Mar 28th, 2003, 01:48 AM
S. WILLIAMS/K. Clijsters 6-4, 6-2
An interview with SERENA WILLIAMS
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You made a lot of errors today. How well or badly would you say you played?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I think I struggled a bit today with my form. My trainer said she thought I played good, but, you know, I'm always really tough on myself and really rough on myself. I don't think my form was up to par today.
Q. Your knee okay?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it's definitely okay. I just had a tumble. But I'm all right.
Q. You hit an angled backhand to break her in the first game of the second set that it looked like it was almost an impossible shot that you made look effortless. Can you talk about that? How often do you practice that shot? Is it something you are definitely -- is it a spontaneous thing?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It's a little spontaneous, but I knew I was going for an angle there. I wasn't necessarily going for that acute of an angle, but I was definitely trying to hit a sharp one. I think when you add a little power and more spin, it just goes more out there than normal.
Q. How difficult is that shot compared to just some other ones?
SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, it's not the easiest shot in the book. It's not very difficult for me, I've found hitting angles very natural and easy. It's always been a part of my game. But I don't think it was that difficult.
Q. What do you think happened to her after she tied 4-4 in the first set?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. Did you ask her?
Q. She didn't come in here.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, I don't know. I don't know. I think she was still playing hard and she was still playing tough. You know, it's hard to win. She's played a lot of tournaments so it's hard to keep winning.
Q. Do you think she was tired?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I don't think she was tired. I'm not tired, I don't think she was tired. I just think it was a tough match. I picked up my game, I think, a little bit. That's what happened.
Q. All the other players have been talking all week and I guess every tournament lately about, "Oh, the gap is closing, there are people who can beat Serena," Kim was one of them they were saying; she played really well lately. Obviously, you completely dominated today. How do you stay challenged and, you know, do you still see the top players as a big challenge for yourself?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, of course. Whenever I'm playing Venus, I know I have to play very, very good tennis. If I'm playing Kim, I know I have to play good tennis. Even, honestly, Chanda Rubin, you have to really be able to play. So it's definitely not hard for me to keep motivated. There's always different goals and levels to keep trying to reach.
Q. Was the match in Australia on your mind? Did you have a different strategy going into today?
SERENA WILLIAMS: The match in Australia wasn't on my mind. I definitely had a strategy going into the match. I think going into any match, you have to have a strategy.
Q. What was that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, come on.
Q. Do you think Australia was on her mind? Did you get a sense you had a psychological advantage from the start, if you pressed her, got her into trouble, she began to fall behind, that would be a problem?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I didn't really think about it in that way. I was just going out there to play my game and just focus on doing the best that I can and making my shots. I don't think I made too many of my shots, but I figured if I could just make a few of them, then I would be all right.
Q. When Kim was playing well in LA and in Australia, what does she do that gives you the most trouble?
SERENA WILLIAMS: She just played really well in LA. I don't really remember. That was a long time ago.
Q. Is there anything about her game in particular?
SERENA WILLIAMS: She's fast. She's very fast. She gets a lot of balls back, and she has power. She has a good all-around game.
Q. For her to finish with only six winners, what does that say about the way you played her today?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I guess I'm moving pretty well around the court. I'm definitely moving fast. I don't know. I'm not too happy with the way I played today, personally. But...
Q. What would you grade it?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Uhm... A passing grade, but... You know, my serve wasn't there at all. My returns were miserable.
Q. Yet it was sort of an easy day at the office?
SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, it wasn't as easy as it seemed. It was definitely a grueling match.
Q. Could you have beaten Venus the way you played today?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I don't know. Usually, when I play Venus, I have to pick up the level of my game or I'm gonna lose. So when I play Venus, I'm just playing a different game. Because Venus is on a different level. She just plays so well.
Q. Was she here today?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't think so.
Q. Can you talk about how you feel about being in the finals again?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I'm really excited to be in the final here again, third time, so... Three out of six isn't bad, but I could do better. I was surprised, I played this tournament six years. That seems like forever.
Q. Can you talk either Jennifer or Chanda?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Can I talk to...?
Q. Yeah, how you will approach the final, Jennifer versus Chanda?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm definitely going to watch the match. I think it will be really good and really fun. I mean, we'll see who wins. I think Chanda is playing really well. I wouldn't be surprised if she won. But Jennifer, she's on her way back - again. So she's doing well as well.
Q. Do you have a preference?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't have a preference. Either way, I'm going to have to come out and perform. That's just the bottom line.
Q. How would you play to those two players? They're different.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I definitely would probably have to play them each different. I don't like to give out -- tell how I'm going to play each player because you never know who's reading the transcripts.
