March 13, 1999
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
BROOKE LAWER: First question for Serena.
Q. You've had some experience now as a writer and journalist. If you had a really tough editor who said, "Come up with a creative lead to start your story on today's final," what would you write?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Wow. Actually, I think I'm going to do an interview on myself for the Tennis Monthly Recap. It's a hot story. I'm not going to give you what I'm going to say (laughter). You have to make up your own. I was just about to say something, too. Good try.
Q. What's the first question you're going to ask yourself?
SERENA WILLIAMS: How do you feel about just winning? This is the biggest tournament I ever won. I know that I can win the big ones now. I don't know how many matches I've won in a row, but it's enough to win a Slam. It's seven in a row to win a Slam. I'm prepared to do that.
Q. Tell us about your knee problem.
SERENA WILLIAMS: All week I've been having a little trouble with my knee. In , actually the second set, it was really troubling me more than it has. I just really had to fight through it. I said to myself. Serena, if you're going to be a champion, you've got to learn to fight through it or quit." I have to keep going.
Q. What exactly is the problem?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I just have a little inflammation.
Q. One of those things that presumably only rest will cure completely?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I can always take rest. These tournaments are, as Dad always said, "These tournaments are going to be here forever." He always looks after my well-being. I think maybe I should listen to him.
Q. In your so-called interview, imaginary interview for your magazine, would you ask yourself, "Now do you feel vindicated?"
SERENA WILLIAMS: My dad has always been proud of me. He's always known that I can make it; I can do the best that I can do. I don't have to worry about him now feeling vindicated, whether I win or not. That's just the way he is, so -- .
Q. I think what you did today, though, came through in terms of the predictions he made some years ago.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I guess so .
Q. When did you start to really believe in yourself?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I always really believed in myself. I never had really low self-esteem. I've always had high self-esteem. I always believed I can beat the best, be the best, achieve the best. I've never had a problem with not believing myself.
Q. What was going through your mind with the medical time-out?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I was just thinking, was I going to be able to continue with giving Steffi a good match. At that time, she was really just beginning to play some great tennis. She was really starting to move her feet. I guess something motivated her, so --.
Q. Did you think at all of the problem you had at Wimbledon this year when you had to leave your match?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't think about that. I might have told everyone in here once before, I don't dwell on the past so much. I look toward the future.
Q. You played a wonderful first set. What happened in the second set?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, in the first set, I did play a good match. I was making a lot of my shots. Then the second set, I didn't make so many of my shots. I began to hit plenty of unforced errors. When you make a lot of mistakes, it's easier for your opponent to get the advantage. Therefore, she was able to get an advantage in the second set and the beginning of the third.
Q. If you could look into the future, where do you see yourself at the end of this year?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I always see myself in the top position. Right now, I'm just looking to play one match at a time. I'm just going to keep that for myself right now.
Q. How did you manage to keep aggressive, even after the second set and first half of the third set where there were a lot of unforced errors?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It was a little difficult for me because she was hitting lobs, she was hitting some splendid passing shots. I had to keep saying to myself, "I'm not going to win at the baseline. No one's ever won at the baseline. Everyone eventually comes to the net." I had to just keep fighting and keep coming in.
Q. Was that your plan today, to get into the net and break down her backhand some?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Steffi has a great slice on her backhand. I don't think she broke down at all.
Q. What was your plan?
SERENA WILLIAMS: What was my plan?
Q. What was your plan for the match?
SERENA WILLIAMS: What would be your plan if you played Steffi?
Q. I'd come in a lot to her backhand.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Maybe that was mine (laughter).
Q. How much do you count on your athleticism?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think it comes to a point where you can't just depend on being athletic; you have to depend on also having the right techniques and doing the right things. But I think in a way, I do have an advantage because sometimes I can be completely out of the point, but I'm able to come back and get into the point because I'm a great athlete. I definitely think that I do have an advantage there.
Q. What does it mean for a 17-year-old to beat someone with her record and reputation in an event as important as this?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It means a lot to me because Steffi is a great champion. She has more titles, from what I hear, than any man or lady playing tennis. It's very exciting for me to be able to have this win. I had a tough match against her earlier this year in Sydney. I knew today was going to be a tough match, it was going to be a good match. It's very exciting for me. I'm only 17. I have a lot to look forward to in the future.
Q. In Grand Slam terms, what do you think is your best surface? What do you feel most competent on?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It doesn't matter what I play on. I love the hard. I grew up on the hard. I love sliding on the clay. I love coming to the net on the grass.
