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February 12, 2021

Serena Williams

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

S. WILLIAMS/A. Potapova

7-6, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Talk us through the match and the importance of winning that first set.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yes, it was good to get through that match. The first set was extremely tight. I was a little tight, but it worked out. Was able to play a little more free in the second set.

Q. When you woke up this morning, how aware were you of all the rumors circulating about the city about to go into lockdown? The premier was speaking as your match began. People were actually leaving the arena to try to book flights home. It was crazy. How aware were you, how much penetrated your bubble?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Actually, I didn't know at all until the match was over. I think it's good that I didn't know.

It's rough. It's going to be a rough few days for I think everyone. But we'll hopefully get through it.

Q. The prospect of no crowd again. You've done it a few times now. How do you feel about going through that again?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's not ideal. It's been really fun to have the crowd back, especially here. It's been really cool.

But, you know what, at the end of the day we have to do what's best. Hopefully it will be all right.

Q. Have you been informed about what you can do over the next few days?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I think basically we just go to the tennis, to the hotel. I'm not sure. I would imagine that would be it.

Q. A lot of players who win WTA titles as a teenager, like you did, they burn out, really struggle post tennis. Why do you think it is you've been able to buck that trend? You've been one of the rare few that's had this longevity, a well-balanced existence.

SERENA WILLIAMS: So for me, I never played like an ultimate full schedule. I mean, I played a full schedule, but I don't think I've ever played 30 tournaments in a year, which is typical, or even 28. I think I was closer to 24, maybe 25.

For me, I mean, I still went to college. I still did a lot of other things. I had other careers. It was impossible to burn out. I mean, I've took some time off, had a few injuries, which were another mental break, so yeah.

Q. You said you might just be going from the hotel here. Is that so much different than the schedule you've been keeping?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, no, I've been doing that for 20 years, so... I think I've been pretty much quarantining for my whole career, so...

Q. The crowd seemed to just be really responding to your on-court comments, talking about Olympia, everything. Do you feel more affection from the crowd or a different kind of energy than maybe 10 years ago or five years ago?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Maybe 10 years ago. I don't know. I feel like I've always had a great reaction from the Australian crowd, to be honest. Probably not so much five years ago because I feel like they've been pro Serena for a minute.

But, yeah, it's been really nice to kind of feel that. I don't know. Like I said, I've always felt like Australia has been a place I've always loved to play. I've always had some really amazing support here.

Q. Do you have a sense of how much it means to some of these opponents just to get the chance to share a court with you, to be able to say they played Serena Williams, even if it might mean a loss? How does that make you feel?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't have a sense of that. But I think that what you saying has a lot of validation, what you just said. But I don't really think about it. Maybe I should, but I don't.

Q. Can you think back to maybe earlier in your career, whether there was a player you faced where you were just sort of excited to be getting a chance to play this player, someone I've watched and admired? Were you ever more excited about that aspect of the match than being concerned about winning it?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, definitely. There's been several players like that from Steffi Graf to Monica Seles. So many different players that I was excited to be able to play. Yeah, it was really cool. Cool moments.

Q. Sunday is Valentine's Day, which is not the norm for a Sunday at the Australian Open. We know what love means on the scoreboard. What other ways does the word 'love' have a connection to tennis for you and for others?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I Love-6 love, as long as I have 6, as long as I have 40, I Love-40 love. As long as I don't have love, then I'm doing good in tennis, on the court, so to say.

Q. Are there any other ways besides on the scoreboard that 'love' is a factor in your participation in the sport?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think if I didn't love, I wouldn't be sitting here. I wouldn't be in Australia if I didn't love what I do. I think that love is one of the single greatest things in the world that you can have. It propels you to be your best in your job, whether it's playing tennis or whether it's doing something else.

But I think it can make you be better at whatever you do.

Q. Just wanted to know your thoughts on playing Aryna Sabalenka next, who has had a lot of success at a lot of smaller tour events. How much have you watched? What do you expect from that matchup?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, she hits very hard. She has a big, big power game. She's a big girl. Strong like myself. So I think it will be a really good match - with no crowd.

Q. I've seen that you've changed your return stance this season I guess. How do you feel about change? You've obviously achieved a lot of success doing things in certain ways. Is it hard to move away from things that you did in the past that worked well?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's very hard to move away from something that works well for you. For me, change is the single most difficult thing in my life. I don't embrace change very well.

But I know the importance of it, so I hate my new return, but it works (smiling). I think it's for the best. I love it, but I'm still, you know, getting used to it. Sometimes I want to go back to the old way. I feel like I'm more consistent with my return and I have better results.

Q. A question about your coach, if you could think back to 2012 when you and Patrick joined up together. I'm assuming back then you had a lengthy list of potential options, lots of coaches would have loved to work with you. What was it about Patrick that made you choose him back then? What keeps you together now?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't like change (laughter). This is another thing.

I never looked at any coaches. I've always been coached by my dad and my mom. When I met Patrick, I wasn't looking for a new coach. I was just looking for some advice. It just was very natural.

I loved what he said. He had a very similar coaching style to my dad. He didn't try to change my game. He just enhanced things that I already knew, that I just wasn't doing. Sometimes you have to hear it from a different individual, things that you may have heard a million times. Sometimes it just clicks differently.

I just felt like I needed that. When he first started, it was him and my dad that were still together working. Yeah, that's been my coaching career.

I feel like he's really a great coach. I feel like every time I do something well, I unlock another level, and he tells me something else. I'm like, Why didn't you tell me this five years ago?

Well, you weren't ready for it.

I feel like every time I get to unlock a new level and it's kind of fun.

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