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August 29, 2007

Venus Williams



Q. Not as much pressure as there may have been on the Venus Williams of six, seven years ago.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Do I feel like what?

Q. Do you feel there's as much or less pressure than there might have been on you six or seven years ago? You won Wimbledon, which I assume puts a little pressure on you. But then again it's been a few years since people thought you were the dominant player here.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think really the only pressure I react to is the pressure that I put on myself. I think what's important to me is my expectations, which obviously are very high.

Q. You went through a rough patch like all athletes do. Is it not as high?
VENUS WILLIAMS: What are you saying now?

Q. Years ago you were top of the game, No. 1. Went through a bit of a down period. When you went through the down period was it the kind of thing where you said, I'm putting just enough pressure now, or was it, I'm just going to get myself through this; whatever I do I do and then I'll come back again.
VENUS WILLIAMS: All my expectations are very high going into every tournament. I'm definitely trying to come out with the win. I want to be the last one standing with a plate over my head. That's my goal every time.

Q. Are you happy with the way that you played today?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, actually. I mean, I think I missed a few shots that were easy, but ultimately, I mean, it's important to get to the next round.
I always feel like my game will be there. I'm not stressed out on a few shots. Feel a little wiser, so...
It was good today.

Q. Do you feel like you're sitting pretty high in terms of your perch right now, how you're going forward in the tournament?
VENUS WILLIAMS: It was definitely a wonderful way to start the tournament. It was really exciting, the tribute to Althea. Now I definitely feel like I'm on a roll.
I feel like when I need the points I get them. I'm playing very strong. Everything is going well.

Q. Aretha said some interesting things about you and Serena. She said it was incredible your dad brought you so far, and she added that it takes men to make champions. Do you have any reflection on those comments?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I definitely respect her. I definitely couldn't have done it without my dad. I don't know what I'd be doing. They're great parents. I definitely suspect I'd be doing something positive.
But if he hadn't started us then we wouldn't be in tennis. So I definitely respect what he did. But a lot of moms out there, like Martina's mom, who has done great things, too. It goes both ways.

Q. If you weren't an elite-level tennis player right now, what would you imagine you would be doing these days?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. It would have taken me a while to figure out what I wanted to do. Probably would have ran track, because I ran track when I was younger. But obviously tennis was the place for me.
I have to work hard to keep my weight on. I'd be even thinner if I wasn't playing tennis. Probably be modelling somewhere. Maybe those two things. I'd probably be doing something in the arts. I love the arts.

Q. When did the track days stop? What was your favorite race?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I was like a middle distance runner, like 400/200. That stopped once I moved from California. I was pretty good.
Ultimately I would definitely choose tennis over that, yeah.

Q. Why?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Much more interesting.

Q. More lucrative?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, you said it, but... It's just much more interesting. I can't imagine having to train every day running. At least in my training I get to work on all kinds of different things. Very stimulating.

Q. Ever spoken with Jackie Joyner-Kersee who has a tennis connection?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I got to see her the other night, all the women in the hallway. It met her when I was younger, but I haven't spoken to her since.

Q. The US Open is so intense, the travel from the city, so many other things going on to make this a spectacle. With the kind of madhouse that it is, is there anything you do to sort of keep grounded or have a little fun non-tennis, whether it's hanging out with your sister, going shopping?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Not necessarily. I'm always very happy after a win, but mostly just rest, try to save my energy, try not to get unfocused, try to I guess, really focus on the tennis. So I don't do anything in particular.

Q. You're one of the few people that has been able to grow up as a junior player, get into the pro ranks with a sibling. How important has that been in your formation?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think that's the way it's always been. We've always been training together for life. It's normal for me. I wouldn't have it any other way. I couldn't imagine it any other way. For me it's a perfect circumstance.

Q. Can you describe how the US Open is different than the other Grand Slams.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think the US Open is really, really intense. That's just the take I get on it. It's just really intense. I feel the intensity I think of just the city, just all the people. The stadium's huge. Just very intense.

Q. Are you still in the fashion business?

Q. Are you going to take part in the in the Bryant Park festivities?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I want to be in the quarterfinals or finals. That's my main goal. I probably won't be at Bryant Park. I'm trying to be here.

