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January 20, 2004

Venus Williams


THE MODERATOR: Venus, tell us about your match.

VENUS WILLIAMS: I was real excited out there today. I really just wanted to focus on just hitting through the ball and going for my shots and when I was on the run just hitting them, hitting my returns. Really just doing all the things I always practice on. So I was pretty satisfied with the match and I played against a good player also.

Q. What were your feelings just stepping on the court for the first time?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I guess it's a little bit sentimental, but at the time I was really very focused in on really my performance. Afterwards, it was really just a breath of fresh air, just like, "Oh, yes, I'm back now. I'm doing good." I guess the only way to understand how it feels is to actually have been in the position I was in.

Q. More butterflies than usual?

VENUS WILLIAMS: No, not really. Not really. I was pretty clear on what I wanted to do and I was pretty clear also on the kind of player that she was. And was really just a matter of me going out there and executing.

Q. Were you surprised that they bumped you up in the seeding?


Q. Were you expecting that or...?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm really grateful, I suppose, to the seeding. But other than that, I really didn't pay so much attention. I think the seeding's pretty consistent with the WTA rules.

Q. Can you take us through what happened at 3-1 in that first set.

VENUS WILLIAMS: As far as...?

Q. You seem to hurt the ankle a little bit.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I was going for the swing volley, and I twisted my right ankle, so I'll just monitor it and see how it goes. But I'm not anticipating that it will be so bad.

Q. Did it need any treatment after the match?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Just ice so far, but it hasn't been so long after. So I'm gonna reevaluate after this conference.

Q. Can you give us a little idea of how your recovery went, like when you first started to go on the court and how long you were on the court and all that kind of stuff.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah. It just varied. Some days I hit an hour. I tried to start out with half an hour, an hour, then go from there to, you know, hopefully two hours, three hours, sometimes an afternoon session. I tried to get the most out of my practice when I was there since maybe I couldn't have stayed on the court as long as I would have liked. Basically, I kept building it up. Even still now I have some shorter days and some longer days just to not really just rocket into it but kind of ease myself into it and do the smart thing. In the past I have kind of rushed too much, and that doesn't work.

Q. When did you first go back on court after Wimbledon, the first time?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I went back on court... I guess I went out to LA, when Serena had the procedure. I tried to hit then, but it wasn't working. I was trying to play the US Open. After that, I took a few weeks off. After the US Open, I tried to go back out again and tried to get ready for my next tournaments in the fall, but that didn't happen. So, basically, I really started going out full-time in December.

Q. Do you think your career and your life has developed the way you thought when you started as a professional in '97?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, definitely. I've reached a lot of my goals. I think when I get to the point where I have no more goals to reach, then I wouldn't have any reason to play. But I don't think I'll ever get there. And I think that I'm always expecting to get more out of myself, so obviously, I'd like to get better and stronger and more consistent. But it gives me a lot to look forward to.

Q. Each year we seem to talk about the more aggressive approach, but was it my imagination you seemed to come to the net more a bit today? Are you trying to do that here?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think my game lends itself for me to move in because my shots penetrate and I have the opportunity to move in and follow up after them, and my volleys aren't, like, that bad. So today I did hit a lot of penetrating shots and I tried to move in. Really it's just all about playing the ball. If the ball is deep you move back, if it's short you move in. That's really what I'm trying to do, is play with the ball.

Q. What's it like being here without Serena?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Not the same. Not the same. I'm alone in the room. You know, phone's not ringing, because her phone's always ringing non-stop (smiling). I guess that's a difference. But I miss her. No doubles.

Q. Did you feel trepidation going back on court today, first time in many months?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I suppose maybe in a way, but I think that more than anything I just wanted to play consistently because I feel I can hit lots of great shots. But it's not about one or two great shots; it's about playing consistently and playing the point correctly. I think I did okay at that today.

