that basically. More than anything, just focusing on my game. As long as I'm in good form, I feel pretty confident going into any match.
Q. No niggling injuries or concerns at all?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, not at this point. I'm okay. But two weeks of tennis can do a lot to anyone. It's just keeping in shape, scheduling practices right along with the matches.
Q. What about the rain? It's supposed to rain from tomorrow. Is that ever a concern?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No. I've been through a lot of rain delays in my lifetime. I'm quite used to them. It's not an issue for me. I'm used to waiting. I play when I play.
Q. What about the state of women's tennis at the moment? Do you see it as being dominated now by up-and-coming young women rather than the men? It seems this might be the last hurrah for a lot of the men. What about women's tennis?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think definitely the younger players are doing a lot. I mean, Jennifer is 25, and Lindsay is about the same age. I'm a little younger. But basically it's anyone who's working hard gets the results, whether it's the whole year or one week.
Q. Can you feel your game coming to a peak now, or do you still feel there's an awful lot more to come in the future?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I definitely think I can do more. I can't stay complacent in this game. I always have to get better. If I think I'm at my best now, then it's a problem. I always have to get better. So I'm looking always to get an edge, add something new to my game, hopefully be a little smarter, something.
Q. How do you think your game compares now with 12 months ago? Can you feel definite improvement? If so, in what particular way?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think I'm serving better, more consistently. Since Wimbledon, I believe I've had one bad -- two bad serving matches. Other than that, the rest have been quite good. So for me, that's a definite improvement. Also I play a lot smarter. Just the older I get, the smarter I guess, the wiser (smiling). It goes along with my tennis, too.
Q. Which part of your game are you particularly working on?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I guess just basically staying aggressive, because when I'm not aggressive - when I wasn't aggressive in the past - not too many good things happen, big titles like the US Open. But the more aggressive I was, the more I went for it, the better my results were. So basically always trying to move forward, that's what I work on.
Q. When your serve does go off, is it usually the toss? Are you rushing too much? How do you do a self-analysis when your serve isn't doing what you want it to?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Sometimes it just doesn't seem that simple. Seems like whatever I do, it just doesn't go right. Like I say, it's a bad day. But I'm trying to get away from that, whereas I know I can serve the ball, so I just have to serve it up. That's really what I'm trying to do now, just to change my whole mindset. Haven't had too many bad days. I feel confident with my serve. Especially before I go out on the court, before I even play the match, if I can see clearly exactly what I want my serve to do, where I want it to go, those are good times.
Q. How much better is your second serve today than it was a year ago?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, I think last year is really where I started to improve my second serve. Nowadays, I mix it up, I hit one at 100, then I'll hit some at 70, 80. They usually don't go below 80 these days anymore. It's not just me. Most of the players are serving the second serves much harder. A lot of the girls I'll play, maybe it's just playing against me, I don't know, because I'm a top player, they'll come out and start serving at 90 miles an hour on the second serve. So these days, no one wants to be attacked anymore.
Q. There's another player who is probably a big threat at this tournament, Serena, who won in Toronto. I'm wondering if you saw that tournament and did you give her any tips or hints?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, I didn't see that. I saw the end of one match.
Q. She was serving really well.
VENUS WILLIAMS: She was?
Q. She was really focused. She seemed to be more focused. I'm wondering if you have any comment on her game, how it is coming into this US Open? Will you look forward to a Saturday night final with her?
VENUS WILLIAMS: That would be nice. I haven't really seen her in the past couple of weeks. She went to Los Angeles and Toronto. Last week I was in New Haven. I hope she's doing well. We try to motivate each other, try to help each other. A lot of people, a lot of the players don't have that, they don't have a sister out there motivating them who is also a professional player, who can give good advice, because they've been there and done that. Serena won the tournament, just as happy as if I won. If I win, she wins; if she won, I win.
Q. Do you practice together when you know you have a match, with Serena?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Normally at the Grand Slams, we do have a hitting partner because there will be different times and different days. Back when I was younger, we used to hit together all the time. I play a two and a half hour match, come back out and hit with Serena. Nowadays, it's not the same, because we always get to the finals, the semifinals. We don't have the energy to do that. So we have a hitting partner.
Q. At Wimbledon you talked about how, although you played very well the second half of last year, you really didn't practice very much. You were surprised you actually did as well as you did. You pledged that you were going to work harder. This second half of this year, how much have you followed through on it?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I've worked harder, put in a few more days. In my opinion, I don't have to work hard every day, but I should work hard. It's just finding a happy medium.
Q. Do you feel like you're working hard enough?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I could always work harder. There's always more to do. But I don't want to kill myself.
Q. A lot of players on the tour who are playing a lot of tennis are coming up with injuries. I know you haven't played as many tournaments as Lindsay or Martina Hingis. I'm wondering if you feel that's been an asset coming into this tournament, the fact that you may be fresher than they are?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, after last week, I don't know. I may be at a disadvantage now. I'm going to take it easy for the next couple of days and hopefully get ready for my first-round match. But as far as being fresh, maybe mentally because I really try to take it easy on myself because I have to be number one, I have to put myself number one, not a tournament, not a tour. In the end, after all that's finished, I'm going to be left with myself. No one else to take care of me. So I do what makes me happy. Playing more tournaments, playing less, whatever is best for me.
Q. What do you do in between matches to keep relaxed?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm always relaxed. I don't know.
