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August 27, 2007
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Each year at the US Open you have an outfit that matches your mood. What does your outfit say about your mood, how you feel about your tennis right now?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, my outfit was dark, and I definitely played a dark match today. My outfit was dark, but I thought it was kind of young, hip and fun. I felt definitely very young, hip and fun.
Q. What does it say about where you're at in your tennis game?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think the outfit is more stylish, like more -- it mod, which is kind of like '50s and '60s. I think '60s is more mod than anything. But I think that style is something that's iconic and, like, it never -- it's always in style.
Q. First match since Wimbledon. Decent period for you. What did you think?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I didn't play well at all, at all, yeah. It was a crazy match out there.
Q. But even for you, eight-time Grand Slam champion, you have that much time off, you have to work out the kinks, don't you think?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I guess. I don't know. If I'd have done the things that I did in practice, it would have been a better match.
I just think I was too uptight about keeping my record for first rounds (laughter).
Q. Did you think about playing a tournament before this one?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I did. I was gonna play in New Haven. I wanted to play so bad, but I just couldn't. I didn't think it was the right time, so I just had to go with this one.
Q. How long have you been hitting two-handed backhands now?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, a week, two weeks.
Q. Did it come back quickly?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. It's my best shot. It came back. I have a great slice now. I have a great forehand. You couldn't tell tonight, but...
Q. What did she do that gave you so many problems on the court?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, it was me. I think she definitely played a tough game, but I just think I made a lot of errors. I didn't feel I moved my feet well. I felt like I was just flat-footed. I felt like I was just heavy. I just didn't -- I don't know.
Q. Were you feeling the pressure of you having to win on this night after Venus had won?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I just felt like -- I don't know. I didn't feel pressure to win. I just don't want to lose in the first round.
I'll be better the next match.
Q. When did you realize the thumb was as bad as it got?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think about two weeks after Wimbledon 'cause I just thought it would get better within a week. I thought, okay, it will be better next week. Two weeks later, I was like, okay, maybe I should go on vacation.
So, yeah, I really thought I was going to play Fed Cup. I was so amped. I was so ready to play the summer. It just didn't happen.
Q. Was it a little bit scary when it wasn't getting better week after week?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It was a little bit frustrating because I felt like I was playing well and I felt like I didn't deserve it. You know, I was very frustrated actually. I just had to stay fit. That's the only thing I could do.
Q. It was a special night with the tribute to Althea Gibson. What do you think yourself and Venus' contributions have been for African Americans and for the game of tennis?
SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I never think about it. I know every time I step out on the court I play for me and I play for all the other little African American kids out there who have a dream and who might not have the means, like myself and my sisters didn't growing up.
I feel like I play for them, too, and let them know if they fight hard and if they work hard, more than anything, your dreams can come true, whether you want to be a tennis player or a singer. You just have to work hard at it. I believe if they have a positive role model, they can do it.
Q. If you look at the pro ranks, there doesn't seem to be that many African American players coming up behind you just yet. The same can be said for the PGA TOUR with Tiger Woods' impact. Why do you think that is?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I can't answer that. I really can't answer that.
Q. Do you feel a little bit like you've come into this Slam maybe not as prepared as you want to be, but you've progressed well and won?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I played like that in Australia. I have that on my back. I'll be fine. If I do what I do in practice I'll be fine. If I play like I did today, I'm going to be in trouble (laughter).
Q. Roger Federer said earlier tonight when someone asked him about Althea Gibson, he said it was before his time, he didn't know who we were talking about. Does that make tonight more important to educate some more of the players on tour as to just who she was?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think so. I can't imagine he didn't know who Althea Gibson was.
Q. That's what he said.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Which I think is the point. I think a lot of people don't know who she is, and they always say Arthur Ashe, Arthur Ashe. People forget that Althea Gibson was actually years, decades before Arthur Ashe.
I think it's important to have nights like this so you can teach young people that don't know who they are.
Q. How did you feel conditioning-wise?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Fine, yeah.
Q. How does your faith come into the equation? Many people believe you rely on more than talent.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, yeah, I definitely rely on talent. But I think -- I pray, but I don't expect God to give me the Holy Spirit and let me win the match. I also believe that you have to work hard. He doesn't help anyone that's just sitting down.
I always just pray for strength if I'm facing, you know, some obstacles. Other than that, yeah, that's it. I hope that He can help me through that.
Q. What do you think about Venus hitting 129 tonight?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I hit 126 (smiling).
Q. You were talking earlier about role models. When you were a kid growing up thinking about tennis, was Zina a role model, or was it like she was a role model but you were looking at all the players?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Absolutely. I remember when I first met Zina, I was so excited. I got to hit with her. Honestly, it made my day. I remember when she was in the finals at Wimbledon, we were practicing.
This guy came screaming on the court, Zina's in the finals. She beat her. She beat her. We were so happy. It was a dream come true for us. It was the most amazing moment when I first met her. I thought I could beat her. She hit so hard. I was so young and weak, I could barely get the ball back.
I'll never forget how she hit with me and Venus. It was a great experience. She was really -- her and Lori McNeil, I really looked up to them.
Q. When she got to that Wimbledon final, did it change what you thought you could do?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Absolutely did. I felt like if she could do it, then I wanted to be there one day. My dream was always winning the US Open. I felt like I wanted to do the same thing at the Open.
It was unbelievable for her to get there. Everyone was so happy. I wanted to stop practicing to celebrate, but we kept hitting.
Q. Venus couldn't quite remember, sometimes your memory is better, but do you remember the first time you talked to Althea? Did she give you any special words?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I remember I talked to her after I won here in '99. I just remember her saying something to the gist of like she finally was able to see a black person win a Grand Slam. I remember her saying that. She didn't say that verbatim, but that was basically what she said.
I was so happy at the time. I was so excited to talk to her. Yeah, it was a great moment.
Q. You mentioned your natural ability. I remember watching you in Compton working, working and working, do you think you've become a natural or was it just hard work?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I was terrible. I couldn't hit hard. I hit lobs and slice. I'm amazed that I've come this far. I was terrible. Only thing I could do was run fast. I had like a terrible serve. Oh, my God. I had the worst forehand.
When I look back at old films my dad had, I'm like, I would have quit on her. It pays not to give up because somewhere along the line I changed. I was not the "it" girl at the time.
Q. It didn't come naturally?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I don't think so. Everything takes hard work.
Q. How did you feel about the crowd tonight?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I felt excited. I thought they were really having fun. I thought it was a lot of people out there. I thought -- I don't know. I thought they wanted to see a longer match when I got down or when the girl got even.
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