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March 11, 2000

Serena Williams


WTA: Questions for Serena.

Q. Alexandra finished her press conference with what you told her at the net. She said you told her, "You are there," considering her game. Is she there? What did you mean by that? Obviously a compliment to her.

SERENA WILLIAMS: I mean, the way she played tonight, I've never seen her play - her serve was really on. Every time, you know, she was down, she came up with a big winner. That was pretty good. That was really great. My serve wasn't kicking at all. I mean, tomorrow I think it will be better.

Q. Tennis Week listed you and your father and your mother and Venus as one of the most influential people in tennis. What did you think about that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I thought that was really exciting. We are pretty influential. We changed the game. We came out on the scene, and everyone started playing harder, hitting harder, running faster, getting stronger, going to the gym, doing things different. Kind of like what Martina Navratilova did when she came out. They started going to the gym also. We're pretty influential in the game. My dad has done a lot, my mom also. It's like attracting a new crowd of people, a new crowd of fans. Everyone is really excited about it.

Q. You told her she's there, but you came up with the win, and in the third set pretty handily. What do you have? Experience? Having the sense of winning in the past? Shot-making? What makes you the better player?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I mean, I don't know about experience. I mean, she plays -- I think she played a little more tournaments than what I did. I just never give up. I fight till the end. I can't accept not fighting. I have that never-say-die spirit. It just lives inside me. You can't go out and say, "I want a bag of never-say-die spirit." It's not for sale (laughter). It has to be innate.

Q. Was it strange playing her after all these years?

SERENA WILLIAMS: We've never played in the Juniors before or anything. It was definitely a first. You always get a first.

Q. You said your serve wasn't kicking today. What about the rest of your game?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know, maybe it was the stadium, the atmosphere. I could never get my rhythm. I've played so much better than this. You know, that's what you have to do. You have to be able to come out with a big match when you're not playing your best tennis. That's what I was able to do. She played pretty good. That's all that really matters.

Q. Are you less recognizable? You were at a Lakers game. Did people recognize you less without the beads, you and Venus?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Actually kind of, sort of. Without the beads, they stare at me (laughter). With the beads, they run to me. In the tournaments, I have a few beads in. When I was at the Lakers game, I didn't have any beads in. I was just trying to be incognito. The players came over to say hi. It was really nice. They recognized us.

Q. Any autographs?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I wanted to get an autograph from Shaq and Kobe Bryant for my nephew and niece. They really love them, but I didn't have any paper (laughter). It's so ironic. Everyone comes up to me, "Serena, this is for my brother." I'm like, "Yeah, right." I wanted to get their autograph, but it's like it's for my nephew and niece. I know how these people feel now.

Q. I heard that Kobe Bryant actually taped an event for something you and your sister were hosting. Can you tell me about that, please?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know anything about this. Will you repeat it?

Q. Kobe Bryant taped a message for an event you and your sister were hosting, information, I think.

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I don't hear much.

Q. Do you like these tough first round matches? Last year, you started off with Lindsay, I believe. This year was another tough one.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it gets me going. I've been playing pretty well in California. Last time I lost was a couple years ago, so I'd like to keep that record going.

Q. What is your next tournament?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm playing the Lipton -- the Ericsson (laughter).

Q. How are you physically? You've kind of had an up-and-down year with injuries.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Just in the beginning with the back. That was it. Right now, I'm great. I'm in great shape. I can run and stay out there. My maximum is eight hours. If anyone wants to stay out there for longer than eight hours, they can have the match.

Q. Didn't you get hurt in Paris in the final.

SERENA WILLIAMS: That's right. It was so strange. I don't know what happened. It was so strange. Maybe it was some move that I did. The next day, it was nearly back to normal, and I could play the next week. I won the next week, so that was really, really odd.

Q. What was going on there that second set? You had a break, then all of a sudden she just kind of gained a lot of momentum and won out the rest of the games of that second set. What was going on there?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, she really brought up her game. I kind of hit an error here, hit another error there. Maybe I wasn't as focused as I should have been. I think maybe that's pretty much what happened.

Q. Then what did you do in that third set to get it back?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, in the third set I knew I just have to fight for every point. If I was up, she would probably hit an ace. I couldn't let that get me down because I know Venus has a huge serve. Whenever I play her, she usually hits a ton of aces. I couldn't let that get me down.

Q. How did playing her kind of compare to when you play against Venus in terms of the serve?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, they both have big serves. I think the three of us have the biggest serves on the Tour. I don't think you can really compare the games because they're totally different styles.

Q. Is Venus hitting at all now?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Rumor has it she's hitting and she's getting in shape, she's practicing hard.

Q. You don't know that's a fact, though?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I wouldn't know. She's only my sister, you know (laughter).

Q. How does it feel to come into a tournament defending a title?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It really feels great. I was in Paris defending my title. I really felt great. I actually liked being the No. 1 seed, too. It was a special feeling. I have to get that No. 1 seeding again (laughter).

Q. Stevenson said that she couldn't (inaudible) on the baseline, didn't give up the baseline at all. What did you think about that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know. I don't realize. I have to watch this match on tape and learn from it. I'm pretty tough to beat off the ground. It's kind of hard. I can understand, you know, you have power, it's coming deep. It's kind of hard to keep getting these shots back consistently.

Q. Do you think Lindsay stepped up a little bit this year and is playing better than she did at the end of the year, given what she did in Australia?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I definitely think so. I saw that match. We were at home. Our whole family were watching that match. Everyone's stepping it up. No one's giving away anything any more, nothing's for free. Every match you play, you have to fight. At least I don't get a free match anymore. Everyone that plays me really plays tough. She's really improved, unbelievable, just over the past few months. Everyone's improving. I've improved, too. Everyone's taken their game to a different level. It's a new millennium (laughter).

WTA: Last question, please.

Q. You met the president. He wrote something in your notebook.


Q. Can you tell us what?

SERENA WILLIAMS: He wrote, "To Serena, all the best in your future career." He signed his name. I have to get more people to sign my book. I've got to get a lot of special people in it.

Q. How did you like meeting the president?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It was pretty exciting. He was really what I had not expected. I expected him to be more uptight. But he was so down-to-earth, so casual, like any normal person that you would meet on the street. I found that really quite hard to believe, that he was that way. He was what I would call cool. He's in my cool book (laughter). Not many people are in there, you know.

Q. Was it that hard to get into the White House itself?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It was pretty hard. You have to go through so much security. Everyone makes you roll your window down, you have to get your ID out. It's really hard to get in there.

Q. Who else is in the cool book?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Not many people, you know. You have to be cool to be in the cool book (laughter).

Q. Nobody in this room?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No one else I'm going to mention is on the cool book. Venus is on the cool book, a lot of people. I'm not going to mention any. That's next time.

End of FastScripts….

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