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April 18, 2007
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: Prior to the U.S. team coming out, from a fan point of view, the USTA has decided to make available a $10 grandstand ticket for both Saturday and Sunday. It will be in the grandstand. The tickets will be $10. They can be purchased here on-site at the box office or via Ticketmaster online.
On a competitive note, obviously this is a quarterfinal tie. The winner of this tie faces the winner of Russia versus Spain. That will be immediately following Wimbledon in July. If we were to win, and Russia were to win, we would host. If Spain were to win and we were to win, we would go to Spain.
We have Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Lisa Raymond, Vania King and, of course, Zina Garrison, the captain. We'll open it up immediately to questions.
Q. Serena, you have not played Fed Cup since 2003, I believe. Why the decision to get back into it at this point?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I love playing Fed Cup. I love playing for the United States. Since 2003, I've had various amounts of injuries. I've been on the tour kind of on and off. More than anything, I love playing for Zina. It's another great opportunity for me to play for Zina.
Q. Serena, how are you feeling? And all of you, how is it different playing for your country than when you're playing just on tour? What is it about it that you like?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I'm feeling much better. I'm excited that I don't have -- that I'm even here to compete. I'm excited about that.
I don't remember the other part of the question.
Q. How does it feel playing for your country?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I like playing for your country. You're playing in a team environment. It's the only opportunity tennis players have to play on a team and get to know your teammates better. It's fun because tennis is such an individual sport, you never have a chance. It presents something different for us and that's really cool.
LISA RAYMOND: I think, you know, exactly what Serena said. For us playing an individual sport, it's really the only time that we get to play on a team. You know, you're not only playing for your coach and three other players, you're playing for the United States. When you have "The United States" written on your back, you go out there and it's a whole different feeling.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think it's just what everyone else said, a completely different feeling. It's definitely not about self any more; it's about the team. There's just an overall feeling that's completely different than being an individual.
VANIA KING: I think everyone already said the same thing. We probably think the same thing. Playing for your team is a much more bonding sort of environment. It's more exciting. A little bit different pressure because you're playing for your country. But it's more fun because there's always teammates and you know they're always behind you no matter what.
Q. I thought it was interesting that two of you said -- one of the words you would use to characterize playing for the Fed Cup is "fun." To the Williams sisters, Serena you said it was fun, does it make I all the more fun that it's in your backyard in Delray Beach?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It definitely does 'cause, I mean, I live 20, 30 minutes from here. I have my friends already ready to come down. My family's going to come down. It's a great experience again playing at home. It's kind of like playing in Key Biscayne, such a home environment, except this is even closer.
I grew up playing here. Played on these courts a lot.
Q. Venus, Belgium doesn't play with their strongest team. Would you have preferred playing against Kim and Justine, having a little more competition?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I think our focus isn't on who we play. No matter who is on the team or what team we play, our focus is on our performance. We realize no matter who we play, we still have to bring our best performance, and that's how you get to the next round. I think that's how all of us feel.
Q. Zina, maybe Venus or Serena can weigh in as well, obviously you're the favorite. How difficult is it to get the team to really settle in on this tie and not be thinking ahead?
CAPTAIN GARRISON: For one thing, they're all very professional. They understand it's a 50/50 chance when you go out there. We've already talked about being prepared, taking care of business, not looking ahead. We're here to play this match here in Delray against Belgium, basically do the things they need to do to move on to the next round.
Q. Lisa, it's been a great year for the University of Florida; pretty good year for Lisa Raymond, too. Now that you're settled in as apparently a full-time doubles player, how does that change your life as a tennis player? Do you find less pain from week to week? Easier to get ready for matches? What about your pairing with Samantha? How is that going?
LISA RAYMOND: It's funny, I think I fought with the concept for probably the past year, whether or not I really wanted to give it 110% in my singles. Obviously, Sam and I have had a phenomenal last couple of years. I love playing with her. We have a great time. We've been doing well.
I'm such a perfectionist that I didn't want -- basically the decision I made was I didn't want to go out here and be mediocre. I didn't want to be ranked, you know, a hundred in the world. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but for me I had a good singles career and I just -- you know, I'm in a different part of my life now. At my age, I'm 33, I'm loving just playing doubles.
We're doing very well. Hopefully I'll be able to have an opportunity like this, come out and be on a team and play for the U.S. for a few more years. Hopefully the next couple years are going to be great for us.
Q. Venus and Serena, you alluded to the fact you played here when you first came from California. I think you trained here in Delray Beach. Do you remember what you were like at that age? What are your earliest memories of starting your careers here in Florida?
VENUS WILLIAMS: What we were like? We had bad hair and gaps. We needed braces badly (laughter).
I think we were just young and just playing hours of tennis, having fun, reaching for the dream basically to sum it up.
Q. Serena, what are your memories of being here as a kid?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. We just practiced so much. Like I just remember practicing, having fun, practicing (laughter). That's pretty much all I remember. Always hitting, all day, every day. Going to school, hitting some more. Those are pretty much my memories.
Q. Serena, how proud are you of your comeback this year? Do you see it a little bit as a revenge from last year?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It's fun. I mean, I'm really enjoying every moment. More than anything, I've always liked proving people wrong. More than anything, I love the competition. I'm extremely competitive. It's been really fun to be able to be competitive again.
Q. Vania, a question about Venus. When she was a teenager, she reached the US Open final unseeded. Were you playing tennis then? Do you remember much about that? Did it make a difference realizing what a young player could accomplish?
VANIA KING: Coming from Southern California, I mean, I had heard about Venus and Serena. The years have gone by pretty quickly. I don't even remember how old I was, maybe 10, I don't know. But, you know, it was kind of surreal, I guess, because I sort of knew who they were and they were sort of around my area. So watching them chase their dream and succeed gave me hope that I could do it, too.
