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January 25, 2007

Serena Williams


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. It's been a long time since we've seen you so excited after a match. How much did that mean to you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I was pretty excited after Shahar Peer, and I think I was pretty excited after a couple matches. It meant a lot to me obviously to be in the final.

Q. How did you win it? Where were you better than Nicole?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think I might have been -- I don't know. I have to think about it.

Q. How much difference does experience make in a match like this? Does experience stay with you if you go through a tough patch or do you have to relearn it?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't necessarily go back and dwell on those experiences. For instance, when I was in the match and this was tight I didn't think, Okay, I've been in this situation four times or five times or however many times I have been in that situation. I never thought about that. I just thought about more or less thinking rational and staying calm more than anything.

Q. Do you regard it as an astonishing achievement to be in a Grand Slam final?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I wouldn't say for me it's an astonishing achievement. I would say I am happy more than anything. It's not astonishing or surprising. Definitely something I have always expected.

Q. I didn't see Hobart, but your level first match in Hobart to now, how much higher is it?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No comparison. I was really excited that I went ahead to play Hobart because I was really rusty and I can see the rust shedding from my game literally. It was a great event for me to play. And I'm excited that I went there because I would have hated to start those two or three matches the way I did in Hobart here.

Q. Seemed that you got Nicole stretched out to be in command of the points.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. Like I said, she's been on the tour for a little while, and I've seen her play a lot. So she seemed to have a plan against me as well, and we both just kind of had plans.

Q. When the third match point went by, did you start saying, How long is this going on? Did you think about the gagarooney, as you put it?
SERENA WILLIAMS: The gagarooney.
No, not at that point. I just thought -- at that point I think she rushed me a little bit and I should have taken sometime to think about it. You know, I should have just walked back and took a few seconds. And I didn't do that. I thought about that after the fact. I couldn't think about that too much. I had to pretty much focus on other things.

Q. You've been to many Grand Slam finals. Where does this one rate in the actual achievement of getting to a final, having played so little last year and all you had to go through at the end of last year? Where does it rate in your list of achievements?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, it rates really high in my list much achievements, especially with my ranking. I think this is the lowest I've been ranked getting into a Grand Slam final. I think more than anything that's really exciting. I just love the competition and love the game.

Q. The second time you stop and when you come back for injury problems, you come back and you go to final to finals again. You are still at the level of the first players in the world. What it means that you are so stronger to the other players? You are a champion that's able in every case to come back and play at this level?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I've always been mentally strong, I think probably mentally stronger than a lot of players on the tour. I think for me tennis has always been 80% mental. I think if you can get a grasp on that, then I've always had a grasp on that. Like I always say, I've believed in myself more than anyone. Even though it was hard, I really believed in me and in my game.
No matter what, if I'm playing right it's hard for anyone to beat me on the women's tour. And that's if I'm doing the right things, it's really, really difficult, and I always believe that. That's still the way it is.

Q. In a match like this, how much time do you spend before the match going over kind of a mental checklist of what she does well, what you're going to need to do to beat her?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I approach the game different. I focus on me. I know maybe what are my opponent's weaknesses are going into the match. But I don't focus, Okay, I'm going to hit three balls to the backhand and I'm going to hit one over here. I don't do that. That's too much thinking in it. Serena Williams is not a thinker; Serena Williams is a tennis player. Got that? And that's what I do best.

Q. Explain that more.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Actually I got that out of the Ricky Bobby movie. "Ricky Bobby is not a thinker, Ricky Bobby is a driver."

Q. So are you saying you're a little more reactive to the situation?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I definitely am. And I'm like a chameleon. I can kind of change and get my game going to whatever the situation is. I kind of adapt to all situations. For me, it's always been important to play my match and my game. Like I said, I think if I play well, which I don't think I've even reached yet at all in this tournament, and if I play well and do the things I need to do, it's really hard for anyone on the women's tour to beat me.

Q. Do you think you intimidate other women out there because of what you have achieved? Where they take up, at that point you seem to let rip?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I never thought about that. Maybe. I mean, that could be a possibility.

Q. You've had tight matches all the way through here. Match points against you. But at that point, you seem to just shake off a change and away you go.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Like I said, I don't think I had any actual match points. But I just relax when I get down. You know, I just like I become really calm more than anything. And I just play some of my best tennis. And sometimes I try to pretend that I'm down, even though it really never works, so I can get into that mental space that I'm in when I am down.

Q. Could you have done this at the US Open if things had broken differently or are you better now than you were last fall?
SERENA WILLIAMS: To be honest, I believed I was playing better at the US Open. I believed my strokes -- I just felt the ball better. I really believe I was really playing well there. I just think in some matches I got a little overconfident and things didn't happen the way they should have.
But I believe now I'm -- I don't know the difference. I do believe that I was playing really well at the Open. Maybe my mind wasn't as well as it is now.

Q. Do you think that actually the ability to play your way into form is a skill that you've acquired in the last couple years?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I definitely think it's a skill that I've acquired. I think -- although I think it's something that I pretty much I think I have always had.

Q. You've beaten more inexperienced seeded players on the way to where you are now. Kim or Maria next. How much more difficult will that be?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Is that another shot at me being in the finals?

Q. No. I am just saying they are more experienced than what you have come up against.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think Petrova was really experienced. And you might not know it, but these girls play a lot more tournaments than I play. Like Vaidisova, I think she has been in a semifinal before and she has played probably twice as many tournaments last year alone than I have in the past two years. Petrova obviously is No. 5. She's played really well. Shahar Peer who honestly played me so tough. She's played so many tournaments. Trust me, she has a lot of experience.

Q. But in terms of finals experience.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm getting there.
In general, all the players I have played, I think they have had a lot of experience and they are good players. They weren't easy pushovers. Obviously, Jelena Jankovic, she's been having some great results. It hasn't been an easy road. I've only played one player that wasn't seeded.
So finals experience, I think they have had opportunities to be in the finals just like I have. I just make that extra step to get there.

Q. Has being out of the game increased your enthusiasm for the game?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I didn't hear the first part.

Q. If being out with injury recently, has that renewed your enthusiasm for the game? If so, if you stay healthy, will we see Serena full time on the tour this year?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. My body feels really good. I have my schedule laid out and planned out. One of my goals is to play the tournaments that I need to play this year.

Q. There is an awful lot of drama around you these days. Do you thrive on that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. You know, whatever I do, it's dramatic or it's in the papers or it's positive or it's negative or it's funny or it's not.
I guess, you know, some people are just like that. Like I said, I don't really read articles. I just -- so I don't really know what's going on and being said. Just only things that I hear and people tell me. And I always try to tell people not to say things but you always have one little birdie that doesn't listen.
I don't know if I even answered your question.

Q. Do you enjoy having all the drama and people that are second-guessing you or confronting you with what issues people are talking about?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I love doubters. You know, I have a lot of people even close to me who doubt. I love doubters. More than anything what I love, besides obviously winning, is proving people wrong. Ever since I was young, even when I came on tour, it was, Venus, Venus, Venus, Venus. Oh, and the little sister. My whole goal in life was just to prove people wrong. And that's one thing I enjoy so much.

Q. Your father did say at the outset look at the younger sister.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I told you, my dad is my No. 1 fan.

Q. He did say that though.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. Like I said, I just like -- I don't know. I think that's something that I thrive on, people that don't believe. I think it just gives me strength or whatever the case. It is something that helps me. At the end of the day, it is something that helps. At the end of the day, it just helps me, which is awesome.

Q. What does it prove that you can get through to a Grand Slam final when by your own admission you don't feel like you're playing your best just right now?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It just proves that I have a lot more to work on and that I haven't peaked, that there is a lot of space for improvement. No matter what happens, I feel like I can improve and I can play better.
I definitely felt like I could have played better today, which is for me really encouraging, that I know I can do better than what I'm doing now.

Q. I think Vaidisova was serving 5-6 to stay in the tiebreak, set point. On your return, you let out this amazing blood-curdling yell. How much of that is involuntary or how much is that sending a statement to Vaidisova on the other side of the net?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't necessarily purposely go out and do that. I just think it's kind of like just comes out of me, because at some point you get so intense and you really want to win. You know your opponent wants to win. It's like you're fighting those elements and you just go for it.

Q. What's the prevailing emotion? It is rage or something else?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Definitely not rage. I don't have too much rage in me. I don't know. I think it is more or less letting go. Especially if I am not doing what I want to do, and I finally do it at that one point, I'm like, Finally. It's like I've finally done it.

Q. Looking at the results of last year, which one in your opinion was the really No. 1? Because you know Mauresmo won two Grand Slam finals, and Henin was playing, and then Maria. Which one in your opinion was the real No. 1?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I think Justine, did she get to like four Grand Slam finals? That's pretty stellar. And she deserved to be No. 1 at the end of year. That's no easy accomplishment at all. Yeah, very impressive.

Q. Can you just break down Kim and Maria individually and what kind of challenges they will present to you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Actually both of them get a lot of balls back, Kim because she's so fast, and Maria because she's so tall. She reminds me of Venus because she just reaches balls. It's kind of unfair because they just got that extra height.
I think they both have really solid serves. You know, they're both very mentally tough.

Q. Do you think Maria is a better player this year?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I hear she's winning. Is she a better player this year?

Q. Getting better and better as she goes along?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Absolutely. And that's the way it should be.

Q. Will you be watching tonight?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. I'll definitely be watching. It's going to be a really intense match.

Q. Do you think Andy has got a better crack this year?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Who knows? Definitely going to be watching.

Q. Commentary on Channel 7, an allegation that someone in your box using the reflection from their watch in the sunlight to try and distract your opponent. It was something that Nicole has denied. What was your response to it?
SERENA WILLIAMS: "Ha-ha-ha-ha." That's the most outrageous thing I've ever heard. As if anyone would do that on purpose. I think everyone wears watches these days, except for me. Most people do. So, yeah, ha-a-ha, like I said. That's so funny.

Q. So creative commentary, do you think?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Just something else.

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