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November 3, 2008

Venus Williams


THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, our final participant in today's all-access hour, Venus Williams. The world's No. 8 from the United States. Venus has a 35-11 win/loss record for this year. In her career, she's a repeat winner of Wimbledon and the US Open, joining only Steffi Graff and Martina Navratilova to have defended those titles in consecutive years. Venus's claim to fame in 2008 was winning her fifth Wimbledon singles title. Seventh singles major title in all, and she's also won her third Olympic gold medal recently at the Beijing Olympics with her sister, Serena. This is Venus' third appearance at the Sony Ericsson Championships, and the first since 2002 where she reached the semifinals. So questions, please.

Q. Another successful year. A very busy last couple of months winning playing more than you normally do this time of the year. How are you feeling fitness and mentally?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm actually feeling good. I'm happy about being in the championships and being able to play and also qualifying. So I feel good about that, too. So I'm in a good mind frame.

Q. How difficult is it to start in a tournament like this where you're playing against the top players right from the word go?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, yeah, I'm okay with it. I pretty much know what this tournament's all about. And I'm ready to get off the blocks fast. So I'm good with all of that.

Q. You open up with a match against Safina, would you rather have that been Serena rather than Safina?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. I have to play Serena, too. So eventually that time will come.

Q. Would you have preferred to play your sister first?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I didn't have any preference.

Q. After winning in Zurich, you were not sure to be qualified for the championship, but at the same time you are saying, okay, if I qualify, good, if I don't, I know myself. What happened afterwards? Did you follow the results to be formed what was happening with the other players would be qualified instead of you?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I follow the tennis results. But I, you know, just to see what was happening. Not to see if someone else would beat me. But I still got here, so it's good.

Q. Were you nervous?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No. I have nothing to be nervous about. What happened to you.

Q. What happened to you after Wimbledon? Like in your view of things, was something in your life after Wimbledon or something different? We don't know. We saw your sister. We don't know anything about your sports, anything about your love. Anything about your private life? Can you give us something? We know you are very generous, and we are waiting for some information, something to write about.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, see, that's where I try to be smart. You know, I keep it all out of the press. So I only have to report information like training and the gym and things like that so, yeah. So I save the gossip for Serena.

Q. No information?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No information right now, no.

Q. What about surfing? You like surfing?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I used to surf, before I started working full-time, so, now that career is over. I'm strictly a tennis player (laughing) but I'm thinking about starting again. Serena said for sure we have to keep going. But my board really is so old. It's in my dad's garage. And it went through so many hurricanes, so I probably need a new board.

Q. Which other sports do you like outside of tennis?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Just tennis. I'm very loyal.

Q. You've been a real champion of women's rights and a leadership role in the WTA. Your thoughts on having this event in this part of the world?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, we've been playing in this part of the world for a while now. Played in Dubai numerous times, played here earlier this year. So I think that, you know, just looking at from the standpoint that we've got a wonderful opportunity to play here. It's a great opportunity for the tour.
I think us players are really focused on the tennis more than anything else. I think all the other players are also focused on maybe they have a chance to play in the championships. So I don't think anyone else is too focused on any other outside issue. We've been hosted very well, and that's pretty much it.

Q. That being said, do you feel like by playing here you can change perceptions about women?
VENUS WILLIAMS: You know, I'm not exactly sure that we're here to change perceptions. I think every country has their way of doing things. I don't think it's really our job to come here and tell everyone how to do things and to change mindsets.
But we are here to play great tennis and to be a good role model and as women to be entertainment. Anything else might be a little bit beyond our reach and influence (laughing).

Q. After you've been sort of the flag bearers for U.S. women's tennis for a while. It's a little bleak looking after the two of you. The USTA has been making a lot of changes. Patrick McEnroe has come in, and made some staff changes. Just wondering as far as the USTA and player development, do you think we're on the right track? Why aren't we seeing more Venus and Serena's?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't think we're on the right track. I'm not sure what track we should be on, but it does seem like we should be able to produce some players, especially with our history throughout the game. Since the beginning of the game we've had a lot of great American players. So hopefully we can figure it out soon, because we can also see the sport waining some in the U.S., which wouldn't be good.

Q. Are you worried it's going to lose some grip in the U.S.?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Not yet, not yet. I'm still holding the flag high, so it's going to be okay for a while. But until that while passes, they'll need to find someone else.

Q. You've been at the top level of the game for a long time now. I know this is kind of a vague question, but what would you say are the most significant changes in the evolution of women's tennis over the past decade?
VENUS WILLIAMS: That's a deep question. I played to win some good matches in the last decade. I don't know (laughing). Obviously, the new road map is a huge change in tennis, and that's been a work in progress for quite a few years. I would say that's really the biggest change.
I think the last year we've had a lot more power coming into the game. I think that's been great, too. We've still have lots of long rallies so that's been great.

Q. The final adjustments to the road map which are being made even right now maybe today and tomorrow, I'm not sure. How important are these discussions at this moment now, and how much might they influence how frequently you play next year on the tour?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think the road map is good news for tennis, especially for women's tennis. And I think it creates a stronger business model for not only the players but the tournaments. I think it's good for tennis.
How much will I play next year? I'm definitely going to play my commitment to the tour, and I'm looking forward to doing that. And obviously, the slams. I think I'm going to have a lot of fun next year to be honest. So I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Will what's in the road map influence how much you play?

Q. Will what's in the road map and what is decided, the fine tuning details, will that affect how much you play on the tour?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, the road map does affect how much I'll play. But I think the tournaments are weighted so in the rankings and points that it does give me an opportunity to play some larger events with certainly lots of points, so that's great.
Like I said, I feel like the road map is a great thing. As far as tweaking things, there are things that come up as you're planning with any business, especially with such a monumental change, okay, we didn't see this happening, so how do we adjust it.
The great part is that we're all working together to do that. And next year is going to be a year also where we're going to see things that we didn't foresee that will have to be changed or adjusted. That's normal.
I think the best part is we all worked at it together, and in the end, everyone's happy.

Q. If I read it right, you've had your own problems which will influence how much you play? This time last year you weren't feeling so good. How much is that still an issue for you, and do you feel that you'll be in the sort of condition that you'll be able to play as much as you want to?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Next year? Yeah, I'm going to always have my prayers so that maybe I'll get blessings so I can play a lot, as much as I want next year.
But I'm okay for the moment. Any injuries I've had, I've tried to learn from them and not get them again.

Q. Has there been an improvement in your condition?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I feel better. I was able to start playing some tournaments and I felt better.

Q. Everybody knows that you are a great player, one of the greatest in our time. But I would like to ask about the fashion. We all know that you are very interested in that part. How do you manage the things at the fashion. The last fashion show I've seen to you, I've been watching Oprah and I've seen half of your fashion show. So how can you manage doing that stuff and what happened?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I have a great team that helps me a lot. And I enjoy working hard and working a lot, so that helps me. It's my personality. I think going to school helped a lot. I do everything on the computer, that helps. Just day by day, work at it. I enjoy it.

Q. Tomorrow you'll have the results in the presidential election. How closely will you be following those?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I'll be following them closely. We'll see what happens. It's come so quickly, we'll see what happens.

End of FastScripts

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