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January 17, 2004

Venus Williams


Q. How are you? Ready for the Australian Open?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yes, plain and simple.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: I feel rested. I feel eager. Obviously I have not been in competition in quite a few months, but I am very excited to be playing. I am bursting with energy.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: I started to feel really ready to go in late November, early December. Just took it easy. I didn't train too hard. Just working on my technique and really I was just having a lot of fun, I'd see my tennis bag and I hadn't picked it up in months and I put it over my shoulder, so even that felt good, just walk out there, even that felt good. It was just the little things at times.

Q. What has been the toughest bit about it all?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Toughest bit? Obviously I guess the toughest part would definitely be just accepting that I had to stay out. I am not the kind of person who accepts a circumstance. I make something happen for myself, and this was a case where I could not do more, no matter what I tried. But I have played tennis all my life and being away from the tennis wasn't half as bad as I expected. But being able to accept my limitations was very hard.

Q. How did you spend that six months?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I was busier than ever, really. I was actually very happy to come because now my whole effort is, resting, message, relaxing, that kind of thing. I was quite busy at home with everything that I do, was quite busy.

Q. (Inaudible) practice courts rather than play in one of the warmup tournaments?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I have a pretty intense schedule already, I feel. I did play the exhibition in Hong Kong which is, for me, a perfect preparation. I felt three weeks in a row would not be ideal for me. And also I am playing in the Tokyo event after, so four weeks in a row would not have been ideal. So for me to play in that kind of competition where it is a really intense setting, I'd have to play so many matches to still come here and do well and have a week in between and get myself ready to do and whatever I have to do so it was perfect, is perfect, was perfect.

Q. Have you mapped out your schedule for next year? How much are you going to play?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, definitely, pretty much made most of my commitments. So I am scheduled to play at least 17 events.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: She misses the competition, that's for sure. She misses being down here because we both love this tournament and we both love Melbourne, and she called the other day, she is like bring me some Uggs. She put her order in. Mostly she's harassing my mom about it. So she wants the Uggs and we miss her. It is hard because it is like a piece of the group is missing and we are travelling, my mom has it a little easier now because only I am teasing her and not me and Serena. (Laughs).

Q. How close do you think it is before she could be back?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I guess only Serena would be able to answer that question but really all she needs is just time.

Q. What did you miss about the Tour, if anything?

VENUS WILLIAMS: What did I miss? That was a question that I have never really ever pinpointed or actually thought about what I missed most. Obviously I love tennis. We kind of joke, I am unemployed, now I've got to go to the unemployment office, collect the check, that kind of thing, my mom would laugh. But like I said before, the hardest thing was to accept limitations, to accept that I couldn't do it and I was never taught to say "can't," but I couldn't.

Q. (Inaudible) -- what you actually enjoyed that day at Wimbledon, have you thought about what you went through that day?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I had a good time. I really just felt like I wanted to play because I didn't want to look back and say maybe I could have done it, may be I could have played through it, but I did play through everything. It was hard to stay calm. Obviously Wimbledon final, against a player like Serena, if you are not on the top of your game and ready to play, you are not going to win and I wasn't able to win, but all and all, I have no regrets. That gives me piece of mind.

Q. Do you regret now that you played through the injury then when it would have probably been better to take the time off?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Looking back I shouldn't have played the French Open at all if I wasn't ready. I had a pretty dismal performance at the French Open. I have learned now, if I am not ready -- if you have -- if you have a few days of practice you can't -- (Inaudible.) So, hard lesson to learn. Looking back also, I shouldn't have played the doubles at Wimbledon. My dad told me not to. Hard-headed, I didn't listen. "I want to play the doubles, I want to play the doubles." Dad said don't play. The kid says, I want to play. I still had fun. I love being on the court with Serena. I love playing doubles. It is fun. Even though I was injured, I had good memories. I had fun. Every event I go to I have fun.

Q. (Inaudible.) When you left the court with the trainer, and went through those doors, when you were in there away from the whole atmosphere, did it cross your mind to pull out?

VENUS WILLIAMS: At that point, no, I just finished the match. To finish the match would be enough. That's really all I wanted -- obviously I wanted to win and I tried to win, but just wanted to get through. And that happens.

Q. (Inaudible.) You said you have been busy during your break. Could you be more specific? What was your daily routine?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Actually I'd fall behind a few hours because I'd wake up at 11 because normally I am waking up at seven or eight, but I didn't go to bed the night before, because I was with friends, so I fell into a cycle and I got lazy so when it was time for me to start practicing again I was having a hard time getting up. But besides that, I was in the office, I would do many, many things, I would take care of things for whoever wasn't at home, or what have you. Of course, I had other obligations like the sponsors and photo shoot things all the time. And I would have to go places, have to be away from home. It is nice now to just relax and play tennis which is what I want to do.

