February 16, 2021
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
S. WILLIAMS/S. Halep
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. That was a really great performance, 24 winners, I think. How did you feel on the court? Do you feel like that's the level that you have been bringing so far in the tournament?
SERENA WILLIAMS: That's the level, what?
Q. That you have been bringing through the first four matches.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I feel pretty good with that performance. I feel like I needed to have a good performance obviously today, especially after my last match against her. So it was really important to try to play well today.
Q. As difficult a challenge as she posed, how tough was it just for you physically to recover from a two-hour, intense match from the last round? Was that part of the difficulty that today presented?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I guess it was difficult. Honestly, I didn't think about it. You know, I just was thinking -- actually, I didn't think about it at all. But in general, I just tried to focus on the next thing.
But, yeah, now that you mention it, it's definitely not easy, and I'm still recovering. So it definitely takes time.
Q. You alluded to the last time you played. Can you be honest now and say how much did that result stick with you, and was the desire to avenge that part of your intensity tonight?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Honestly, I didn't really think about that so much. It was more about today and just next time play better. I knew I couldn't play worse. So that was a good thing.
Q. There has been a lot of talk around your movement and your defense this tournament. I heard on court you were asked about it and you said it wasn't a great focus of yours in the offseason, but have you noticed you're moving better out there?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, absolutely. It wasn't a focus not on the offseason only because I didn't have as much time as I would have liked because of that awful Achilles injury I've been dealing with.
So it was something that Patrick and I did discuss. I just wasn't able to incorporate it as much as I would have liked to.
But once I was able to get on the court, I was able to incorporate it as much as I could, if that makes any sense.
But like I was saying in a different interview, movement has always been one of my strengths, and so it's actually more natural for me to move than for me not. So it was just kind of, like, Oh, that's how I used to move, so it's pretty good.
I'm happy that I'm doing that again and that I put it back into my game. I think I was more focused on other things and not focused on something that is actually a strength of mine, has always been a strength of mine, and I had to refocus on that.
Q. You seemed like you were playing with a great deal of both focus and joy out there tonight, and yet the stadium was largely empty. How badly would you like people to be in the stadium when you play Naomi on Thursday?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, it's twofold. I love having the people there, obviously. But at the same time, it's kind of nice to not have, like, I don't know if it's pressure, more pressure when there is people in the stands. So I think either way it's really a win-win situation. That's kind of how I look at it.
Q. You said the point of your movement at 3-3 in the second with Simona serving you won a 20-shot rally to get the ad out, and then won the 12-shot rally that followed. When was the last time you felt like those kinds of rallies belonged to you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It's definitely been a minute. It's been a long minute (smiling). I think 19... 1926, the summer of 1926 I think was the last time I felt that.
But I like, I just like, you know, I'm good at rallying and I have to embrace the things I'm good at. I'm good at playing power, I'm good at hitting a hundred balls. And that's one thing that's unique about me that I just need to kind of accept and embrace and just be good at both.
So, yeah, it's -- I just needed to do that.
Q. It also appeared you took something off your serve. You had a lot of different speeds that you were throwing at her. Was that part of the strategy?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Not at all. I just was not -- my first serve was not where it should be. I'm just, like, Get it in. Because against Sabalenka, I just was like, Oh, I'm not getting my first serve in. Today I'm like, Where's that 220? It's eluding me right now.
Not part of the strategy at all. I'm just... Yeah.
Q. Obviously it was a really tough game. With that confidence that you have from this game, how do you feel going ahead and facing Naomi in a few days?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I feel good. I feel like, you know, I'm here and I'm happy to be here. I got to keep going. That's obviously the goal. Obviously I have an incredible opponent to play, so it would be nice to hopefully keep raising the level of my game. I'm going to have to.
Q. An on-court and an off-court question. Just on the on-court question: The mind aspect of going in to play Naomi and the battles that you have had in the past, do they come back into focus when you play her this time? And the off-court question: How is production going on, is it "King Richard," the film of your father?
SERENA WILLIAMS: So it's good to -- I don't know. Honestly, it's more of a semifinal for me. It's, like, first of all, I'm in the semifinal. That's pretty awesome. So that's exciting.
And then it doesn't matter who I'm playing really in the semifinal. It's a semifinal of a Grand Slam. No one gets there by chance, so I have got to be ready.
I actually don't know. I need to check up on that, how "King Richard" is doing. I feel like there is a lot of things happening because of COVID-19 and movie theatres and stuff like that, so we might have to change our strategy in terms of our release. But I have to check in on that.
I'm currently occupied playing in the Australian Open (smiling). So that's a good thing.
Q. You have played Naomi now four times. How would you describe her as a hard-court player and the challenges that she poses for you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I think she's a very strong player. You know, I feel like she does everything well. She has a good serve, she has a great return, she's strong on both sides.
I think, yeah, so like I said, you know, it doesn't matter who I'm playing in the semifinals. I mean, people are going to want to try to go to the next round, so it will be an interesting match.
Q. You were talking about the idea of this is a semifinal, back at that level here in Australia. I'm wondering, is it easy or hard to not think beyond that, to just think about what's at hand next and not let your mind think to the idea of what could happen after that? Have you gotten better at that, or is it the same for you throughout your career?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I would say it's definitely not easy to look -- to not look past that. But it's also not easy to not look past the semifinals because it's, like, there is still so much tennis to be played in the next four days. Technically two, but four. But, yeah.
Q. This is your first slam match against Naomi since the US Open final in 2018. Have you two ever spoken privately about what happened that day? Have you had closure between the two of you? What is your general relationship with Naomi out on the circuit?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I think we both have had closure, and we have reached out to each other. I have definitely reached out, and she's -- yeah.
So off the court, it's hard. I think she's a great competitor and she's a cool cat (smiling).
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports