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June 22, 2008

Venus Williams


THE MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It gives me very great pleasure to introduce Venus Williams, our defending ladies champion. Who would like to ask the first question.

Q. How excited are you to be back here again?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Always extremely excited. It's always extremely exciting coming back as the defending champion. It's nice to have the memories from last year all kind of flowing into this year.

Q. What kind of memories specifically are stirred up for you when you walk into this place?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Really just all the wonderful times I've had here on the court, too. But I've also had really great times with my family and my friends here. So I think just the combination of memories on and off the court.

Q. Do you try to put in the past the great things that have happened in the past, or keep thinking about those in terms of your current performance here at Wimbledon?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Of course it's nice coming to a tournament where you have a really good record, because obviously that gives good confidence.
But mostly I think about, What is it going to take this year and what will I have to do well this year? How will I have to adjust? How is the grass playing? What challenges do I need to overcome?
I just really focus on what's at hand.

Q. What will it take and what do you see as the biggest challenge to the defending champion?
VENUS WILLIAMS: As usual, you just have to play better. So there's really no magic to it. It's just about playing the best.

Q. What were your observations of Ana Ivanovic, and what do you see as her potential on grass?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I mean, obviously she's playing well. No particular observations.

Q. How do you feel about taking on a Brit on Centre Court in the first match?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, obviously I'm excited about playing on Tuesday at 1:00. That's always the ultimate honor in tennis. So that's really -- I'm going to try to enjoy that moment and obviously bring my best tennis.
The fact that I'm playing a woman from here, I don't necessarily put that into the equation. I try to prepare the best that I can for each and every player.

Q. The crowd are going to be split, aren't they?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I can't predict that. Hopefully I have some fans out there who will want to see me bring in the win.

Q. Do you scout her out, or do you know enough about her not to bother about that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know a ton about her.

Q. A big lefty.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I'm sure that she's playing good tennis, so...
I don't know so much about her.

Q. You've always had a lot of support from the British crowd. How much has that lifted you over the years, and how much are you looking to that this year?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, definitely it's always really nice to have the support. It's nice to have the support in my box, also. That helps a lot, too.
Hadn't thought so much about the fans or the crowd support as much this year, I guess. Just really thinking a lot about what I'm going to do with my game.

Q. What is it about this tournament that you like so much? It always seems to bring a smile to your face, brings you to the best of your game. What is it about Wimbledon, the surroundings, about the fortnight, that you like?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I just think it's the ultimate place to play your best tennis. The most wonderful tournament to win would definitely be here. I've been blessed to do well a few times here, so that feels obviously very good. I just love it here. It's good for my game, too.

Q. Do you allow yourself to think about winning for a fifth time, or do you try to put that to the back of your mind?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, of course I think about that. But I know that I'm gonna have to work for it. I'm willing to pay that price.

Q. There's not many people better on grass than you, are there?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Thank you very much. I take that as a compliment (smiling).

Q. If we compare this year and last year, how well prepared are you this time?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Probably pretty similar, yeah.

Q. Are you surprised you're not favorite, considering you're the defending champion?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I really don't know much about the favorites or what have you going into this year. I've been really just head to the ground, just practicing and training.
Ultimately the best player will win. I'm gonna aim for that to be me.

Q. Is there any advantage to being the defending champion when you step on the court for the first time and as you carry on during the fortnight?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Probably for me maybe, yeah. I would like to think I have that on my side, too.

Q. What are the advantages, in your mind, of being the defending champion?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think the advantage is that you won last year and it will never be taken away from you. It will always be yours, and you can hug the plate at night if it gets cold (laughter).

Q. Winning the five times, would that be better than winning it for the first time?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Probably, yeah. I'm definitely not a cryer. I'm the most happiest winner ever. But, you know, maybe I would even cry.
But that's so long from now. Two weeks is a long time, especially if it rains. So my main focus is most certainly that first round.

Q. Last year you weren't very well for the last four days.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I was sick last year. But, you know, I got blessed to be able to get through it.

Q. And you're okay now?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I'm doing well. Thank you.

Q. If I could ask you to look a little farther ahead, a couple questions about the Olympics. How much are you looking forward to Beijing?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I love playing the Olympics. I think it's not necessarily a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but once in four years. I've had some good success there in Sydney obviously, and winning the gold was above my dreams.
Winning with Serena was above my dreams. I never dreamed of that. I definitely take it as an honor, and hopefully I can bring some more gold home.