Q. You mentioned this was the biggest win in your career. When the match was over, you ran over to your family. Was that one of the proudest moments you've had as well?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yes, it definitely was. It's great for my dad to see, and Venus to see me winning a big title for once because you can see they're always there, in the past, always on the practice court, motivating me, trying to get me to work harder, even when I was down, giving me that extra motivation (laughter) , that extra motivation. It's very exciting for me to have my dad there and for me to have such a big tournament win. It was great.
Q. Did your dad take you to the doctor earlier this week and encourage you to get treatment on it?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No. Actually, he did. I just went to the doctor's to see if everything was all right with my knee. He said if I won today, he was going to take me to McDonald's. I'm looking forward to going.
Q. What do you eat at McDonald's?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I get whatever he gets (laughter).
Q. How important was your serve today? You served pretty well.
SERENA WILLIAMS: In the first set, I was really serving extremely well. I really had the advantage there. I think serving was very important today to get ahead in the match. In the commencement of the second set, beginning of the second set, I wasn't -- she broke me immediately. I didn't get a lot of first serves in, and that was the main key. The main key in the match today was who made first serves, if you look at the stats, I believe. When she got her first serve in, majority of the time she was able to win the points. I think it all boiled down to who had a better first serve. I think today was the best I served in the tournament, so I'm pretty excited about that.
Q. When you get onto the kind of winning roll that you're on, do you get a feeling almost of invincibility?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I've never been on this winning roll.
Q. The one you're on at the moment.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I definitely feel that I've beaten almost everyone now, that I'm on this roll. I just have a couple more people to play. There's always someone out there who's going to work harder and who's going to try to beat me, especially when you're on a streak. Everyone wants to end it. I'm just going to have to work as hard, if not harder, than everyone else to keep it up.
Q. Steffi indicated she didn't feel like she took enough risks, played it too safe. Did you get that feeling at all?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Personally being out there, I saw her hitting a couple winners, moving me around. Maybe she didn't in her game.
Q. Were you surprised and perhaps a bit disappointed that most of the American crowd seemed to be supporting a German player rather than the home girl?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It was okay with me. Seems like when I'm always playing, the crowd's always against me. I think today I had a lot of fans for me. I think most of the crowd was for Steffi. It's okay, because in Paris, the entire crowd, take my mom, was against me. Like when I won that match, it was great because I knew I'd have to play in a bigger atmosphere one day. It doesn't matter.
Q. What did you say in French to the Parisians?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't remember. I just said, "Thank you for all the support." It was all in French. That was two weeks ago, so . That was a long time.
Q. You had to play yesterday. She had a day off. Yet you came out and won today. Do you wish you would have had a day off?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm 17. I shouldn't be tired at all.
Q. You played a lot of tennis over the last two weeks, 11 matches, beaten three Top-10 players. Do you think in the next couple months you'll be in the Top 10?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I definitely think in the next couple months, I'll be in the Top 10. The only way that can keep me away from the Top 10 is if I quit playing tournaments for the rest of the year. Other than that, I definitely see myself there soon and farther.
Q. You're going to get a pretty big check for winning the tournament. What are you going to buy yourself or your family?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm going to put my check in the bank and earn lots of interest on it.
Q. You said you matured a lot in the last six weeks. Was there a key, a key moment that you felt this was coming together?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think one day in practice, I was practicing really hard. I realized I had to make changes in my game if I wanted to get to the top level. I think that particular day in practice was what really made me change. It was maybe about three weeks ago. It was just before I went to Paris. That's when I realized I can't keep going out there losing to people I should beat if I want to be a top player. I'm going to have to win more matches.
Q. What was that change?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It was, like I said, three weeks ago.
Q. No, what was the change in your game?
SERENA WILLIAMS: If you don't see it, then I can't describe it.
Q. You mentioned in the players' guide that Indian Wells was your favorite place. I bet that hasn't changed.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Indian Wells is a beautiful place, it's a wonderful tournament for me. To be honest, I enjoy anywhere that I can win, just to be honest about it.
Q. How much has your success in doubles improved you as a player?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think it really improved my volleys. When I serve and volley, I'm able to really get those backhand volleys in singles that I wasn't able to get before. Venus and I are definitely playing better doubles. We didn't do as good as we wanted to do here, but there is a future. We've only played ten tournaments, and we've enjoyed a career high of No. 19. It's very exciting for us because we hardly ever play. We never practice. We only practice our singles games. Maybe one day we'll start practicing.
Q. I wonder also, in the mixed, when you played and won two Grand Slam titles, the fact that you play against men in that situation, do you think that helps as well?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think in a way it could help. The guys have big serves out there. When I play the ladies that have larger serves, it would be -- it would make it much more easier for me.
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