Q. Vania, is it true you went to Billie Jean King's high school in California?
VANIA KING: Yes.
Q. Could you talk about your life off the court. I think you sung national anthems, speak more than one language. How did you have time to explore other things during your tennis training?
VANIA KING: When I was really little, I credit my parents for trying to give me the best opportunity to have a very balanced life. They had me singing, playing piano, doing Chinese dance, going to Chinese school and then tennis. Tennis wasn't my first priority until I guess two years ago, three years ago. I think it's something you need. You need a balance in your life. You can't be too focused because you could burn out.
I'm just enjoying singing. I love singing. It's something I can do when I'm not playing tennis.
Q. Serena, when you got hurt at Charleston, how concerned were you that you might not be able to play this weekend? What has happened since then? Have you taken time off? Did you get right back on the court?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I figured I was going to play this weekend. When I got hurt in Charleston, wasn't even a second thought in my mind. I just knew I was going to be here.
I think I have ADD. I don't remember the second (laughter).
Q. Did you take time off or get right back on the court?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I obviously had to take some days off just to give it time to heal. I didn't want to strain it any more. It actually was good for me to take some time off. I've been on the court obviously since. I never doubted that I was not going to play here.
Q. Zina, how do you coach two players who have umpteen Grand Slam titles?
CAPTAIN GARRISON: Actually three, three players with a lot of Grand Slam titles.
I respect them. I listen to them. I have my opinions. I think I'm very blessed and gifted to have the opportunity to, you know, be able to coach them and maybe give them one or two little things.
I love listening to Lisa tell a little bit to Vania, seeing what's going on. Serena and Venus, I like to hear what's going on in their mind.
I think it's really a great honor to be sitting here with three people that have so many Grand Slam titles. But the one thing I can say is they're all very open to be able to be even better. They're always willing to listen.
Q. Not to put anyone on the spot, but this is a one-off team or have you talked about if you win here, the whole season? Has there been any commitment for this team to stay with it through the whole year?
CAPTAIN GARRISON: Are you asking all of them?
Q. Maybe Venus.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I think we all love playing with Zina. I think we get great experience from her experience, talking to her. I think it's a great time in the year to have a switch-up from whoever you're working with, to hear something different. I think that we all enjoy the benefits from that. Not only her, but the rest of the team, too, the coaches, hitting partners. I think that helps our game throughout the year.
I think for all of us, we think it's a privilege to play. As long as we're healthy, I think we're excited to be on the team.
Q. Venus, Kim Clijsters is quitting the game at 24 years old. I want to know your thoughts. You are 26. What's the hardest part being a pro 10 years playing tennis?
VENUS WILLIAMS: The hardest part for me is I hate losing. The hardest part is not winning every match. I like to win (laughter).
Q. Have you ever also thought about moments, 'I have seen it all,' like Kim has a little bit?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No. Kim's probably seen a lot more than I have. I haven't seen nearly enough yet. I'm ready.
Q. You still have a few years to go then?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Exactly.
Q. Vania, how often do you get to play piano and sing? Do you watch American Idol and think, I can do better than that?
CAPTAIN GARRISON: We're going to put her out there.
Q. Do you have any musical aspirations? Do you still practice piano? What else do you do as far as music?
VANIA KING: When I started traveling basically full-time, I stopped playing piano. I don't play piano any more. I mean, I've taken singing lessons since I was four. Basically, I don't know, maybe at the same time or even before I started tennis I was singing. Singing is something that I love to do, and I do it as much as I can. I try to get in at least a couple times a week. But it's tough.
I just love to sing. Whenever I'm feeling down or feeling happy, singing is how I get my emotions out. It's something that's really a part of me. I bring my computer and I have warmup vocals that I have to warm up. I have like a thousand songs on my computer that I can just sing. I have karaoke on my computer.
CAPTAIN GARRISON: Give us a little note.
VANIA KING: Not right now (laughter).
Q. Venus and Serena, Fed Cup has often struggled for attention, particularly in the United States with all the other sports going on. Do you have any thoughts about what might be done to increase the popularity of this event? Seems like there's so much potential.
CAPTAIN GARRISON: Change the dates.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think I'll defer that question to Rita. I think she has all the answers.
We just enjoy playing for our team when we have the opportunity. I guess that's as much as we can do for Fed Cup and for our team.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think, like Venus, we definitely enjoy playing. But the dates are difficult. I mean, it's hard. The calendar is just so strange in the way that sometimes they put Fed Cup. It's at the worst dates, the hardest weeks. It's like fitting an extra week of tennis in there.
CAPTAIN GARRISON: I'd just like to add to that. Serena is absolutely right. The toughest part are the dates. If they want the top players to actually play, I mean, you got to realize these top players are probably going to go into the last rounds of Grand Slam tournaments, and it takes a lot. For those of you who do play and don't play, it takes a lot out of you to get to the second round of the tournament. Normally by the time you get to the second round of a tournament, or you get to the finals, your body drops, your immune system drops, everything drops.
I think the dates are a huge thing. I know they are working on them. They're trying to figure out a way to actually make them better, so...
Q. Serena and Venus, I think people find it certainly remarkable how you are able to bounce back from the injuries you've had. I think they used Andre Agassi as an example of ebb and flow. How determined does that make you to know even when you're hurt you can come back on a dime and win? Does that motivate you even more somehow?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it definitely motivates us. There's nothing more motivating or confidence-building than winning a Grand Slam. I think that's the best thing for winning someone's career.
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to thank you for joining us here for this predraw press conference.
End of FastScripts