Q. Do you view the fashion competition as that? I mean, do you feel as if now a lot of the top women are competing to see whose outfits might get the most attention or the most buzz?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Personally, as far as the way I look at fashion, just for me, it's just about being me. I guess that's the way it's always been for Serena and I. Things we wear are our personality.
As far as the other women, I don't know what their goal is. But I just want to wear something that's me on the court.

Q. You must check out what other women and players are wearing, think that's a great idea or...
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yes, not all designs are successful.

Q. Have you ever offered any unsolicited advice on the tour?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Serena and I, it was funny, we took manufacturing concepts in school. After that class we had learned all the fashion lingo in that class: silhouettes, acceptable, all the stuff when you're at the fashion show, everybody's talking the lingo.
When you get in the class, all of a sudden you're talking the lingo. I mean, I feel like a fool. But, yeah, not everything's acceptable.

Q. Coming back to tennis, you're clearly in what everyone's considering the toughest half of the draw. The point has been made several times today, whereas normally in a regular draw you might have had one or two more matches to find your groove before the heavy game had to start. You're only about a match away from when you start hitting phenomenal players to play. How do you feel you'll be going into that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I feel fine. More than anything, what I ask is to be in the draw, because last year I wasn't even in the draw. I had no chance. I was a spectator. So for me it's just important for me to be here. Whoever I play, they're across the net. I'm controlling what's on my side. If I execute, it goes pretty well.
It's all about me for me.

Q. Normally you play your career and then get into business. The paradigm has totally changed. It's simultaneous. Can you comment on the opportunities out there for elite athletes in business, as well as just the endorsement arena?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think for athletes, elite athletes, lots of athletes, I think it's important to take your opportunities while you're playing. Whatever you envision for your future, go for it now. It doesn't have to be a hundred percent.
Obviously the sport will be a hundred percent. But then there's a lot of people who can help you make your other dreams come true.
For me, that's what I do.

Q. Your father said at age four he had you doing spreadsheets on the computer and learning about financing and loans.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I forgot all that. I do not use Excel, but I use PowerPoint.

Q. When you first came here, there was no Ashe Stadium. Do you remember when Arthur Ashe Stadium opened?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I came here the year the stadium opened, '97.

Q. Do you remember your first match here at all?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I lost the first set. I think I was really nervous. I think I won the next couple sets. I only lost a game. That was just like the beginning of lots of good championship times.

Q. Your impression walking into the stadium the first time?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't remember. I think I was just nervous. It was tough. I was young.

Q. You're still young.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, actually.

Q. There was some debate on the TV last night. Maria was winning pretty easily. You won your first round easily. There was a debate about making women's draws smaller. Do you think there's any merit in that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, man, what do I think of that? No, I like the draw sizes now. I think it's perfect. I think we have to honor the history of the Grand Slam for the last, however many years. I think it's been 128.
I think there's a lot of opportunities for young up-and-coming players. Seems like now we have some Americans up-and-coming. It's a great opportunity so we got to keep it like that.

Q. How do you feel about that in terms of your own skills and what you're trying to do right now?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm always trying to get to the next level. I always feel like I can be better, and that I am better than the girl I was before. A lot of times for me my performance is never good enough. I always feel like I could have done better.
I don't dwell on the past. I definitely feel like my future is the place I want to be, that the future is brighter and better, I can get better. I don't just stay stagnant or live behind.

Q. You talked about if you didn't play tennis you might be a model, something else. If you were happy doing what you were doing, could you settle for being average, or do you think a part of you needs to excel or be extraordinary in whatever you choose to do?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, we were definitely taught in my family, I'm sure lots of people are taught the same thing, is to be extraordinary. For the record, I don't want to model. I don't find it stimulating. I love what I do.
But as a young person, it's a good way to start your life, so maybe I would have done that.

Q. You can't imagine yourself being average and being okay with that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: In my little world, how I see myself, I see myself as special (laughter). At least if I wasn't even doing anything super special, I would feel special. I've always felt really good about me. So that's really what counts.

Q. What's the most special part of Venus?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I love being me. I just like myself. I love being in my family. I love the way we interact, always have each other. I like the decisions I make. I like my style. I just like who I am. I'm comfortable with that.
So whether or not I was working a desk job, I would feel like, you know, I was a special person.

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