Q. Can you talk about what that NAACP Image Award meant to you and just what the highlight, if there was a person you met during that, that was the highlight?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It was fascinating. You know, I said I might move my Wimbledon trophy aside and put that one where it is because it means a lot to me, getting it from the NAACP, and it was a presidents award. It means a lot for my people. It's just this whole inner feeling of joy and happiness that I got receiving this award. I mean, I don't know. For me, it's being the top honor of the year. I've gotten a lot of things in the past year, but I think that one's definitely the apex.
Q. Knowing Condy Rice had been a previous...
SERENA WILLIAMS: Her, and a lot of other people as well. We're so young. We've done a lot. You know, I don't realize all the stuff we do, personally. It's just I can't take the time to think about it. Sometimes I think about it, but it never really settles in. For the community, we do a lot. A lot of girls are playing tennis, a lot of people are watching tennis, a lot of people are inspired. Not only on the tennis court, but they're inspired never to give up. Like my match in Australia, the one woman said, you know, she was in a totally different situation but she said, "I learned not to give up on life and just give up on different situations." So I think we have a major impact. I think getting that award kind of brought me to see it a little bit. But I think I'll see it mostly when my career is over.
Q. How surprising was it to see, like, for a match like this, the stadium was kind of empty?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I think the match was pretty early. So I don't know. It was kind of surprising. I think last year it was more full.
Q. Can I bring you back to Wimbledon for a moment, please?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah.
Q. If we project forward, assuming you're the No. 1 seed as the holder, if someone of the caliber of Martina Navratilova, for example, were to complain about your grunting under Rule 21, hindrance of an opponent , that is, and the referee was brought in and the umpire and you were singled out, how would you deal with that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I'm mentally tough. It wouldn't bother me. To be honest with you, I'd keep grunting.
Q. Do you forget what it's like to lose?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, not at all. Sometimes you definitely have to have a loss to put you back in perspective. I think when I lost in LA, I mean, I was like, "Okay," I didn't like the feeling.
Q. That was a long time ago, though.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Not really. Yeah, it was a long time ago (laughter).
Q. Back when Lindsay Davenport was at the top of her game, she was somebody who could challenge both you and Venus. Now she seems to be putting her game back together after the injury. Can you just address her now?
SERENA WILLIAMS: She's definitely someone who still is up for the challenge. I think everyone these days are. You just can't say, "Oh, I'm playing so-and-so and it's going to be easy." That's when you start to lose. For me, when I go into a match, it doesn't matter who I play, I have to realize I have to be ready and willing to play tough.
Q. What was it about Lindsay when she was at that peak that was difficult?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Lindsay is just a strong player. I've actually played well against Lindsay in my career. I've really always enjoyed playing Lindsay. But just we've had a few tough matches, but she's a strong player, she hits a big serve. She moves the ball around very well.
Q. Have you seen her play recently?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Of course, of course.
Q. Is she back up to that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think she's really back to it. I think I would have played her had she not got injured --
Q. What happened on the backhand where you were sprawling?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. Clumsy.
Q. Did you get your feet tangled up a little bit?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think so, I guess. I don't know what it was.
Q. You don't see any skin off the knees?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Little bit, but, you know, they're war wounds.
Q. One last question about that NAACP Awards night. Venus said you guys were walking through the crowd and you just kept getting stopped every two steps by people. I'm wondering what it's like, these movers and shakers, all areas of society, wanting to talk to you? What is that like for you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It's amazing. I mean, when Denzel Washington came up to me and said, "This is what I've been waiting for the whole night, that's the only reason I'm here, I want to meet you guys, I watch you every match, I can tell you what outfit you wore in every match," I was really, really shocked. It was just really exciting. You know, I look up to him. I mean, I can't imagine him liking me. It's just...
Q. Have you watched every movie of Denzel Washington? Could you tell him what he wore in every movie?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No. I've watched most of them. Not all of them, most of them. I'm definitely a fan. It's just like, "Come on. Wow."
Q. Do you literally not know if Venus is here?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know if she was here or not. She called me and said she was going to come, but she's busy. So I don't know if she made it or not.
Q. Did your mom come down?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, she's out of town.
Q. She's out of town?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yes.
Q. Some of the players have said that when you're at the top of your game, your game is just at another level, almost unbeatable. How do you feel about that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I feel that if I'm playing my best tennis, it's pretty difficult to beat me. I think, actually, if I'm playing my best tennis, I don't think anyone right now can beat me, if I play my best. I haven't played my best.
Q. Could you imagine playing and feeling that way about somebody else, that you'd go out there, if they played their best, you had no chance?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, it must be terrible (laughter). But, I mean, actually, I can. I've had some hitting partners, no matter how well I play, they always beat me. But I keep fighting and I keep working hard and I keep getting better. Each time, it gets closer and closer.
Q. Can you talk about your Fed Cup teammates, please?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It's really going to be -- Alexandra on the team. It's her first time making it. We're really, really good friends. I'm happy she made it. And Venus. It's a good team with Meghann as well, so we should have a solid team.
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