S. Williams Interview- Pre-Event
Sunday, June 20, 2004
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is my great pleasure in introducing Serena Williams, reigning Wimbledon Champion. Who would like to ask the first question?
Q. One would argue there hasn't been a great deal of excitement since you played your sister here a year ago. We've had some succession of injuries, some uninspiring finals, Key Biscayne, the French Open. Do you feel it's critical or urgent that the women's game reassert itself in the next 14 days?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think the women's game, I've been gone for quite a bit. I came back, I resurfaced in Key Biscayne, haven't been really playing every week. But I think the women's game, I don't think that's a real major problem.
Q. Can you just talk about what it's like to come back here, just to be back. Seems like you would have fond memories of the grounds and this place.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I really like it here. It's a great atmosphere. I enjoy coming to Wimbledon. I really enjoy, you know, just being here and playing on the grass. Just everything about Wimbledon is really special. It's like no other Grand Slam.
You know, I've won it twice in a row. It's the only Grand Slam I won twice in a row, so that makes it special, as well.
Q. Is there any added pressure inasmuch as it must be sort of six or seven years since either you or your sister haven't held a Grand Slam? If neither of you win here, it will be the first time since '97 that one of you hasn't had one in the house.
SERENA WILLIAMS: It definitely wouldn't be '97. I never won a Grand Slam until '99. I know Venus was 2000.
You know, I've competed in one Grand Slam. You know, I'm really hard on myself, and I think a lot of people expect me to win a hundred percent of the time, and I expect myself to win 200% of the time. And so when you boil it down, when you think about it, it's like you're not going to win every match. No matter how good you are, no matter how much you try, you're not going to win everything.
So if you think about it that way, then it's really not that bad.
Q. What have you been doing to get yourself prepared for the grass?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, I've been obviously practicing a lot. I've been doing a lot of off‑court work mentally. I've just been relaxing and enjoying myself.
Q. Can you elaborate on that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Not everything's done on the court.
Q. What do you work on?
SERENA WILLIAMS: If I tell you.... I can't tell you (laughter).
Q. Say something about your first‑round match. Do you have any idea of your first‑round opponent?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm pretty sure someone in here was going to tell me who it is. I don't know who I play. And I'm just ‑‑ that's exactly what I usually do, I just focus on my game. And once I figure it out, then that way I won't be worried about who I'm playing.
Q. I understand you've been following the football, is that right?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. Want to "Bend it like Beckham," yeah (laughter). I'm really excited about the English team.
Q. You like David?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I love David Beckham. I think he's a really good player. I've been following him since, what, the 2000 ‑‑ no, it was the '98 World Cup. So that was pretty exciting.
Q. He's married, though.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't like him like that. I just think he's a great athlete. I like Victoria, too. I think she's really cool.
Q. Did you think at all about playing a tournament between the French and here?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, never, because I'm in Europe usually four weeks before the French, and then that's six weeks during the French. After that, I'd have to ‑‑ I honestly would go nuts. I've done it before maybe one year or two years, and it wasn't good on my mental state.
So I think it's best for me to go home. Even if it's just for two days, it's better for me to go home than to stay in Europe for too long.
Q. You could be the fifth woman to have won this title three times since Open tennis. Does that appeal to your sense of tradition?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, no, I have the rest of my career to think about that. It's not going to be the last time I play Wimbledon. So I'm going to have a lot of opportunities to become the fifth person. So that's exciting for me, for sure.
Q. Neither Clijsters or Henin are here. Does it make any difference for you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think it makes a difference for the tour, I guess. Like I say, it doesn't matter who I play or when I play. I think you always have to be on your game whether you're playing the No. 1 player, the No. 2 player, the No. 1000 player.
I think it's a shame that they couldn't make it but, you know, at the end of the day, the tournament is still here.
Q. You've been out for eight months. They're out now. Is there any advice you could give them, what would that be?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Enjoy the time off (laughter). You know, just enjoy it.
Q. Take as long as they want?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Take as long as you want. Go out, live a little.
