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August 21, 2020

Serena Williams

New York, New York, USA

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. What's the biggest difference having this year's Western & Southern Open New York? Is there anything you miss about Cincinnati?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, well, the biggest difference is that it's in New York, and I miss the amusement park in Cincinnati. My daughter loves going there. I like going there, too. We have a really good time.

Q. Obviously there is a lot of changes on-site as to how tournaments are being held at the moment, but you, personally, what do you think has been the toughest thing you think you need to adjust to? Does it require any specific mental preparation?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know if there has been anything too hard to adjust to. I think for me I have been really just super careful, and, like, if anything, I'm just not taking any risks.

I think the biggest adjustment is just the extra testing, but I'm all for the extra testing, actually.

Q. How is Olympia adjusting to this new normal? I think kids do a really good job of it, but how has she been doing in the new bubble?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's been different, because she has been -- today was hard. She wanted to come to practice with me, but it's around her nap time so she couldn't come.

She's younger than, like -- you know, if she was six or seven, it may have been a little bit different, but she's so young. She just started school for, like, three weeks or maybe two months maybe. So it wasn't that huge of a difference. So she's been adjusting really well.

Q. I'm curious for you what difference it makes having your own house there and your decision to do that and not be in the hotel situation.

SERENA WILLIAMS: I didn't want to be in the hotel because I have lung issues, so I felt like it was actually a big risk for me personally.

At my house, I can control more. There is no housekeeping, there is none of that type of stuff. And so, I mean, as much as I want to be here, it's great, but I have genuine health issues that I just really needed to put my mind at rest to even be able to perform in New York.

Q. Curious, USTA's rules about needing 24-hour security for having your own house, wondering what you think of that stipulation and how you arranged that.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, so, you know, they have to guide and make sure people aren't leaving and going to nightclubs, I guess, and restaurants (smiling).

Unfortunately I think it's good because, you know, unfortunately sometimes people might gets antsy and might want to go places. I think it's just -- I think it's good because of my health issues, so I'm all for, like, the extra protocols and the extra safety.

I want to know where people are going. I want to make sure that we are all keeping ourselves in this giant bubble. Like it's more people now. It's a 128 draw for each, singles, men and women. So it's going to be a lot of people that enter this bubble.

I think they are doing a really good job of making sure everyone is staying to their word and staying honest about it. Yeah, I think it's really good.

Q. Wondering, given that we are coming off such a long gap without tournaments and some people not playing at all, does it feel to you, looking ahead to the US Open, like this might be as sort of unpredictable of a Grand Slam as we have seen in a very long time, the circumstances certainly being unusual in many ways? And I'm also wondering what you think about the thoughts some people have expressed that there needs to be an asterisk next to the 2020 Open because not everybody is there, it's a very different atmosphere, et cetera, et cetera.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. I don't know. I don't really think about it too much. I just feel like I'm here, and there is a lot of people that are here, and there is a tremendous amount of people that aren't here, as well.

It still has to be tennis that's played, asterisks or not. I think this whole year deserves an asterisk, because it's such a special year, history we have never been through in this world, to be honest, not this generation, not this lifetime. It's just in history, period.

So I think we are living a future history lesson. So I think regardless, there is always going to be some asterisk by it, because it's never been done before. And if you win, it was, like, wow, I was able to win in this crazy circumstance where there was no fans. It was just so sterile and weird. But I mentally came through. It might be a more mental test than anything.

But it's interesting, and we will see. I don't think it really matters.

Q. I saw you hitting with Stefanos Tsitsipas. I just wondered what you get out of practicing with people like him and what you make of his game so close up?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I really love his game a lot. He takes the ball super early and hits the ball really hard. I get a lot out of that he hits a little more flat than a lot of men, a lot of guys on the ATP.

So for me it obviously helps me, like, I have to lift my game so much. And then it's also important for me to lift it, because I don't want him to think, oh, I never want to hit with her again. She totally sucked. (Smiling.)

I'm, like, Okay, I need to not miss a shot ever.

So it's good. I think it's kind of good for me to kind of just get back into that mental, like, you don't ever want to miss a shot ever. Yeah, it's really helpful.

Q. You are the fan favorite at the US Open. How are you going to handle not having that fan support at Ashe Stadium? And second question, just not being able to go out and about in Manhattan, you love the city, what's that going to be like?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I hope I'm a fan favorite. I love playing here. I'm vintage, so, it's like I don't have that many years left at some point.

It would be nice to try to keep winning. I don't know. I don't mind not having the fans. I would love if the fans were here, because it's so special to play with the fans and they really pull me up when I'm down, but at the same time, we need to be safe right now, so let's not have anyone -- when we are all feeling better, we can all come back and we can all have fun.

And I'm okay to not go out. I don't really go out much anyway. Yeah, I literally stay home all the time, because it's kind of hard for me to go out.

So this is not really new. I mean, I might go to a restaurant every now and then, but especially during the US Open, it's a hardship to go out because it's, like, everyone's eyes are ready for New York and they are ready to see tennis players, so it's not the best situation for me, you know, if I'm trying to stay focused and stay in a zone, so that part hasn't been a huge adjustment for me.

Q. Great to have you back in New York. Curious, given the health issues that you have discussed, especially the lung problems that you have overcome, how much concern or trepidation did you have coming into a situation like this, especially now?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I have had a little trepidation, but I spoke a lot to Stacey Allaster, and we have been having a lot of conversations just on the phone.

For me, it's been a different experience, and, you know, I'm really a little intense. You might see me walking around with my HAZMAT glasses and everything, and mask, obviously.

But for me, like, this is a little bit deeper than just playing tennis. It's, like, okay, I have health issues and I don't necessarily want to get sick, and if I do, I want the good version.

So I have been doing extra vitamins. So if something happens, at least I will have the good strain, I guess, of the virus.

It's really important for me to take so many precautions. I'm probably taking more than most people, but not more than Venus because she's, like, in the same boat as me (smiling).

We, together, I am just really, really, really aware of everything that we do. Yeah, it's just eye-opening, but it's also good to kind of get out and still be able to compete and still have fun and just say, you know, I was able to compete in this slam that was so insane, looking back on it.

Q. Was there any point you considered not coming to play these tournaments?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, there was definitely a point where, in the beginning, I was, like, There is no way these tournaments can even happen.

But like I said, I had a lot of great talks with several people at the USTA, and the protocols that they have are so intense, it definitely helps me to feel safe. I see that every day they are following through on those protocols.

Obviously it goes bigger than the USTA. The government has to be involved and the CDC at some level, so that also makes me feel a lot better.

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