An Interview With: VENUS WILLIAMS
THE MODERATOR: First question for Venus, please.
Q. Why did you decide to forego Fed Cup this year?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well... I don't think I've decided yet, have I?
Q. I thought the team was announced today.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Was it? Okay. Sorry.
You know, I think that at this point, is Monica playing and Jennifer? Who's playing?
Q. Monica and Jennifer.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think that -- I think it was a great team, and I think Billie felt that maybe she would need Serena and I in the summer.
Q. Wasn't your choice not to play?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I was 50/50 because I was playing here and in another tournament. Believe it or not, I have a few things going on in my life and I needed to be at home, too.
Q. Is this a match by match decision?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Not to play Fed Cup?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, I love Fed Cup.
Q. But there will be other opportunities this year?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah. Uh-huh (smiling).
Q. And you haven't ruled those out?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, not at all.
Q. Had you told her you would play if she wanted you to? Or you never even got that far?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I never actually spoke to her. Serena did, I think Serena got the chance to. But I never had the chance to.
Q. What were you doing last week in terms of keeping yourself busy for this tournament? Were you doing extra work?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Just practicing. Not too much extra work. Basically, I made a full recovery from the first part of the year. That was a miracle in itself.
Q. Can you elaborate on that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, it was just very tough and I was very tired. I had so much tennis, it was a lot of tennis. So, now I'm back and I'm happy to be playing.
Q. You said after winning the Australian that tennis is mental and technique. What's your mental frame of mind going in to this tournament?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Mentally, I always feel like I can do it. Sometimes my technique is not always there (laughing).
But really, mentally, if I feel I'm in the match or I feel that mentally I'm in the tournament and focused, I feel that's more than half of the battle.
Q. After the match you gave in Australia, were you surprised or not that Hantuchova came through last week?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, she has a lot of talent. She's a tall player, a powerful player. That was a great result for her. My first tournament was a tier three, I loved it, every minute of it. But that's a major achievement for your first title to be such a big one.
Q. How special is it for you to play here, a place where you had so much success?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think the best part is that I'm playing at home and all my friends and family can come down and see me play in my own setting.
Q. Do you look forward to this tournament?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, always. Always. This is my -- largest title before the Wimbledon 2000, so it was all I had before the Wimbledon 2000.
Q. What's the joy of winning again and again?
VENUS WILLIAMS: The fact that you don't have to go home and consider your loss. When you lose, it isn't a lot of fun. Winning is always much more fun. When you lose, you go home, you got to practice a little bit more, and it's not as easy. It's not a good feeling.
Q. How long does it typically take you to get over a loss?
VENUS WILLIAMS: A Grand Slam loss is a lot tougher. If I felt that I've given my best and the person has outplayed me, then it's a lot easier. But if I feel I had a bad day or I didn't do what I was supposed to, then it makes it a lot more difficult because you have regrets.
Q. There was a security press conference where Martina and Mary Jo talked about security. I'm just curious, have you had fans that have acted inappropriately?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Not at this point. I hope it continues in this way.
Q. Venus, an issue that came up at the Australian Open, thanks to Marcelo Rios, about the depth of the women's game, do you think some of the points that he made were valid about the early rounds of major tournaments where perhaps the lower-ranking women are not as equally matched as the men. Do you think that has anything to do with men being able to hold serve better?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I didn't give a lot of thought to any of the comments or anything that went down in Australia.
But in my opinion, women's tennis is great. There's not much more to be done to make it better.
Q. Even in the lower echelons?
VENUS WILLIAMS: In my opinion, all the players are playing better and the level is going up. It's not going to go backwards in any way; it's only going to go forward, the level of play in the competition.
Q. Do you take any precautions against crazy fans?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, I definitely watch where I am and watch who's around me. For me, it's my job, when I go out, to see who's saying, "Oh, is that her," and who's looking at me.
I can tell these things. I do watch what's around me. If I don't, then I'm not living in a reality. Especially in this world today.
Q. Were you still in New York when September 11th happened? It was not too long after the US Open. How did it impact you personally?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I was in the air. I was still asleep. Really, I didn't understand what was going on. It was quite confusing. I know they made an announcement on the airplane, but I was still asleep, I didn't understand. We were exiting the airplane. I didn't know if we should try to get back on, get our luggage.
I made it to Florida, I got to Jacksonville. But one of my sisters was on her way to California. You know, she could have well have been on one of those flights, so...
I don't know. God has blessed us to be here today. We have to be with the families that are having a hard time.
Q. Did it impact the way you see life or feel about the game or yourself and your family any way after that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think it impacted a lot of people. I think it's something that has never happened before outside of a war. You don't expect these kind of things on a regular day. So, I think that was the toughest part to accept.
Q. Venus, when you finish your work at the Art Institute, could you see yourself leaving tennis and embarking on a completely different career? Is that conceivable?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, yes. I love art and business. I love organizing things and setting things up and putting things together. I consider tennis an art at times (laughing).
