March 17, 2001
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
MODERATOR: Questions for Serena.
Q.. Have you ever been booed on a tennis court?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I haven't, no.
Q.. What was your reaction? Did you understand? Did it make you play harder?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I really am not quite sure. I just was out there, walking out with a bad reception from the crowd.
Q.. What was your feeling? What did you feel inside?
SERENA WILLIAMS: At first, obviously, I wasn't happy. I won here before. You know, I do well here. It wasn't the happiest moment for me. But everyone just do their own thing, I guess.
Q.. Did you feel hurt? Did it hurt you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, obviously, because I've done well here. I was a champion just a year ago or two years ago. But eventually you get over it and you just start playing.
Q.. Did that contribute to the quick deficit that you were facing?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think so. I don't think I was mentally ready for that. I don't think I was mentally ready for that at all.
Q.. So how did you work yourself into the match?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know. I just kept missing, hitting harder and harder. Things just weren't going right for me today. To be honest, what I did literally I went over on the changeover and I prayed to God just to help me be strong, not even to win, but to be strong, not listen to the crowd. Every time I missed a serve or anything, it was a little out of the ordinary (smiling). I just wanted some strength to go on.
Q.. Which changeover was that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It was in the second set.
Q.. When they clapped when you missed a shot, were you annoyed?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I mean, in the beginning I was a little shocked, but it never really annoyed me. It eventually got old. I was like, "Wow, this is getting old. Move on to something new."
Q.. How aware were you of all the controversy swirling around? Were you aware of what people were saying before this match?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, actually I'm not. I was not. I'm not aware of anything now. If you could spare me.
Q.. Do you feel like an innocent bystander in all this?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I definitely do. I'm just a competitor. I mean, how many people do you know go out there and jeer a 19-year-old? Come on, I'm just a kid.
Q.. How important is it for you to have your family around, to know they're in the background over there, especially your dad?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It's very important because they've always been in my corner from day one. I think family is most important. To have them there next to me, in the crowd supporting me when I wasn't doing well, not just in this match, but in general, it's a real plus. Not everyone has that. I'm very fortunate to have that support from my mom, my dad and my sisters and everything. I'm very happy.
Q.. Was it more painful when the crowd booed your dad and your sister when they came in?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Actually, I think maybe it was. I was, you know, just -- I was like, "Wow, this is weird. This is not -- this is weird."
Q.. Although we don't have to listen to what the National Enquirer write, people who are in the game, respected people in the game, seem to have some doubts about your match at Wimbledon, whether it was arranged or whether it wasn't arranged. You have an audience here. Would you like to put that to rest once and for all?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, usually I don't get involved in these controversies. Well, the National Enquirer, come on, it's the National Enquirer. I mean, God (laughter). Next thing you know I'm going to be pregnant by some Martian. Someone told me, "You know you're famous when you make the Enquirer." I think I'm famous. It's all, really -- it's just not true. It's really kind of hurtful because it's just lies, just scandalous lies.
Q.. Do you know this gentleman being cited in the National Enquirer is a nephew?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Somebody do that with your own blood, something is dreadfully wrong.
Q.. You did win the championship. It got lost in the focus. How hurtful is that to you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: This isn't the most exciting championship I've won. I think I've won a big battle today mentally. I definitely won a battle mentally today more than anything. I think a champion can come through. I kept saying to myself, "You know, you're a champion, Serena. You can come through."
Q.. If anything, you can take that from this situation?
SERENA WILLIAMS: If I ever be in this situation again, I know for a fact that I'll be able to play better next time, and the next time better and better, till eventually it will be just like I have earplugs on.
Q.. How does it impact you to have a dad that goes around your tennis? That doesn't happen for all players.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't understand.
Q.. Your dad generates a lot of controversy. How does that affect your tennis?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't read the press. I heard about the Enquirer. I don't read it. I never read the Enquirer. I hope you guys don't either. I just say -- I'm just an innocent person. I play tennis. I play for the crowd. I play for myself. I play to win. I play to be a champion. I play to be the best. That's all I can do. I don't want to get involved in anything else. Maybe a few extra contracts, a few extra deals, that's not bad. Other than that, I'm just a tennis player.
Q.. Towards the end of the second set and essential into the third, it seemed like the better you played, the more the crowd was quiet. Was that feeding your momentum?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, you know, it was definitely better quiet than all the noise. That wasn't that bad at all. As for feeding my momentum, no, I just started thinking, "I have to raise the level of my game." A top player, they can always raise the level of their game when they're not playing good, so that's what I kept focusing on.