Q. As a young tennis player, were the Olympics a goal for you growing up?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, for my dad. It was definitely a goal for my dad. Ultimately, the first time that's why I played, because I knew he always wanted us to play. That was really my main reason.
But now I want to play for me.

Q. Does 2004 motivate you going into Beijing? I know that was a disappointment for you.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, 2004 happened quickly. I'm not even sure if I played (smiling). You know, I like to learn from lessons from the past, try to do better.

Q. How much are you looking forward to playing doubles with Serena there?
VENUS WILLIAMS: We always love playing doubles. We haven't been able to play for so long.

Q. Do you see Serena as your main threat this Wimbledon?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I mean, I have the most respect for Serena as a player on tour. Definitely I see her as a player who can produce any shot at any time from anywhere. So I would say that obviously it would be great to meet her in the finals, but we have to work at it.

Q. Why have you not played doubles with her?
VENUS WILLIAMS: We've had issues, so we couldn't play (smiling).

Q. Can you tell us about those? Is it scheduling mostly?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No. We were injured and/or sick, hurt. Whatever it was, we just had issues.

Q. Was there any talk about doing it here?
VENUS WILLIAMS: We are in the doubles here.

Q. You said before that you were playing for your father, and now you want to play for you. How long did you take to understand that you want to play for yourself?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, that was only for the Olympics, to make sure I played, because he always dreamed of us playing the Olympics. After that first Olympics, I definitely wanted to play the Olympics because I wanted to play, and not just because it was his dream.

Q. What are your thoughts on what Tiger Woods accomplished last week and your thoughts on him in general?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, it's the ultimate sacrifice. So I realize that if I'm hurting, I'm probably not compared to him.
In any case, everyone has to make their own decision what they can play through. Obviously for him it's a lot, so great for sports.

Q. What do you feel when you watch him perform?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Just, you know, get it on the green (smiling).

Q. Do you enjoy watching Tiger play? Where do you rank him among the best athletes?
VENUS WILLIAMS: He's obviously one of the greatest to go down in history. That's for sure. I don't really watch that much golf, to be honest. I end up watching a lot of tennis.

Q. There was a report in the British papers today about match fixing in tennis. According to a report, it goes on at a low level. Are you concerned about that as far as the Grand Slams and Wimbledon are concerned?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No. As far as Wimbledon, that's really my least concern at the moment. I don't really have a whole lot to say about that. I guess in the past there have been some issues. I'm not well-briefed on them. I might not be the one to start commenting on it.

Q. Is it a subject that players talk about in the locker room, about match fixing?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I haven't talked to anyone about it.

Q. You've been outspoken on some of the issues on the women's tour. Last night Roger, Nadal, and Djokovic were all elected to the players council for the ATP Tour. What are your thoughts about the top-ranked players being more involved in the leadership of the men's tour, and professional tennis in general?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know much about the men's tour, their council. I don't know very much about that at all.
But on the women's tour, the top players are definitely involved. Especially over the years, players are definitely very informed, and I feel like we all have been working together a lot more, players and tours and everything.
As far as on our side, I know that it's going well.

Q. When you play on the grass, do you change your tactics, particularly for this surface?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Not necessarily. Because I think my tactics work well on the grass, so I don't have to change too much. I think the grass works for me.

Q. How much will we see you at the net this fortnight?
VENUS WILLIAMS: When the chance arises, I think I better come. So that's the plan (smiling).

Q. We're not going to ask you to predict a winner in the women's tour, but what about the men? Who do you think might win?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. I haven't given it much thought. I mean, Roger's obviously an easy choice. Nadal is awesome. I guess Djokovic plays well. Surprisingly I've never really seen him play, so I don't know much about him. So I'm not sure.

Q. This year it's 50 years since Althea Gibson won the second of her back-to-back titles. You have a bit of a chance to emulate her in a sense. Is she somebody that you've thought about much during your career, her achievements?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I mean, obviously she's a legend and she definitely deserves to be remembered and honored, so that's how I feel about Althea.

Q. Maria Sharapova revealed she's wearing shorts at Wimbledon. Have you come up with something special to wear at Wimbledon?
VENUS WILLIAMS: All white. Nothing special. It will be white. Can you imagine? Oh, my God (smiling).

Q. Anything else?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No. I'm not thinking that much about my outfit, to be honest. I'm just like all about the yellow ball.

Q. Do you have any particular routine the night before the tournament to prepare?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, I'm not superstitious. Just relax, eat. That's it.

End of FastScripts

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