Q. Does it become harder and harder to come back after an injury break?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, it comes easier because if you're gone for a little while, you're just really pressed to get back on tour. And I'm really excited. I was really excited myself to really come back. I was like really itching and itching to get back out there.
So it definitely ‑‑ I think it's easier because you're so ready to come back and play.
Q. With the practice you've done on grass this week, how would you describe the state of your game and confidence level going in?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Solid. Solid.
Q. Is rustiness an issue at this point?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm knocking off a lot of the rust. So if I just stay calm...
I'm too much of a perfectionist. I just want to do it perfect every time. My dad is consistently telling me that, you know, "Serena, you've got to relax. You've got to relax." I think that's the only factor. I just really want everything to be perfect.
Q. Is there more of an element of working into the tournament and getting accustomed to competition on grass here than on the other surfaces?
SERENA WILLIAMS: You know what, I think that's always an element. I think going into any different surface, from clay to grass, grass to hard, I think that's always going to be an element, to just work in a few matches and get used to the surface, and then really start to play your game.
Q. Myskina obviously won the French. Since then, Sharapova won in Birmingham, Kuznetsova won in Eastbourne yesterday. Which do you consider is the best Russian player? Do you consider them to be a threat to your title?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think ‑‑ who do I think is the best Russian player? I can't say. I don't know. There's so many.
I think, I always say ‑ I'm sounding redundant here ‑ but I think anyone is a threat to the title if they believe that they can win. And if I get too overconfident playing anyone, I could end up going home early. And that's not anything I want to do.
It's just important for me to just not get, you know, overconfident, just stay relaxed and stay focused.
Q. How long did it take you to get over the disappointment? You played fairly poorly in Paris against Jennifer. What lessons did you learn from that match?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, after my suicide in Paris, you know, I was really disappointed (smiling). I don't know. I don't know why I did some of those things.
No matter what I do, how hard I try, I'm not going to be able to rewind time. So I have to move forward. I've had to get over it.
Q. What was your reaction to Donatella, I think she bid $25,000 for a private lesson with you? Can you talk about that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: That was really exciting. I love Donatella Versace. Her collection's always drop‑dead gorgeous to me. We always try to get inspired by her line. We've been trying to hook up for a little while now. So it was a perfect opportunity at AMFAR to meet her.
I went over there. I was like, "Oh, hi, how are you?" I just love Donatella, I love everything she stands for. I think she's kind of the epitome of a fashion icon and she always looks great in her Versace gowns.
Q. Is there someone you would bid $25,000 to learn their craft from?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yes.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I would bid 25 or more for a guitar or anything from Green Day.
Q. What went into your preparations for deciding what you're going to wear here?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, it was a lot. I mean, months before. We were working on different designs. You know, I had a lot of different ideas. I wanted to bring back some different stuff. Without getting too overly saying anything, I wanted to bring back, yeah, some different designs, you know, kind of '80s. I'm really influenced by the '80s. I love the '80s, from the music, to the dances, to the movies. So that's kind of what I wanted to do here. That's what I told Nike.
She came up with some different designs. It was a couple months preparation, and we finally were able to perfect it just before the French Open.
Q. Pam Shriver said recently once a player wins at Wimbledon, they sort of come back here and have a feeling that they own the tournament more than any other event in tennis. What are your comments on that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't feel that way because I feel that I'm just a competitor here and I'm really competing to try to win the title again. I mean, obviously I don't want to give up my title. So I feel that I have to really work even more hard because people are here trying to thieve it from me. So I have to be careful.
Q. Are you staying with Venus here? Can you talk about, are you sharing a practice partner like in Paris? What is the arrangement here?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, no, we're staying together. We usually hit together. But, you know, now that we're playing on separate days, we have our hitting partner as well, just in case I can't practice with her.
And basically, I mean, that's it.
Q. Do you think you're still as serious about tennis as before, when you dominated the sport? Do you think you're as serious about the sport as before?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. I'm actually even more serious now because I think before when I was doing really ‑‑ not that I'm doing bad now really, but before when I was able to play, I think I took it for granted. You know, I was winning, yeah, but it was like, "Oh, whatever." But now it's a totally different attitude. I'm really serious about it and I really want to win. And I really just ‑‑ I just hate to lose.
