March 12, 1999
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
Q. How do you feel about how you're playing this week as compared to Paris?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I guess I'm mostly playing pretty good. I'm in the finals now. I don't think I've lost a set yet. No, I haven't. I think last week, though, game-wise, I was a little more consistent. Things were a little better. But, I mean, I can't complain.
Q. Sandrine said that winning that first set was very, very important. Did you feel when you won the set that you had an edge, apart from the score obviously, mental edge on her?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I definitely felt when I won that first set that I had a mental edge, a physical edge, whatever. I knew that if I had lost that set, I would have kept fighting, too. We had a lot of tough matches in the past. I think it definitely had a lot to do with it.
Q. What did you learn from playing against her so much in the past? You've had so many tough matches.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Actually in the past I did have a lot of tough matches against her. They really shouldn't have went the distance. She never gives up. She's really improved her ranking. Good player, so --.
Q. When the first set ended, did you have any idea you could go on the kind of run you did in the second set?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Not at all. Always when the first set ends, I always want to make sure I get the first game, whether I'm receiving or serving. I always say, "Now, Serena, let's really fight for this game like you're down, like, this is the last game of the match." I really try to fight for the first game. I guess I just kept making my shots.
Q. You weren't able to close her out in Australia. Today, you closed her out pretty well. What was the difference?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Wait a minute. That was the past. I mean, Australia was a long time ago.
Q. Six weeks.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Was it?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't even remember back then, man. I was young (laughter).
Q. But there you had a substantial lead. You were playing well. You let her back into the match. But today you didn't. What did you tell yourself?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don't lose those type of matches anymore, if I'm ahead, unless the player of course comes up with some great winners, and there's nothing you can do about it. Say I might be up, then I'm serving for the match, and the person just hits four winners. There's nothing I can do about that. Other than that, if they don't do that, I just can't allow myself to lose those matches anymore. I have to grow up mentally.
Q. Testud said that you seemed to be playing with a lot of confidence right now.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I definitely think I am. I haven't lost a match in a little while. I'm really playing much better than what I have in the past, six weeks ago. I definitely think I'm playing with a lot of confidence. Who wouldn't? I've won a tournament. If I'm playing well and mentally focused, I can probably take this one, too.
Q. You appear to be growing by leaps and bounds right in front of our very eyes. Is that an accurate perception?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Did you get that from -- That was a statement in our newsletter.
Q. It was?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yes.
Q. Great minds think alike.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm sure of that. I definitely think I've matured a lot in the past six weeks. I've really realized it's not time to play around anymore. It's always someone's turn. Like five years from now, there's going to be another player who's going to be just great. It's not going to be my turn, it's going to be someone else's turn. So now is the time.
Q. You and Venus are role models for up-and-coming junior players. What advice would you give to some aspiring young tennis players?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I think for anyone that's young, coming up, I think it's important to go out there and have a lot of fun. If you're going out there, not enjoying what you're doing, it's really hard just to keep winning or do well in something that you don't enjoy. It's important to have a lot of fun.
Q. Could you talk about the role Nick Bollettieri has been playing with you and Venus the last few weeks or months?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Nick is a great guy. He's a great person to be around. He's a great coach. He's just been able to help Venus and I mentally, physically. He's just been ^ fairly well for Venus and I. That's the type of role he's been playing.
Q. How would you describe that role? Is he a coach? An adviser?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No. My dad is my coach. My dad, he's always been my coach. He does a great job with that. Nick is always around, though. Sometimes my dad says, "Nick, why don't you take it." He's just a great person to be around.
Q. What is the thing you like the most about him?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I mean, he's always positive. He always at the same time tells you the truth, what you need to do, what you're not doing. So that's good.
Q. Is there any particular change he made to your game?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I mean, I really am starting to come to the net more than I have six weeks. I just wouldn't come. Now I'm trying to come. Soon I'm going to come.
Q. Steffi's forehand is often considered to be the foremost weapon in the game. Testud said basically that your forehand was as effective as hers, in particular because you take the ball so early. How does it feel to hear that? Could you comment on that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I think it started a little while ago when I injured my wrist on my backhand. I was skateboarding. That's a long story. I don't want to get into that. I couldn't hit backhands, so I was always running around backhands, hitting huge forehands. I actually think I have the best forehand out there on the Tour. It should be exciting tomorrow.
Q. Speaking of the newsletter, you're one of the reporters here who talked to Pete Sampras, I think the only person. What kind of questions did you ask him?
SERENA WILLIAMS: That's for our newsletter. You can check out the article. It's going to a be a feature Wimbledon article, tennis monthly recap, we're exclusive, we can get all kinds of interviews.
Q. Was he very cooperative?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, Pete's a great guy. I thought Pete was boring. You guys really make it seem that way. But he's really not. He's funny. He was laughing the whole time. He's a great person. I really admire Pete. I guess that you guys just don't. He's totally not what you guys write him to be. He's so much different than that.
Q. What's the best part of being a tennis writer?
SERENA WILLIAMS: The interviews. I like getting interviews. Sometimes it's hard to get an interview. I know for a fact I've been declined once (laughter).
Q. Who declined you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm not going to give out any names, just to save this person. I don't think he has such a good reputation, this particular person.
Q. So it's a male?
SERENA WILLIAMS: What this particular person said was, "Time is expensive."
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, Rios is a nice guy.
Q. Tell us how you see the final shaping up? What do you have to do to win?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm going to have to be very consistent because Graf, she's on her way back. She's playing great tennis right now. She's really focused. I see her all the time. She's in a focused mode. I think she's gotten even more confident. But I know right now I'm playing really confident. It's going to be a very exciting match tomorrow. Last time we played was actually in Sydney. To be honest, I couldn't play back then. I didn't have anything. She won 7-5 in the third.
Q. She started off very slow against Chanda. Can you jump out to a lead yourself tomorrow?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know. I'm just going to go out there, just going to try to do the best I can. If I make my shots and not make errors like what I did in the first set today, it will be different. Who knows? Steffi is playing a great game. She's a good athlete. She's fast. I'm fast. I'm a great athlete. It's going to be exciting.
Q. What other celebrities or tennis players are you planning on interviewing for your newsletter, who would you like to interview?
SERENA WILLIAMS: If you read our newsletter, it always says we hope to get Pete Sampras and Pat Rafter. We're going to try to get Chanda Rubin and Jana Novotna. Just like you guys, we want to get everyone.
Q. Do you have more sympathy for us now that you've been doing this?
SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I really do. I really do (laughter). I understand what it's like when I say, "I can't do that. My time is expensive."
Q. What's it like playing the tournament with Venus not in the single's draw? Does that change your feeling a little bit?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know. I mean, I guess it must because I don't have to worry about meeting her in the quarters, finals or semifinals, even the second round. I guess it definitely changed my feeling. I know that I can just go all the way. It's a good thing. It's definitely a good thing.
Q. Are you both playing the Lipton?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, we are.
Q. So you may run into her?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I might. It depends how the draw is pulled.
Q. Steffi said yesterday she didn't think it was fair that one semifinal be one day and the other one the next day, because then you don't have that day off into the final. What are your feelings on that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Since I don't have a day off? I'm just happy. I'm actually ready to go home now. I've been away for a long time now, it seems like. I was saying earlier after my match, I felt like I could go another two sets. It's not going to affect me at all. I'm young. I'm only 17. I can go all day.
Q. Do you think the final will end in two sets?
SERENA WILLIAMS: We'll have to wait and see.
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