Q. Listen to music, go to movies?
VENUS WILLIAMS: During a tournament, nothing really. I don't do too much, not at all. More than anything at a tournament I try to do the least amount as possible. I don't really get involved in activities. I don't go out to restaurants very much. Just keep it at a minimum. Then afterwards, I have all the fun I want, especially if I won the tournament, I have more fun. If not, you have to go back and hit the practice courts. That's not always fun.
Q. When you played Jennifer a couple days ago, did you feel like you were kind of playing for the future No. 1 spot?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, I didn't feel like that at all. Obviously, both of us are doing pretty good this year and neither of us is No. 1 just yet. But if she was No. 1, she sure would deserve it. If I was No. 1, I guess I would, too. So if either one of us gets there, it would just mean that we deserved it.
Q. How well do you have to play to beat her?
VENUS WILLIAMS: In my opinion, just have to play consistent tennis. It's not a good idea to go out there and make a lot of unforced errors - really against anyone, it isn't, it makes your day a lot harder. But she's quite a fast player. Can't rush your shots. For me, I just go out there and just swing and have fun. That's when I produce my best tennis.
Q. It seems that you're more relaxed coming in this year than you were last year, even though there may be higher expectations for you to defend your title.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. I like playing here. I like playing at all the Grand Slams.
Q. How important is this title to you?
VENUS WILLIAMS: It's very important to me. But whereas in the past, when I was younger, I would really take a loss really hard, it was tough for me. Whereas these days, I'm I guess a lot more serene about it. I don't go down with the loss. I may lose on the tennis court, but afterwards, I move on. So it's not as hard for me to accept a loss, and maybe that's why I'm more calm. But I don't expect to lose (laughter).
Q. Are you feeling any pressure coming in here having to defend your title?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, not at all. I don't know. I don't really feel a lot of pressure or stress in my life. The only time I do is when I'm late for things, then I do feel a little stress. I don't like being late. That's the only time I feel pressure. But other than that, I feel great having won last year, and that's my title. This year I have to try again.
Q. One of the reasons Martina is No. 1 is because she plays a lot more tournaments than most of the other players. Are you willing to play more tournaments to achieve the No. 1 ranking?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, only the future will tell. I'm going to try to change my schedule next year, maybe play more tournaments at the beginning of the year, maybe taper off at the end and see how that works out. So far in my career, I've tried to spread them out all over the year. I'm going to try something different maybe. But, you know, I think Martina has always had consistent results. It's very rare that she'll lose in the first round or the second round. Occasionally, but that happens to everyone.
Q. If having played 13 or 14 tournaments this year, she might not be No. 1.
VENUS WILLIAMS: You might be right. I don't think she's going to do that.
Q. You've mentioned enjoying playing at night. Is it more exciting or is it less taxing physically? What is it about the night matches?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I just think at the US Open to play a night match is pretty special.
Q. And why?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. Just maybe when I was a kid, I used to watch the tennis on TV. I would see the night matches. Maybe that's what I remember from watching. But I do like to play during the day because then you can probably hit a few shops in the afternoon (smiling).
Q. What are your thoughts about the prime time final?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think it's very exciting. Last year was somewhat prime time because of the rain delay. But I think it's a great, great move for us. More than anything, what I think about it, I hope I'm there in that final.
Q. You talked about how you could change your schedule next year, when you're committed to something, you need to really play well. Do you feel like you control whether or not you become No. 1, that's in your control and nobody else's?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I guess so. I never thought about it like that.
Q. How much is it in your control, do you feel? Do you feel that kind of confidence?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, definitely I think so. I never really set my goals exactly for the No. 1. Mostly, it was setting goals for the Grand Slams. As a result, if I can play well in them, I suppose I could be No. 1. But, you know, I'm not thinking about it day in, day out. When I'm on the practice court, when I'm thinking about my tennis, mostly I'm thinking about improving my game, taking my game a step up, up a little further.
Q. How much are you possibly motivated by past achievements by other people in the game? Do you have any particular record or target you would like to chase yourself long-term?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No. That may be my problem: i don't have enough goals.
Q. What about the simple one of having won all four Slams?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, definitely. I'd love to have all four Slams - maybe even in one year, that would be even better. Like I say, I have two more to chase after. But I do have Wimbledon. That i guess was my first Grand Slam, a lot of memories going down there.
Q. What is the biggest problem you find at the other two that you haven't won so far?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I guess I haven't done too bad. But it's just, for whatever reason, I haven't won them yet. I sincerely believe I will. As long as I believe it, it can happen.
Q. What's your biggest weapon? What should your opponents watch out for?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Maybe more than anything, I'm just a good competitor. Sure, I have a lot of other things that I can do on court, but I believe that I'm a good competitor. So no matter what the score is, what's happening, what kind of day it is, I'm there to compete.
Q. Will your family be here, your dad and mom?
VENUS WILLIAMS: People are in and out. Everybody has their own life. It doesn't revolve around the US Open. My mama, she was in New Haven, she'll be back. My sister is here, but she has classes on Tuesday. Other two sisters are in LA, they might come in for a few days and come back.
Q. What about your dad?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, he's here.
Q. Who was your idol when you were growing up?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I used to serve like Boris Becker in the Juniors, with the rock back and everything. It was Monica Seles for a while, too. That's why I grunt today. I was not a grunter. When I was around ten years old, started grunting like Monica. Haven't turned around since.
Q. Do you do diving volleys like Boris?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No. There was glass on the court (laughter).
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