Q. Tennis' drug testing program, and have you ever thought some of your opponents might try to take steroids or other drugs to make up the power gap?

VENUS WILLIAMS: What do I think? I think the program is fine. Whatever my opponents do is up to them. I can't keep up with it. I really don't. I think everyone is pretty much doing their best to comply.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: It's awesome. Obviously I didn't see every match, but it was very great. Really was. Nice to see just strong players out there, making a mark and getting attention for tennis because we deserve it.

Q. (Inaudible.) Obviously a terrible, terrible tragedy with your family this year. Has tennis been something that's helped your recovery, getting back to the court has helped your recovery from that?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Obviously this isn't really the time or place that I want to get into any specifics, but what can I say, there's not much to say. Not at least at this point.

Q. (Inaudible.) What will it take to get back to wining Grand Slams? (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: I guess, yeah.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: Obviously it doesn't matter if you are the best player or the most experienced or the most deserved, it doesn't come because of those factors. So whoever plays the best, in that moment in time who makes the best decisions will be the winner. Trying to prepare myself so that it would be me.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't think so. She will be watching. She will probably send me a text message or something to give me some pointers, what have you.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: We don't really talk about tennis, all other things.

Q. How important is it for you to get the third seeding rather than your ranking and would you have played here if you hadn't got it?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I definitely would have played. What do I have to say about that? I don't know. I definitely would have played. For me, I don't -- I don't care where I play exactly because I am here to compete. I am not afraid of anyone, so if I was No. 11 or No. 3, I still would have been very, very happy to play because I have been No. 11 before and I was fine. But it's nice.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: I didn't even see that.

Q. (Inaudible.) Does it put into perspective the game of tennis, the tragedy you had gone through, when something such as traumatic as you have experienced, we are talking about winning and losing here -- (inaudible) --

VENUS WILLIAMS: It was just a lot of emotional thoughts (inaudible) those kinds of things, but I still want to win as much as ever in any case.

Q. How do you rate your chances and who (Inaudible.) --

VENUS WILLIAMS: My chances are pretty good, I'd say. I just want to have fun. I want to go out there and enjoy the competition. I just want to enjoy hitting the ball back and forth. I want to enjoy my opponent hitting a good shot on me and getting one back on them. When you enjoy all of that, it all comes easy. Second part.

Q. Who is the player to beat this year?

VENUS WILLIAMS: (Inaudible.)

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know what is coming. I would just like to play well and be satisfied with how I play.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: Definitely quite a few tournaments away before reaching my personal best ranking, so obviously as long as I play well, I will just keep climbing.

Q. Do you think that it will make a difference for Justine --

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. I don't know what is going to make a difference for her, just to stay healthy and stay confident, I suppose.

Q. (Inaudible)?

VENUS WILLIAMS: It's hard. I just have to kind of take it out of my mind and keep growing. It's hard. (Inaudible) I just have to really be careful with how much training I do. If I get crazy, I have warned my trainer, don't let me hit too many serves. If I need to hit 30, I will hit 200. If I need to hit 1 hour, I will hit three hours. They have to pull me off. I had to give him veto power. Yes, I have to be careful.

Q. Anything else that you are holding back on to at this time?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Not really. But I haven't been in competition in a while and when you are playing and competing and practicing for competition it is different than being at home. It seems that the body takes more wear, so I have to just monitor everything and see how I feel and also on this surface, it's different from a regular hard court, so I am going to just take it day by day and make sure everything is in order.

Q. Do you feel like No. 3 in the world or like No. 11?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't even know I was No. 11. I really didn't. I guess I dropped a little bit but that was to be expected. But I suppose to be No. 1 on the road you feel No. 1. If you are anything less than that I suppose you just feel like you are trying to get to No. 1.

Q. What is your take on all these injuries that are really hitting women's tennis? What is your take on why these things happen?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I just don't know if I should reason speculate on that. I think each person has a different makeup as far as structural and I think that each player has to take care of themselves in whichever way is best for them because everyone is different. Some people can play quite a few events; some people can play less. I don't know what it takes for each person. I know what it takes for me so I stay with whatever range is best for me.

Q. Would you like to see a shorter season? You don't play as many tournaments as the rest --

VENUS WILLIAMS: Is this a trick question? I will look in the paper tomorrow and says Venus says WTA's schedule is not good, you know, I didn't say that. (Laughs) Obviously players need playing opportunities and the Tour -- the WTA Tour is a great place and it's a place where I have been all these years and where I'd like to stay for quite a few more years, so I would be very careful before I criticize anything, especially in the press.