Q. You had a little problem with your knee I think after the Nasdaq. Has anything reoccurred since then?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I've been doing pretty good. I was really surprised at how well it held up on the French with all the clay I've been playing and practicing on. So I've been, you know, really excited.
I think the grass is one of the best surfaces for it, so I'm really excited about that.
Q. Would you say you're a hundred percent physically?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think I'm physically pretty close to a hundred percent, yeah.
Q. Back to the private lesson. Do you have any idea when that will come off?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. She's ready to design a dress for me, so I'm definitely going to look into that. Maybe while she's designing, I can watch her, and she can work on the lesson, have tea and coffee, whatever she wants to do. I'm really excited about it. She was really excited about designing a dress for me, as well.
Q. Did you once promise Clijsters to design her wedding dress?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Did I?
Q. I heard so.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, I wasn't aware of that. But, I mean, I'm sure she has her things under control. She's looking really good these days.
Q. Seeing as you're influenced by the '80s, do you have a favorite tune from the '80s?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, you know, I just love the '80s. I like the fashion more than anything. I like the whole sleeve off, you know, the golds, just the hairstyle, the big curly. I've been wearing my hair really big and curly lately.
I'm more or less into the fashion. The music had pretty much all the same beat. I like Depeche Mode a lot.
Q. Human League?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Human Lead?
Q. On that decade, do you remember the first Wimbledon final you saw on TV?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No. What was the first Wimbledon final I saw? I can't remember. I know I think Bjorn Borg and McEnroe was '81, right?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I was born in '81. Heck of a memory (laughter). Whew, yeah.
I want to say Boris Becker. I was in love with Boris Becker. I thought he was a great player. When he was 17 and won, that was ‑‑ was that '80?
SERENA WILLIAMS: How could I remember that? I must have been watching films later on. That's impossible to remember it then.
Q. Following the French, did you and Venus sort of talk things through about what happened there and how to prepare for Wimbledon?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No. We both basically tried to commit suicide there, so (laughter).
You know, we were both ‑‑ no, we just were both pretty disappointed in ourselves. But like I said, we had to get over it quickly because there was Wimbledon around the corner, and we don't want to bring the bad karma to Wimbledon. We can just start fresh. That's the good thing about tennis, you have a new week and you can start again.
Q. Do you handle things on your own or do you look to each other for support?
SERENA WILLIAMS: We talk real bad to each other. I'll say mean things like, "I can't believe, I was just so silly." She say, "Yeah, I was even worse." I say, "No, Venus, it's impossible, I was worse." We go back and forth with that and kind of laugh.
We realize we didn't do really bad, our opponents just played really well. We were just joking and get over it. You can't live in the past, you've got to live in the future and in the present because if you live in the past, then ‑‑ you know, I'd still be in the '80s right now.
Q. Who do you think takes losing harder, you or Venus?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It's hard to say. We both take it in a different way, in a different angle. I'm more outwardly with it. She's definitely more inward with it. But at the same time, yeah, I don't know. I know I used to definitely take it worse. But we both really enjoy being champions.
I think being a champion, you have to be able to take a loss, as well, and not only win.
Q. Last year here all your sisters and your parents were both here. Is there any sense of it being a little hard to come back here since that was the last time you were all together?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I mean, I thought about it once. But, you know, we're here and I'm really trying to focus on the tennis aspect of it.
Q. When you thought about it, I mean, is that hard to then put it out of your mind?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I displace a lot of my energy, put it all towards the ball, towards the racquet. I put it all towards my game. Especially now for this fortnight, I want to really, really do well. That's where I put all my energy into, is trying to do well.
Q. Did I read that Venus was suffering from her wrist? Venus, is she suffering from her wrist?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Not that I'm aware of.
SERENA WILLIAMS: No.
Q. When did you start practicing on the grass?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Tuesday.
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