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June 24, 2008

Venus Williams


V. WILLIAMS/N. Cavaday
7-6, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Venus Williams, please.

Q. You said you didn't know much about Naomi. How surprised were you with her level in the first set?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, I thought she played excellent. She took her chances, really took advantage of her opportunities, and played with poise on this occasion, which is Centre Court in front of a home crowd.
So I thought she did really well with that. She served well and really returned the ball with force and ran a lot of balls down, so I was impressed with her game.

Q. How much of what happened in the first set was down to her level of play and you not playing your best?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I would say a lot was to her good playing. I had some opportunities and made a couple of errors in a row. But all in all, I mean, I think she just played well.

Q. When you played well here, you had you to work out some cobwebs early in the tournament. Did you feel like that at all in this match today?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I mean, that wasn't on my mind in the match at all. It was really about the moment pretty much, so I didn't think about cobwebs or what had happened a Wimbledon or two ago. Mostly just what was happening in the moment.

Q. How did you feel your level was today?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I felt that my level was good. I think it's nice to have a really challenging opponent early on, especially, you know, having not played since the French, which is what I always do anyway. So it was good to have that challenge early on.

Q. This is the fifth time you've walked out on that court as defending champ. Can you describe your feelings when you walk out, whether it's special, different, more special?
VENUS WILLIAMS: It's definitely an honor. But by the time I'm walking out there I'm just really so focused that I don't enjoy it as much as I could. But obviously coming off with a win, I always enjoy that.

Q. Do you think it's fair that the men get to play on a perfectly brand-new court when Roger defends every year and you get the worn-over court the next day? Would you like to see them switch every year?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't really have any complaints about that. So, no, you're not hearing anything from me.

Q. You don't think there's something special to be the first one to play on the court every year like he is?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I would have to ask him what it's like because I don't know. I don't have any complaints about that.

Q. How much of a distraction was the bee early on? You were swishing around.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I was about to serve. I felt something on my leg. I looked down. It was a bee, a big old bumblebee. I was trying to get it to go off. I don't know if they sting or not. Do they? The big bumblebees, do they?

Q. Just once.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I didn't want it to sting me. I was trying to get it off without getting stung. You know how they usually fly back at you. Then I ended up losing that service game, so I guess the bumblebee got me off to a bad start.

Q. Talking about an early challenge and a wake-up call like this in the first set being a good thing, right through the tournament or just for the match?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I always look at the positive in everything, and she played really well. I mean, there were some serves that I couldn't touch. Also her being left-handed I think helped her a little bit, because the ball's coming at a different angle.
So, I mean, throughout the whole tournament? At this point I'm just focused on the second round and going for that.

Q. Last year you were a very outspoken advocate for the equal prize money. Could you speak about the level of satisfaction you feel about how that's turned out. Also, if Billie Jean King played a role in your views of that issue and your potential role in advocating for that issue.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I have a ton of respect for Billie. I played Fed Cup under her for, you know, a few years. We would sit and have conversations, and I learned a lot from her on and off the court. So I have a tremendous amount of respect for her. I just think she's wonderful.
As for equal prize money, it took a long time. It took a lot of changing of minds. But I think everybody -- we're on an even playing ground at this point. Everybody is of the like mind, and I feel good about that.
At this point I think there's other things I can do as far as UNESCO and working on tennis in general, getting it to a higher level.

Q. What is your work with UNESCO?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Gender equality is what we work on with UNESCO and the WTA. Obviously raising money, doing more programs. We just announced a program in India that we're funding.
Also with EleVen, we did a charity shirt, too, for UNESCO. Different ideas and just getting more involved in things outside of tennis.

Q. Serena was saying yesterday when asked about Obama, she said, I admire him, but we're Jehovah's Witness. We can't vote. You're out there doing political issues all the time.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Political issues? Which ones.

Q. You're talking about UNESCO, equal prize money. If you're out there advocating for an issue you're taking some kind of political stance. How do you feel about that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I feel that what I do in tennis isn't really political. I mean, I think equal prize money is more -- I mean, obviously we have equal prize money, which is great.
I don't see it as political, that or the other thing you brought up, which I can't remember right now.

VENUS WILLIAMS: UNESCO. I mean, helping other people is what we're all here to do, if you ask me.

Q. But you don't vote either?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, I don't vote.

Q. You have another British player in the next round, Anne Keothavong. Are you aware of her?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I've seen her play also. I'm sure she'll come out swinging, because that's what you have to do at Wimbledon. I know a little bit more about her than my opponent today. Obviously I will focus on my game.

Q. The atmosphere in the crowd out there today was fantastic, mainly because it was a British player. Do you enjoy that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Definitely the atmosphere was great. But I don't hear too much of it because I'm really focused on what I'm doing.
But I did appreciate the atmosphere, because when it's all so quiet, I mean, it' nothing like an atmosphere in tennis, I think.