Q. (Inaudible) how would you describe your state of mind right now?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I was totally on missions before and I suppose I need to be on a mission now, I like that. But more than anything I just want to do everything in the match that I am doing in practice, and just want to get off in the first round and see how everything feels. Just concentrate on the now. I think that works best.

Q. Not thinking about winning Slams or getting back to No. 1?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Of course. I am always thinking of moving to the next level and winning the Grand Slams and winning all the tournaments that I play, of course. It is a competitive stream that you never lose and also to be at the top of my field and at the top, but that will take time and I think I have the opportunity to get there.

Q. (Inaudible)?

VENUS WILLIAMS: (Inaudible).

Q. What is the reason that she is not here? You train with her, you know her level?

VENUS WILLIAMS: She's not here because she's not ready. Simple as that.

Q. Not that she has kind of new injury or something?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Not that I am aware of, no.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think it's a lot easier when you have played in tennis before, leading up to an event like this and even if you have had a break you have been playing successfully before the last year, so it will be more of a challenge, I think, for me to get out there and play consistently and play -- I think it's something I can achieve.

Q. Did you anticipate being nervous at all when you came back to -- (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: Sometimes nervous is good because if you go in overconfident sometimes that's when you get your biggest falls. So maybe I will be overly prepared and that's always good.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't read the papers. I look at the pictures. You can't believe what you read, you know that little thing. I firmly believe in that for sure, but I do look at the pictures but I don't really -- it is just too much. I am sorry, guys, but really, one day it is this; one day it's that. And it's just too much. So I just stay away.

Q. What happened to the newspaper you and your sister used to put together?

VENUS WILLIAMS: We got busy. We had jobs. I think about that, we worked really hard. We did the layout and took it to the printer and everything. But it just was so hard. No matter how much we proofread, I proofread it, Serena proofread it, my mom, then my dad, and then we'd do it over again over again over again, still be mistakes. So it was hard. I think one of the big things we learned was when you do an interview, you have to have an idea of what you want to write about, you just can't go to the interview and ask questions because when we did that we would come out and we'd said, "How do we write this? We didn't come up with a game plan." That was probably one of the biggest learning curves, no, it was fun.

Q. Was there ever a time during the six months out when you considered not returning?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, no. Never, usually I was considering returning too quick. My dad said, Venus, if I was you, I wouldn't go. I guess I decided to listen and all my sisters and my mom said don't get out there and hurt yourself. I was thinking, you are overly concerned. Of course they weren't, they were right. But it is hard when you know you are in the situation, it's hard to look from the outside in. I just felt like if I just try I will win and meanwhile I hadn't practiced and yet I wanted to enter an event. Now it seems real silly but at the time it made a world of sense. I am glad I had good advice. (Laughs).

Q. How much time did you actually go without playing?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Pretty much roughly until the end of November. Like I'd go out and try to practice a few days for an hour, half an hour, and then just have a little setback, I would do the wrong thing, I would lift stuff, I just wasn't making good decisions. It was hard to accept that I couldn't do it. Once again it was just hard. So I learned.

Q. Couldn't train 'til the end of November, that was the first time?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, that's when I really started to be able to get some consistency and stay out there again.

Q. How have you changed? (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: My outfit is different.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: I am always changing. Yeah, definitely, as I get older I am always changing for sure. Sometimes things don't seem as clear and I think maybe I am the kind of person that I have it all figured out, know exactly what I want to do and where I want to go and sometimes I am like, "Is this right?" And I have never felt like that. So what is this right now? I guess it is just part of getting older and growing up and like really being an adult. I still got mom, she's behind me 100% and my dad too.

Q. It's Olympic year again. Is that part of the game plan?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yes, I love the Olympics. I had such a great time in Sydney and it was just -- it was more than a dream because I hadn't dreamed of gold medals. I dreamed of Wimbledon, US Open, Grand Slam, No. 1, but I had never really dreamed of those kind of achievements. For me, it's the top of the top of what I have ever done. I didn't realize it at the time. I didn't realize what was going on. Four years later I realized, Venus, you won a gold. At the time I didn't even think about it twice.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: She just making the best decisions for her, I suppose. I don't like these trick questions.

Q. Olympics, London has a bid in for the 2012 Olympics. They want to have the tennis at Wimbledon. Would you endorse that bid?

VENUS WILLIAMS: My God, that would be awesome. That really would. Where with they hold the rest of the event.

Q. All over London.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Outside of London? I guess it could happen. Actually that would be awesome.

Q. (Inaudible.)

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't think I would be the one making the decision.

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