January 19, 2003
MODERATOR: Questions for Venus, please.
Q. Talk about the net play you've been trying to put into your game this week. A bit more? A lot of net rushes. Is that sort of your plan for the year?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think I'm most successful when I'm at the net, when I take advantage of moving in on short balls, and also my reach. But I think it just kind of happened that way. I've been getting a lot of short balls and I've been coming in. I'm really just trying to play the game of tennis and not have to think about everything. So I guess it was natural for me to come in more the last few matches.
Q. Do you think you'll be able to do it against players like Serena or Lindsay or people who hit the ball a bit deeper?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think so.
Q. The crowd was obviously expected to be behind Nicole. Her level of play, I thought was very high. Were you expecting that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Sure, I was expecting her to play really well. This is her first appearance in the Round of 16. I guess the only thing she's thinking is, "Why not go a little further?" Of course, I'm thinking the same thing, take another step towards possibly being the victor at this tournament. You know, more than anything, I know she's a really good competitor, no matter what the score is, how far down she was. I did know going into the match I would have to compete.
Q. How would you rate her game?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Very well. I think she had a lot of deep balls, ran down a lot of balls. Even when she made mistakes, she didn't get down on herself.
Q. Does it give you a problem when the crowd is excited about having one of their own play?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No. I mean, I'm here too much. When I'm out there, I'm pretty focused on what I'm doing. A lot of times I won't notice if the crowd is for me or against me.
Q. How do you rate how you're hitting the ball at the moment?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think I'm doing okay. If I'm going to miss a shot, I'm really trying to miss it long and not into the net, make sure my strokes are long, that I'm not abbreviating them. I like to believe if the ball is long, it's going to drop in. But if it's in the net, there's no way, there's nothing I can do about it. I am trying to cut back on the errors and, of course, hold serve.
Q. It sounds like your net play has not been a very conscious effort on your part. There was a time when Martina took over from Chris Evert, and Chris realized she had to step up her game, come to the net. Is it not a conscious decision to up that facet of your game?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I definitely have goals every year. Definitely my goal, of course, was to come to the net more, amongst other goals. And I think it is working out. I'm not holding myself back by staying at the baseline. So I think naturally, for any tennis player, if you just play the game like it's supposed to be played, you come in on the short balls, you attack the net sometimes. I'm just trying to do that, basically.
Q. You're making a more conscious effort to do that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, okay (laughter).
Q. When you do come in, it seems like you approach cross-court instead of down the line. Conventional theory is that you approach down the line. What is your thinking there?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think the champs do go down the line. I should go down the line a little bit more. I've been getting so many low balls, when I am coming in, that sometimes it is more difficult to bring it down because you have to lift it a lot more, whereas cross-court you go to a lower part of the net. If I have a higher ball, I can take it whichever way I want.
Q. You seem to really enjoy the higher balls.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, those are fantastic, especially when I make them. If I miss them, I'm a little bit disappointed, sure.
Q. Your thoughts on Hantuchova? Tough match when you played her last year.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think she'll definitely be motivated to get a win against me. We played a handful of times. She hasn't been able to be the victor yet. Those are definitely factors I have to keep in my mind when I go into a match against a player I have a good record against. And also, I think that she's just playing good tennis. She's played some tough matches against some players who have come out hot against her, and she's come through. So that's a good sign.
Q. What are you going to do today to pass the time before your doubles?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Hopefully the time will pass on its own. The last time I was here at like 8:00 and I left at about 8:00. The next time after that, we kind of took a brief intermission, myself and my mom and Serena, we left the tennis center, got some lunch somewhere else, came back. We were still here till 8:00, but it felt different because we took that intermission. So it felt like we were here half the time. Hopefully the time will pass.
Q. Have you played against Martina Navratilova before? Are you excited about playing against her today?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, for sure excited. I think I saw some of the match yesterday with the doubles, the women's doubles. Seems like she's playing well. More than anything, it seems like the partnership between her and Kuznetsova - did I say it right? - It seems to work very well. Both of them seem to play well together. Serena and I, we play well together, too.
Q. Is this the first time you played her?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, I played her in 2000 at Wimbledon.
Q. Are we going to see you out here at 46?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm not willing to work as hard as she does - even now. So I don't think I'll be able to do anything she's done. Hopefully I can just get close to the things she's done in singles, doubles and mixed. I mean, to be out at 46, I probably won't be that successful.
Q. Even at your level, do you learn something from being on the court with someone like Martina?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I try to learn something from everyone. If I see something that someone else is doing that I'm not, they're doing better than me, of course I try to do it myself. You know, she was a great doubles champion. If I could pick up a few pointers, I will. I don't think she's going to be whispering anything to me on the match court.
Q. Was there any part of Pratt's game that you didn't expect out there?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No. I think I know her game pretty well because she's pretty much a baseliner. She really likes to grind. It's not like she has a huge serve or she was going to come out and serve and volley against me. If she did that, then I would have been really surprised. So she did stick to her game. I think that when people come out against me, they have to change their game completely to try to play me, that's when I feel as if I am for sure going to win the match. But she stuck to her game, believed in what she was doing, and that's the sign of a real champ.
Q. Did you always feel in control, the fact that you could dictate the points?
VENUS WILLIAMS: For sure, I think so. I think more than anything I just had to keep my errors down. But there were a lot of times I would hit a hard ball, and she'd hit it right back at me. So I wasn't always ready for those. At times, I was moving her side to side, she kept getting it back, moving me side to side. When matches are like that, I try to just enjoy the battle, enjoy the moment, say, "I'm fortunate to be out here," not to think about it as, "Why is this happening to me?"
Q. What do you think about all the changes taking place in the leadership of the WTA?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Not a lot of time to think about it right now, between all the matches. But I think, more than anything, the sport is growing. Anytime that you're growing, there's always a few pains. So we'll get through them.
Q. At the end of the season when you lost the three Slams to your sister, maybe you weren't as excited about tennis as you were before. How would you describe your level of motivation, the way that affected you, losing those finals?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think the first thing is Serena was just playing better, was a better level. I think if I would have played anyone else, for sure I would have won. But that's the past. Hey, at least I was the finalist.
Q. Did it affect your motivation for the game?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, not at all. No, not at all. I was just feeling tired. But I did my best, whatever time I was playing, so I don't feel bad about that.
Q. When you and Serena go into a doubles match, do you actually train for doubles or do you just take your athleticism to the court?
VENUS WILLIAMS: We don't train as much as we'd like. I was thinking today we would go out and hit a few minutes, work on a few doubles drills, because we don't really practice the doubles. We just try to take pride in what we do. We have a saying that, "Whatever happens, you have to show up. If you're going to show up, why not compete? Why not do it right?" So it doesn't always work out. But it's a little motivation to get out there and play the game.
Q. When you were growing up, which were the women players that you really liked watching?
VENUS WILLIAMS: First, Sabatini when I was really young, like eight. You know, I was a Monica fan. I started grunting, too - haven't stopped since. I guess she was just a revolutionary at that time, just hitting the ball, making it happen. I loved Monica. Pretty much after that, I was on my own. I guess four years later -- when I liked Monica, I was like 10 or 11. A few more years, I was playing matches pro, myself, playing against her.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I didn't know what I was doing. It was hard. She took a bathroom break and I fell apart. It's not like I was nervous, it's just I didn't know what I was doing. I've learned a lot since then, to sum it up.
Q. You were, what, 13 or 14?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I was like 14. 3-Love in the second, I won the first, I was on a roll. Oh, well.
End of FastScriptsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.