Q. Would you leave the game without regrets, even within two years?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't want to leave in two years. I think I'd have a lot of regrets. At this point, I'm young and I can't say at 35 that I would want to come backwards and start winning Grand Slams. I've got to do that now. So, I'm definitely giving it all that I have.
Q. Can you see yourself having an event like this one?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No. No. I think this event is run beautifully. But I don't think I'll have a tennis event.
Q. What do you remember most about the match you had with Jennifer last year?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, I don't really know what was going on with either one of us in that match. It was all kinds of pressure points. I watched a tape of it, and I actually hit a dropshot with a matchpoint against me. I was more nervous watching the tape than when I was playing the match (laughing).
So, more than anything, I think it was just -- whether I won or lost, that would be one of the most memorable matches in my career.
Q. Can you talk about the challenge of repeating this year.
VENUS WILLIAMS: For me, in a tournament, whether it's a quarterfinal loss or a finals loss, I haven't won the title, for me it's about winning titles and not about if I finished well. So a repeat would be wonderful.
Q. When did you watch that tape, and what prompted it? Do you often watch yourself?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Only the matches I won (laughing). You won't find the ones I lost.
Q. Burned? When did you watch it?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I guess a few months after, someone sent me a tape or one of my family taped it and let me watch it. It was a real competition; that's for sure. I don't know how I got through that.
Q. Did you think you were going to lose it, as you were watching?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Did I feel I was going to lose it?
Q. As you watched, did you think, "How did I do this?"
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. It was just a great experience. Just the competition level was great.
Q. Don't you think you learned more from watching the matches you lost?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, for sure.
Q. But you don't do that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: But it's painful.
Q. Venus, you don't want to play 20 tournaments a year. You want to limit your schedule somewhat to big tournaments. If someone was to organize like, the eight best players on a tour, a ten-event tour around the country every year, would you see yourself part of that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. I'm very much happy with the tour, and I think I'd like to play more than ten events. Actually, this year I'm trying to get it up to about 17 or 18. So...
Any idea is worth while entertaining. Without ideas, you can't move ahead. But at this point I'm happy with the tour. I think we're progressing.
Q. The fact that you're planning to play 18 events, is that in response to the discussion last year that Lindsay went to No. 1, Jennifer went to No. 1, but everybody said, "Venus is the best but she doesn't play enough to be No. 1." Are you responding to that at all?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I want to live up to the commitment, the tournaments and the tour. Really that's my goal this year, is to at least play 17. That might not be easy, but I think I owe it to myself and I'd like to help the tour also. The events, people want to see the top players play, and I need to show up.
Q. Who convinced you of that?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I make my own decisions nowadays (laughing). Once you pass 18, you couldn't tell me anything.
Q. Having won Wimbledon the last two years, there's probably not much temptation to change your approach to that tournament. Is there any likelihood you might play Eastbourne?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm not sure. I'm not sure. I enjoy having the two weeks in between and going home and training.
Q. Could you be tempted?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Plus, I lost on my birthday at Eastbourne one year, so that was a devastating experience.
Q. The way the tournament is set up, you would face your sister in the semis. Does it make a difference to face her in the semis as opposed to the finals?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think the finals would have been nice, especially since we played here once in the finals already, especially the fact that we both live in south Florida. But the semifinals is nice, too.
In the meantime, we both have to make it there.
Q. How tough do you think it will be to win here again?
VENUS WILLIAMS: It's always difficult at a larger tournament because the level of play is -- and more of the top players also enter. Plus, this is a six-round event, which is much more different than playing four rounds at a regular event. So it takes more stamina and mental focus.
Q. How happy are you to see the strides Alexandra Stevenson has made?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think it's very exciting. We played each other all the time in the Juniors. There was a lot of girls out there who we played against, and it's kind of dwindled down to Serena, me and Alexandra. I used to play with Marissa Irvin also. But really that's about it at this point. Only four of us on the tour that I played with.
I think she really deserves it. I think she's a good player, has a lot of potential. All she has to do is capitalize on it.
Q. Would you say Serena's played a role in your success? If she has, how would you describe it?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think she really has played a role in my success, especially after, you know, the '99 US Open. I think she really - sounds strange - but she paved the way for me. Just to realize, you know, "Venus, you can step up and do it also." Because if anyone else had gone out there and played as, in my opinion, courageously as she had, I probably wouldn't have noticed. But since it was Serena, it was like a role model. So I kind of started doing the things she was doing.
Q. Why was she courageous?
VENUS WILLIAMS: She just had no fear. She went for every ball with reckless abandon. She just executed. So I started to take a look at myself and realize I wasn't executing.
Q. Has she declined since then, do you feel?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think she's had a lot of untimely injuries, which has been the tough part. Things like in Australia, twisting her ankle, in Sydney. So that's been hard for her.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Thank you.
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