Q. Were you ever actually concerned today? Were you ever really worried?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, not really. Obviously, I wanted that break back early. When I got it at 3-All I was pretty excited, because 4-2 isn't as much fun as 3-1 (smiling). I was definitely excited about getting that back, because she was playing well, not giving up a lot. It was important to get that break back.
But obviously I felt pretty comfortable. I felt like I had a few chances to break, but didn't quite happen. So I just had to leave it behind me and go for that tiebreaker.

Q. To what extent do you think physical fitness was a factor today? It appeared in the second set your superior mobility was a telling factor.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I think my mobility is a huge strength for me and a huge weapon throughout my career. I thought she moved pretty well. She got a lot more balls back than what I was expecting. But I'm really blessed to be my height and to be able to move. I'm really excited about that.

Q. The governing bodies of tennis are taking a stronger look at issues pertaining to gambling and match fixing. If someone is caught involved in fixing a match, what do you think the penalty should be?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I haven't even thought about it, to be honest. I don't think it's rampant in our sport. I suppose there have been some cases, but I see that tennis is taking a stronger stance on that. It's important because our sport is growing and needs to grow, so we have to make sure it doesn't happen.

Q. What message do you think is being sent by this increased scrutiny?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. I didn't think about it. I was really, really focusing on Wimbledon, so I didn't think about it. But I did see there was a 15-point -- 15 points. I'm sorry, I'm the wrong person to ask about the details.

Q. You brought out a new clothes line here, but you have Petrova wearing your clothes, right?

Q. Is that the first time you've had another player wearing your clothes? Talk about how you worked that out with her.
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think she's just in transition between -- was in transition, so she I think wanted -- she was doing me a favor. So I'm hoping to see her in the clothes. I saw her in some warmups yesterday, but I haven't seen her in the match clothes. I'm hoping to see her.
She's a great girl. I have a lot of respect for her on and off the court. She's a good person.

Q. Is it the same outfit you're wearing, or is it different?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, it's different. It's different.

Q. Know EleVen trench coat?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Trench coats, no. Maybe next fall.

Q. Did you have a hand in designing the dress you wore today? If so, is there an element in the dress you particularly liked?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, it's kind of like a Norma Kamali inspired. I don't know if you know her. She does chic and classic swimwear. Obviously Wimbledon white is a requirement. It's nice to do something a little different. It has a little keyhole. It's definitely fun.

Q. If Naomi was to ask you, What do I need to get to your level, what would you tell her?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I would say she would need to train with Mr. Williams. That would definitely help, because he's a great coach. That would be my recommendation.

Q. What's the greatest strength of your father as a coach?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think at this point he's really positive, because I feel like I understand the game. A lot of times you really just need someone to help you through those moments when you're too hard on yourself or, you know, to get you to that next level of positivity and confidence and good thoughts. I think he's really good at that.

Q. What do you feel his greatest strength is in terms of his knowledge of tennis?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think he's a real innovator on the court. Serena and I, we came out and we were able to play the game that he taught us. I think in essence it was really him who changed women's tennis, because we were just the students.

Q. Have you been able to see Maria Sharapova's tuxedo outfit? If so, what do you make of it?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I haven't seen it, no. So I don't know.

Q. What would you say was the difference between your first-set performance and your second-set performance?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think my returns were a little better in that second set, but like my returns weren't as good in the first. I was hitting them short. She had some opportunities. I think that definitely made a difference, amongst other things. I made a few more shots.
It all makes a difference. But, of course, I always feel like I play better as the match progresses.

Q. As a champion so many times, how comfortable do you feel here? We always say it's like your second home and all that. When you come here, does it very comfortable for you?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I feel really good here, obviously - especially this year. I like being here in general. I love having my family here. Obviously, I love the grass. My game seems to just get better when I'm here.
I just love this tournament, so I'm definitely starting to feel like a lot of the other great players who were playing before me, I'm hoping to follow in their footsteps, because they loved this tournament more than anything. I'm definitely starting to feel that way, too.

Q. Do you feel like a different player here at this tournament?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think my whole attitude changes (laughter). So it's great, definitely.

Q. Why especially this year?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think because of my success in the past, winning here a handful of times, you know, I've dreamed of that. But then to actually achieve those things and make it happen is something completely different, so that gives me a good feeling coming here.

Q. Do you remember the first time you ever played on grass, whether you liked it right away, or was it an acquired taste?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I liked it right away, of course. When you're little, to play on grass is exciting, something different, something new. I wanted to try to dive. I've never been brave enough to dive. I could still try it, I guess.

Q. Was that in Florida that you played on grass the first time?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think in Florida.

End of FastScripts

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