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May 23, 2014

Serena Williams


THE MODERATOR:  Questions in English, please.

Q.  So just kind of curious as to what your reaction was when you saw you drew Alizé in the first round.
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Well, I didn't know, so we'll see.

Q.  You didn't know at all?

Q.  Did she ask you about it?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  No.  We were talking about it before the draw was made.  It's ironic, I guess.  It is what it is.  I guess it goes with that song, Isn't it ironic.
She's a great player.  She's been doing really well.  So we'll see.

Q.  You obviously have done a lot of draw ceremonies in your life.  You weren't there for the women's part, but are you trying to block out all that you can, or are you still somebody who doesn't want to look at the draw?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Yeah, I actually never, never, never look at it.  I just either wait for you to tell me or someone, and then I go from there.  I just take it one day at a time.

Q.  Coming back here as the champion, is it making it special?  Is it still an extra pleasure or pressure?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  It's always good.  It feels good for me.  I don't remember the last time I was defending champ, so it feels really good that I'm here as defending champion.
I'm really excited.  Like I said, it's been a while, but I think I have had a really long, great career, hopefully.  It just feels really good to be at this point in my career and playing as defending champion.

Q.  You have had another strong run on clay last the three years.  Your record is pretty impressive on that surface.  What went into how much success you have had recently as compared to the stretch of, let's say five, seven years before that on this surface?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Ten years.  Ten years.  (Smiling.)
I don't know what clicked or didn't click.  I grew up on hard courts, and then when I turned ten I played only clay until I turned pro.
I have the capability of playing on clay, so I don't know why I wasn't more consistent on clay before.
But, hey, I guess better late than never, right?

Q.  Was it just a mental thing, a click, that kind of turned it on clay?
SERENA WILLIAMS:¬† I think it was more I don't want to lose.¬† I want to be in the tournament.¬† I want to ‑‑not that I didn't have that feeling before, but it was even deeper to a point of I don't ‑‑I just want to be here.¬† I want to play more.¬† I want to do better.¬† You know, just focusing on everything and all tennis and just trying to get, you know, to that point.
That's the only thing I can say.¬† I didn't really change my game.¬† I'm not trying to be‑‑ hit less winners on clay, because, you know, I just pretty much do the same thing.

Q.  How important was it to come into Roland Garros after winning in Rome, and what did that victory mean for you, as well?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  It was important for me, because I didn't get to play as much clay as I did last year.  I had to stop in Madrid early, so I wasn't even sure if I was going to play Rome.
Then to come out the win gave me a lot of confidence.  I got a lot of matches in there and I needed those matches.  I felt good after them.
So, you know, ultimately I felt really well.

Q.  Did you used to come into the French Open with a different mindset than you would the other Grand Slams where you had more success?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Maybe a year or two, but in general I don't play a tournament unless I don't feel I can win.
That doesn't mean I win everything.  It just means that I'm going in there with the intention of doing the best that I can, and I'm not going to think, Oh, I'm going to lose in this round or this round.  I just do the best that I can in every round.

Q.  Do you like being seeded No. 1, being looked at as a favorite here?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  I like being seeded No. 1.  The favorite part is definitely more pressure.  But as Billie Jean King tells me, pressure is a privilege.

Q.  What do you remember about the first match you played against Venus at the Australian Open in '98, I think it was?
SERENA WILLIAMS:¬† Yeah, it was ‑‑I remember I was excited.¬† I think I beat Spirlea in the round before round.¬† How I remember that and I don't remember other things, I don't know, that just happened last week.
So I was excited to get that win.  And then, you know, I obviously would have preferred not to play Venus, but that's just how it worked out.  I was just happy to kind of, you know, be there.  I was so young at the time.

Q.¬† You played her over a dozen times since in late rounds ‑ some early rounds, too.¬† Does it get any easier playing your sister at all?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  No, it never gets easier.  She's essentially the love of my life, so it's definitely difficult.

Q.¬† You did the after‑match interview in French last year.¬† So do you plan to do that this year?¬† Any improvement in your French?
SERENA WILLIAMS:¬† I hope it's improved.¬† I really do.¬† We'll see how it goes.¬† Hopefully I'll get to do an after‑match interview.

Q.  (Off microphone.)
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Oh, did I?  You keep track of that, huh?  Let bygones be bygones.

Q.  I'm curious, were you able to kind of reset after you took that break after Charleston and had that break between then and Madrid?  Were you able to rest and relax?  We spoke to you in Charleston and you were saying you were wiped and exhausted.  So kind of where are you at with all that now?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  I'm really good now.  I'm great.  I feel like this is the only place I want to be.  The next tournament is the only place I want to be and the tennis court is where I need to be.
So I feel really that break, I really needed it.¬† I tried as hard as I could in Charleston, and it just ‑‑I just couldn't pull it‑‑ I couldn't do it.¬† That's when I knew that I needed to take some time and just refocus and regroup and then see what happens.

Q.  Just coming back to what you were saying about Billie Jean and how it's good to have pressure on you, has your conversations with the likes of Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova changed over the course of the year?  You have been winning Grand Slams since 1999?  Do they say, Well, when we first started talking to you you had the potential; now you are among us.  So do they talk to you in a different way or are they still Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  I definitely think there is a little bit of a change.  I think there's a lot of respect mutually between all of us.  For me, they are still on a pedestal.  They are still like, you know, some of the greatest players that's ever played our sport and that's made our sport what it is today.
It's given me this opportunity for me to be here today and to travel and to have this life.  For me, I have definitely a tremendous amount of respect.  To even be mentioned in the same sentence as those greats for me is still, and I think will always, be an honor.

Q.  Seems already like you have more of a game face on here than in Rome.  When did you click into that sort of Grand Slam intensity?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Well, gotta happen soon, you know, because you can't necessarily go around eating caccia en pepe pasta every night.  I'm not doing that here, although it sounds good (smiling).

Q.  One question in French.  It's possible?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  Okay.  I knew you were going to do that.

Q.  (From French.)  You speak a little French now?  Why did you decide you were going to learn French, that French is very important?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  That's two questions.  I'm going to talk about the second question.  Well, for me, the French Open is extremely important because it's a Grand Slam I won only twice and I want to win more and more.
I won five times Wimbledon, Australian, the US Open, so for me it's important, because after playing tennis I like to be with my family.
And the other question was?  My French, well, I started learning French because I saw the children in Africa and I told my parents, One day I want to go to Africa and I want to be able to talk to the crowd there.
I know French is a very important language in Africa, so I started studying French.

Q.  (In French.)  Another question in French.  When you go in the bakery, what do you buy?
SERENA WILLIAMS:  (In French.)  First, I like pain au chocolat, and I like chocolate.

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