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August 25, 2007

Serena Williams


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Serena.

Q. Althea Gibson was a pioneer, strong, athletic. Could you talk about her, what your reflections are?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I love Althea Gibson. For me growing up, I read a lot, I read a lot of books about Althea. I've always dreamt of being on the same level as her, you know, to have an opportunity to play tennis, for her to be the pioneer to all of tennis, not just for female tennis, but all of tennis, it's just amazing for me to be able -- to be honored to even mention her name.

Q. What do you think it was like for her to try to break into the sport?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I can't imagine. Like I say, I did read her books. What I read was just tear-jerking to see all the stuff she had to go through. I mean, she had to sleep in cars because they wouldn't allow her in the hotels. And that wasn't even what happened on the tour.
You know, everything was just -- she just didn't even get to play professional till she was way older when she could have probably won so many more titles.
I just really, really am glad I have an opportunity to be able to play. I'm happy. Althea makes me happy and excited to be black.

Q. She had a fighting spirit, would you say?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, she had this face like she was just so -- I thought she was such a fighter. She always had this face that you couldn't break her. I thought that was interesting. Everything she would go through, you know, was like you couldn't break her. That inspires me a lot.

Q. Do you have any recollection of the first time you heard about her, learned about her?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, no, not at all, not the first time. I don't remember good.

Q. What's the situation with your thumb injury? Do you feel it's almost a hundred percent?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Thumb's up (smiling).

Q. Even though you have no matches under your belt since Wimbledon...
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm totally fine. I'm always playing with not many matches. I've been practicing so much. I'm so excited that the US Open is here because I'm pretty much over practicing. It's dreadful. I'm ready to play matches now, yeah.

Q. What was your reaction when you found out you'd have to play Justine in the quarterfinals?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I didn't know that. I'm excited actually. It's time for me to I guess play her. You know me, it doesn't bother me. I'm excited. She's one of my favorite opponents to play.

Q. Why is that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Because she has a good game and she brings it to you and she enjoys the battle.

Q. You and Venus have each won one Grand Slam this year. Is there a little sibling rivalry? Joking around with each other about trying to get the second one this year?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Absolutely. You know, I'm hoping it's me. I'm really hoping it's me.

Q. How do you feel to represent African Americans in tennis?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I feel great. I feel like, more than anything, I'm not only playing for me but I'm playing for every other girl, little African American girl out there who felt that they couldn't make it or they didn't have a chance. For me to kind of be an inspiration to anyone, of any race, makes me happy.

Q. How wide open do you feel the Open is this year? Does it seem wide open to you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Why would it be wide open?

Q. A lot of contenders this year versus some other years.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't understand your question. I'm sorry. I don't understand, how can it be wide open?

Q. In previous years it looked like maybe one person had a strong record coming in, were favored to win. This year it looks like there's a lot of players that can win.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, okay. I think there's a lot of players who can win. Obviously I want it to be me. I'm thinking it's going to be me. So I'm thinking positive, sending positive vibes my way.

Q. Do you think too much is made of being match-ready for a Grand Slam?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Totally. I totally think so. I think it's definitely important to have matches and to play matches. But I also think it's important to have faith in your game and have faith -- I've been playing for I don't know how long. I should be match-ready. I've played a lot of matches in my career.
That's how I like to think about it. That way I can just be like, okay, Serena, you've played a lot of matches, you are match-ready so just go out there and do what you need to do, as opposed to, I'm not match-ready. I think for me it's almost an excuse.

Q. We saw a picture in Jane Magazine last week. Can you talk about your photo in there, why you did it, your thoughts on that?

Q. Just saw it this week.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, my gosh, you guys are so late. Dude, that's so old, please. That is so late. I'm a little disappointed. You could have done better (smiling).

Q. Could comment, kidding aside? A pretty bold photo. What are your thoughts of that type of photography?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I wasn't kidding.

Q. Well, I was.
THE MODERATOR: Next question.

Q. What about the ad campaign you're doing that promotes women's sports. Can you talk about your motivation to get involved in that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It's a Nike campaign, which is exciting. It's about women being athletes. I think the thing is, are you looking at my titles instead of just looking at women, she's a girl. It's like look at her as athletes, real competitors. I think it's just a great campaign. It's a great opportunity.

Q. Mary Carillo said the other day she thought the Williams sisters should have dominated more for 10 years, like always be in the finals, change tennis history. It almost seemed to maybe undervalue what you two have accomplished. She feels you have been a little too inconsistent, considering the potential. Do you have any response? Do you feel you two have changed tennis history, reached potential?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I think I've had a little more effect on tennis history than she has. I'm pretty excited about that.

Q. Night matches at the Open. There's a lot of electricity at night. Can you talk about your experiences in night matches at the Open.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I've always played on opening night. I love them. I prefer to play at 11 because it's like you play at 11, you get your match over, you have the rest of the day, the next day off, it's perfect. I'll play at night. I like it.

Q. Do you feel there's sort of electricity in the air?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Absolutely. It's a special match. It's the one you want to play. It's the featured match. 11:00 is cool, too, because you get over.

Q. Speaking of the electricity in New York City, what's your favorite thing to do here?
SERENA WILLIAMS: My favorite thing is the restaurants, yeah. I'll say that.

Q. Is there a genre you like?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, the Pink Elephant Restaurant.

Q. Are you embarrassed by that photo?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, not at all. I thought it was a great photo. It was for a great cause. I thought it was simply divine personally. I've gotten a lot of great compliments on it. Thank you.

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