Q. I saw a picture of your nephew, the little guy on the front page. How old is he?


Q. Is he having a good time here?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, he thinks he's a star (smiling). "I'm a star. See my picture in the paper?" Showed everyone his picture. I'm like, "Oh, God, we're not showing any more pictures." I said, "What did you do to become a star?" I asked him. "I'm a star." But it's hard when you're young. You don't understand.

Q. Who were your heroes growing up? What did you learn from them? What can youngsters learn from watching your game?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I guess my first hero maybe was Sabatini, and then after that it was Becker. I used to serve like him at 10 years old. Then it was Monica Seles. That's where I got my grunt from. I was grunting like her. It's amazing, 10 and 11, I'm watching on TV. 10 years later I'm playing against her.

Q. Did you try to learn anything from their games?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know if I tried to learn anything, I just tried to be like them. So maybe in essence I did learn something from them.

Q. What can young tennis players watching you on TV learn from your game?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Hopefully good technique. I mean, sometimes I'm off on my technique, but that's what's most important is the technique. Hopefully to have fun, too. I have fun when I'm out there.

Q. Has there been anything strange about being back, all the hoards of players in the beginning of a Grand Slam tournament? You've been off in your own quiet life.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Exactly, exactly. Definitely, I'm having to deal with a lot more people. I think I've gotten really comfortable with not having to have as much people in my private space. I suppose I was an old pro at it. Now I'm just picking it back up. But other than that, I'm just rolling with it.

Q. Has it been fun to catch up with some people you haven't seen for a while?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, yeah. Everyone's been real nice, asking people what they did over the holiday. Things change when you're gone for six months. So just catching up.

Q. When you lost your serve at the end, how do you look at Justine at the No. 1 in the world now and top favorite for this tournament?

VENUS WILLIAMS: She definitely deserves where she is. You don't get to No. 1 unless you deserve to be there. I've been at the top before, and it must be really immensely satisfying for her.

Q. You said you'd stop playing when you achieved your goals. What are they specifically?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, first one would be to win every match. Then the second would be to win every point. I obviously, realistically, I don't think there's ever a point in any competitor or any athlete's life where they stop having goals. It gets to the point probably where you can't reach them anymore. But I feel like definitely I'm still on the rise - always on the rise.

Q. Just going back to what you were saying about your nephew being on the front page of the paper, do you believe you have to earn the right to be a star?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, sure. I guess so. I don't know, some people want to grow up and become a star and be world-famous. Other people want to be good at what they do. And I think I'm one of those people that just I want to be good at what I do. The other stuff came second. I was just raised to be a tennis player. That's what I am.

Q. For the benefit of our lady readers, can you just describe the fashion today, the dress, the earrings, the engagement ring (laughter).

VENUS WILLIAMS: No engagement ring. Actually, my finger, I hit it, and it's been swollen for weeks now. I can't get the ring off so... Bad luck. But, yeah, the outfit was -- I suppose it's a halter, a Reebok in conjunction with Diane Von Furstenburg, who's completely a legend in fashion design. It's a lot of fun to wear. It's a lot of fun to wear.

Q. Same earrings you wore on court?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, earrings, I got these in Hong Kong. I guess accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. I'm just your regular girl, I really am.

Q. Are they diamond encrusted?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah. I have to be careful. When I get home, Serena's going to want them. I'll have to hide them. I like long and dangly, really big hoops, and one day the diamond studs. Obviously, I have to win a big event before I can reward myself. Maybe Serena will get them for me.

Q. The clasp in your hair?

VENUS WILLIAMS: In the hair? Oh, yeah, just light blue. Like I said, I just -- I like to have the complete outfit. I just believe that if you look good, you play better. I'm serious. Have you ever gone anywhere, you're not looking your best, you feel a little, you know, a little self-conscious. When I walk out on that court, my game's ready and outfit's ready, too (laughing). Okay, I'm totally off the subject (laughter). Thank you all.

End of FastScripts….

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