Q.. A couple of players made accusations about you and Venus. Do you think they made accusations because they're jealous?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know why people are making accusations if they don't know the truth. I mean, if my dad were to do that anyway, why would Venus be up 4-1? Wouldn't it be more even? It just doesn't make sense. Besides, I was really trying to make the singles competition at the Olympics, so I was really disappointed about that. I didn't make the singles when I lost. That was heartbreaking for me because I really wanted to play singles at the Olympics. I'm a singles player, I'm not really a doubles specialist. I was happy to win the gold medal in doubles, but I wanted to play singles.
Q.. What did your dad say to you and what did Venus say to you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: My dad said, "Congratulations, good job, way to hang in there mentally." Venus told me, "Good job." Basically the same thing.
Q.. Do you think part of the problem is maybe because you have a sister on the road, that you guys stay together and don't really mix with the other players as much, maybe they feel you're apart from them?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think maybe they feel we're apart. I don't know. I talked to a lot of older players who are either away from the tour now or on the tour. They said when other players were like the No. 1, they were always in a world of their own, never communicated with anybody else.
Q.. Is that the way it is now?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I guess. I communicate with other players. I smile. I'm cordial, friendly. I don't know. I'm just trying to be me.
Q.. You seem like a pretty friendly person.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm really outgoing.
Q.. Wouldn't it be kind of boring just to always be associating with Venus, don't you want to get to know the other girls?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm definitely outgoing, I'm an extrovert. I like to have a little idle chat every now and then.
Q.. Even if the crowd booed you today, do you wish to come back next year?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I have a championship to defend next year. You'll probably see me here.
Q.. Would you like to see the WTA take some action or have a talk with these players? Other sports, if they say the next basketball game is going to be fixed, there's a problem. The WTA hasn't taken action. They just issued a statement the other night. Are you disappointed in their response in all this?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I don't know what their response is. Like I said, I'm just here to play tennis. I'm here to be the best I can be. The matches aren't rigged. I can't really respond to that.
Q.. How did you manage to maintain motivation and fire, given how hard the crowd was coming down on you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: In the beginning, I have to say it was a little tough. But eventually I just started to think, "Just stay focused." Actually, I played a match in Paris, in the final of this one tournament. The whole crowd was against me. It was because I was playing a French girl. It was a little different. But they were so loud that I could actually, you go to a concert, you can hear the bass in your chest. That's how loud it was there. I think this might be a little worse. I was able to come through and win that match. I thought about that. "Serena, you're a strong girl. You can come through."
Q.. Does it matter to you to be loved by the crowd?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think anyone would prefer to be loved by the crowd. I have my fans out there. I'm really happy that I do have a lot of fans out there. At least wherever I go, people want my autograph. I don't know if they're my fans or not. I don't know.
Q.. Why do you think the crowd was booing? Why do you think there was such hostility there?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I mean, I really don't know. Who knows. You'll have to ask some people that were mostly involved.
Q.. Do you think race has anything to do with this?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Race? I think, you know, black people have been out of slavery now for just over a hundred years, and people are still kind of struggling a little bit. It hasn't been that long. I don't know if race has anything to do with this particular situation. But in general I think, yeah, there's still a little problem with racism in America.
Q.. Did Kim say anything to you afterwards? What do you think about her game since she's hoping to be a Grand Slam champion?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, she said, "Good job, congratulations." She asked me was I going to the Ericsson tomorrow. I mean, she's a very nice girl. I talk to her. She's a very nice young kid. She's very smart.
Q.. What do you think of her game?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, she's a great player. She has a lot of strength. She's playing more smart. I played her before. She was playing really smart then also, but now it's gotten even to another level. I want to go home and practice for Kim.
Q.. If you had to step back and summarize all that's happened in one word, what would that word be?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Chaotic (smiling).
Q.. You and Venus obviously mean a great deal to your father, what he's done for your tennis, et cetera. You obviously have a lot of respect for him. Do you deep down sometimes wish that perhaps he might not say quite as many things off the cuff, perhaps, as he does because it looks a little bit as if you and Venus have to carry the can for his exaggerated comments at times?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know. Like I said, the only time I ever hear about it is when I'm in the media room and you guys say something about it. Like I said before, I'm just trying to be me. I'm just trying to play my game, play tennis. That's what I'm focusing on this year is to play tennis. I'm doing well. Hopefully next week at the Ericsson, I'll be in my home crowd, things will be a little different. But we'll see.
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