Serena Speaks: Top-Ranked Williams Expansive In Scottsdale Interview
Serena Speaks: Top-Ranked Williams Expansive In Scottsdale Interview
By Brad Falkner
Rain washed away much of the day's play at the State Farm Women's Classic in Scottsdale, but nothing has been able stop the reign of tennis' top-ranked player. Whether she's slamming shots on the court or posing for shots in a swimsuit, Serena Williams exudes a distinctive style and powerful presence that is undeniable.
Prevented from practicing outdoors by the damp conditions, Williams hit the weight room today to work out under the guidance of her father and coach, Richard Williams, who is Scottsdale with his daughter.
The five-time Grand Slam champion arrived at today's round-table discussion with the media direct from the weight room. However she looked as if she had just left the salon. Sporting a silk scarf wrapped around her hair and clad in a slick Puma suitsweat, Williams showed that one can look stylish no matter the occasion.
In a wide-ranging discussion, Williams was relaxed, responsive and revealing as she discussed how she handles the pressure of maintaining her prominent position at the top of tennis, why J. Lo (entertainer Jennifer Lopez) inspires her to strive for higher goals, her thoughts on how she'd fare in a match against Australian Open men's champion Andre Agassi and why someday she'd consider pushing people's buttons.
Media: What have you been doing?
Serena: "Took maybe a day or two off. Been working out trying to get ready for this tournament. Just been relaxing and doing a little gym workout."
Media: Your dad (Richard Williams) told me you were nursing a knee injury?
Serena: "Just chronic (pain). I'm getting old. I don't bend the way I used to. I'm all right. It's the same. It's nothing serious. It's something minor that hasn't bothered me."
Media: Is life at No. 1 any different for you than say at another ranking?
Serena: "I think obviously it is. I find myself doing different media things. My publicist is calling me every day. It's crazy but she was calling me before anyway a lot. It's always tough because there's so many photo shoots that I want to do, and so many magazine covers that I will try to do. But I can't just do them all. I have to tell myself to slow down because I don't want to burn out and get tired."
Media: Tell us about the Sports Illustrated photo shoot. How did that come about?
Serena: "It's been a goal of mine to be in that for a while. I wanted to do some other kind of photos, something different so people see me in a different light as more of an athlete. I consider myself as an athlete on the court. And even on the court, I'm setting different standards fashion-wise. I always try to look trendy and do different things. It was good for them (Sports Illustrated) because they really liked it. It was fun. We took a lot of photos. They were just seeing me in a different light. They were seeing me for who I really am I think."
Serena: "It's all positive. I guess I'm reaching a different crowd now."
Media: With all this going on, it hasn't seemed to bother your focus?
Serena: "It's tough, but sometimes if I catch it bothering me I try to work harder. I tell my publicist I can't do this. I'm just not able to do this. I just slow down. I canceled some things earlier because I figured I needed to be focused on my tennis this year. I have a lot of points coming off, and I really wanted to do well in Australia and Paris 'cause I wanted to gain some points in the beginning of the year. I just think you have to have that balance mentally and know what your limits are. I figure J-Lo does all these movies, and all these videos and all this other stuff, I know I can work harder. I know I can play tennis and act and do photo shoots and model. I know I can do all that. It's a lot of work when you're doing TV, music and videos and commercials and photo shoots. Every month she's on the cover of a new magazine. That's a lot of work and lot of dedication. I'm not saying I'm using her as an example. I just thought about it one day, 'Gosh, she's doing all this. I'm getting tired of seeing her on the covers. If she can work this hard than I know I can work hard. That's how I look at her. If she can do it then I know I can."
Media: Something you learn or can you tell when too much is enough?
Serena: "I can tell when too much is enough because I don't sleep that much. Sometimes after big tournaments I have to do things and things and things. I know because my body will tell me I'm getting tired, I need to stop, I need to slow down. So, I pretty much am able to stop."
Media: Is giving up your private life a pain?
Serena: "The other day I was at a restaurant with my friend and this guy comes up at random and just starts taking photos. I'm like, 'Come on now, give me a break.' I was coming out of another restaurant and these guys were in a car with a long camera lens. It doesn't really bother me. I'm going to either have to accept it or move on. But I don't want to let it slow me down. I'm OK with it, it's not really bothering me."
Media: Doesn't your popularity say a lot about who you are?
Serena: "It's definitely more than a tennis player. I try to do lots of different things. I definitely think it says a lot. People don't see me as just Serena Williams the tennis player."
Media: You set your goals pretty high, wanting to go undefeated this year. Does that mean you're starting to think about your legacy?
Serena: "No. Only reason I set my goals high is like last year I set my goals to win the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. And honestly, as confident as I always am, and as much aplomb as I walk around with, I never really though that I would actually do it. I just set my goals to the sky and if I land on the moon that's OK. So I set just a ridiculous goal, I didn't think I'd be able to get it and I did. So this year, I set this absolutely ridiculous goal (of going undefeated). I don't think it can happen. Any given day there are a lot of top players. I set very high goals and if I lose three or four times, that's not bad."
Media: Since you've become the top player has that increased other players desire to beat you?
Serena: "Definitely but at some point I don't really even care. I'm just going to play my game. If you win you win. I'm just going to have to move on."
Media: Look to anyone, maybe like Tiger Woods for inspiration?
Serena: "I look at this guy, and he just had surgery, and he came back an dhe won the tournament. I need to be like Tiger Woods. I need to be winning more. He is pretty amazing."
Media: Look to anyone for leadership to stay focused?
Serena: "I really don't look to anyone. I don't know any examples I can think of offhand. I just do my thing and I know eventually when enough is enough. I guess I'm one of a kind."
Media: Ever caught yourself on the court saying, Whoa, I need to focus back.
Serena: "All the time. Every time I play a match I'm there but I'm really gone. Sometimes I'm in Hawaii, honestly."
Media: How much pride do you take in completing the Serena Slam?
Serena: "It means a lot to me. I didn't expect to reach that goal. I didn't expect to win three Grand Slams. I don't expect to win every match this year. I expect someone to beat me. Someone out there. I don't think it's possible for me to win all my matches but I'll try. For me to reach that goal last year and to won all four Grand Slams in a row is really awesome. Now I realize I can do it, who knows what can happen."
Media: Long-term goals?
Serena: "I don't have long-term goals. I don't want to play tennis for 15 years. I was just reading one Steffi Graf stat where she was in the top two for 10 years, and that's just crazy. Martina Navratilova is still making goals. I just don't think especially with the tour and all the tournaments they have and all the pressure they put on you to play these tournaments, and how they try to really injure you pretty much by playing all these tournaments, it's impossible for anyone to have a long career nowadays unless you're not injured I try not to play too much. Plus, the players are much tougher than they were back then. Your matches are a little longer, the conditions are harder. It's just a different time. I think those records will be around for a while. Eventually they'll be broken. But I don't know if I'll be playing 15 years to break it."
Media: How much of that decision is based on the fact that you want to do other things with your life?
Serena: "I think it has a lot do with it because tennis take up a lot of time. But I really enjoy it. But I just don't see myself...These records are so unbelievable. You have to play forever to do it."
Media: What was your reaction to Anika Sorrenstam trying to play golf with the men?
Serena: "I'm definitely all for it. It's perfect but in tennis it's like Lennox Lewis against Leila Ali. But for golf, maybe it's way different. Leila Ali would have no chance against Lewis, and I'd have no chance against Andre Agassi. It's just different bodies and different types. I think that would be impossible."
Media: Will you put out a CD like J-Lo?
Serena: "I'm in the background. I'd rather be in the background producing or pushing the buttons. I'm into singing."