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post #1 of 71 (permalink) Old Mar 17th, 2003, 04:39 PM Thread Starter
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NASDAQ 100 Thread

Charles Bricker
Sun Sentinel Newspaper-Ft. Lauderdale, FL

The thrill is gone
Published March 16, 2003
There are those who probably never will be bored watching a Williams sisters Grand Slam final, even if Serena and Venus stretch their streak of showdowns to five at the French Open, to six at Wimbledon and to seven at the U.S. Open.

Those are fans with the sophistication to bypass the window dressing that goes with every Williams-vs.-Williams final and focus on the nuances in each match.

But there is a larger segment of the tennis-watching public that is going to start tuning out if Venus doesn't win at Paris or if Kim Clijsters or Jennifer Capriati or someone else doesn't step up soon and make this into more than a two-woman tour.

Tennis is a lot like other second-level sports in this country. There is a hard-core fan base that is able to get deep inside the game, and there is a more fluid, fickle constituency that requires personality and other external factors to hold their interest.

The problem for television is that we've now had the Williams sisters in four consecutive Slam finals, and the novelty is wearing thin for the less-than-devout.

What began in 1999, when they played in the Key Biscayne final, as a fascinating and controversial matchup, has lost a lot of luster for casual fans. To those who know the game, there are significant differences in how they play, and the contrast enhances their matches.

To the rest, the Williamses seem to be mirror images -- just a couple of slammers.

The matchup no longer fascinates those who once thought father Richard Williams controlled the outcomes or that the sisters were too reluctant to play their best tennis against each other.

Serena changed all that at Key Biscayne in 2002. Where Venus once professed to hate being on court against her sister, which only fueled the fix theorists, Serena doesn't care who's on the other side of the net. She is relentless in pursuit of victory.

Venus, on the other hand, plays hard in these finals, but you get no passion from her before the match. There is no, "I can't wait to get even with little sister," which would give us the fire every rivalry needs.

Also, Serena vs. Venus would be more captivating to everyone if Venus would win here and there. But she has lost their past five meetings and has taken only one set, at the Australian Open. You can't have a real rivalry when one player wins all the time.

The last time we had this sort of domination by two women was in the 1980s with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. They played 14 Grand Slam finals against each other, including three in a row and five out of six during a stretch in 1984-85.

Navratilova beat Evert three times in a row at the French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open in 1984 before Evert won the 1985 French. Then Navratilova beat her at Wimbledon a few weeks later.

Yet no one was ever bored by Evert vs. Navratilova because their personalities were different, their styles of play were different and because you knew that come the French Open, Evert would get her revenge.

It felt like a real rivalry. It looked like a real rivalry. What you get with Serena vs. Venus in a Grand Slam final now are by far the two best female players in the world. If you can enjoy for the quality of play, fine. But for the casual fans, the novelty has worn off and the thrill is gone.

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post #2 of 71 (permalink) Old Mar 17th, 2003, 04:42 PM Thread Starter
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Serena Williams says left knee is fine

Serena Williams says left knee is fine; plans to play in Toronto

March 14, 2003

TORONTO (AP) -- Serena Williams doesn't need to win a Grand Slam in tennis. She's perfectly pleased with her ``Serena Slam.''

Williams has won the last four Grand Slam titles -- all against older sister, Venus -- though they have not come in the same calendar year.

``I know what Tiger Woods said once, and that was, 'I have all four trophies in my living room so it is a Grand Slam,''' Williams said during a conference call Friday. ``That's exactly how I feel.

``No one else has any of the trophies, I own them so I do own the Grand Slam right now.''

Williams said her injured left knee is fine, and she plans to play in the Rogers AT&T Cup tournament here later this summer.

``Toronto is always on my schedule,'' she said. ``My left knee is doing great. I just got done practicing actually. I enjoyed taking some time off, that was kind of nice. But it is great. No problems whatsoever.''

Knee problems forced the world's top-ranked player to withdraw from last month's State Farm Classic in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Williams returns to action next week at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Miami, a hard-court tournament that she won last year when she beat Jennifer Capriati 7-5, 7-6 (4).

Venus and Serena have become dominant figures on the WTA Tour, becoming the first sisters in tennis history to have each won Grand Slam titles.

``There isn't a day that goes by that I don't run into someone who says, 'I never watched tennis until you guys came, and if you guys aren't playing I don't watch it still,''' Williams said. ``So I think we're definitely bringing a lot of people to the game.''

One opponent Williams likely won't have to worry about facing again is 21-year-old Martina Hingis. Hingis' career appears over because of recurring problems with her ankles.

``It definitely is a pity because Martina Hingis did so much at such a young age,'' Williams said. ``She did a lot for the game and it was fun to see her around.''

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Serena Rules, and the Rest Have a Crisis of Confidence

March 16, 2003
Serena Rules, and the Rest Have a Crisis of Confidence
By SELENA ROBERTS


ERENA WILLIAMS doesn't live in a split-level house with an AstroTurf yard and a housekeeper named Alice, but she is the icon who wins every contest she enters, who is groovier than a record album and makes all the fashion statements for her peer group.

Serena Williams doesn't share a shag-carpet bedroom with her sisters or a joint bathroom with three brothers, but she is the famous sibling who has the most trophies, who leaves all the football players smitten and is universally adored by the camera.


The dominance of Serena Williams, left, who has won four major titles in a row, seems to have dispirited everyone, even her sister Venus



She is not Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, but simply Serena, the No. 1 player on a women's tour filled with too many Jan Bradys. Admiring and envious all at once, there is a sense of hopelessness in their ability to compete with Serena and an inferiority complex that has defeated their ambitions.

We'll never be good enough. That's the message slipping from the lips of everyone from Jennifer Capriati to Lindsay Davenport, from Kim Clijsters to even Venus Williams when they assess the domination of Serena during her run of four major titles in a row.

Instead of boldly aiming at Serena's top perch, they've become the court queens of conciliation. Gathered last week at Indian Wells, Calif., — where no Williams may ever roam again after being mercilessly jeered when Venus forfeited a semifinal with her little sister three years ago — Serena's opponents sounded content with life as a bridesmaid.

"You know, I'd like to say if I'm playing my best that I'll be winning everything," Capriati said. "But, you know, I can't say that nowadays."

Why not? Over the past year, Serena has routinely disassembled Capriati's confidence in one big match after another. At times last season, the frustration sent Capriati plunging into the joyless dark **** of her teen years. But even the perkiest players on tour — take the carbonated Clijsters, for one — fall flat when it comes to dreaming of No. 1.

"I think for the players, especially for the top players, it doesn't really matter if they're No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 — except for Serena," Clijsters said. "I think she loves to be No. 1. For the other players, I don't think they really worry about whether they're No. 5, 6, 7 or 8."

The art of lowering expectations. Few are better at it than Davenport, the tour's lovable lug. "The challenge of getting back to the top is going to be made very difficult because there's not only Serena, there's Venus, as well," Davenport said. "You know, there's not much you can do."

Such resignation. Even Venus exudes a level of concession when it comes to Serena's ownership of the tour. In each of the last four major finals, Venus has been as helpless as anyone against Serena.

The results have left Venus withdrawn, looking on the verge of a career change. If Serena's attention span for tennis doesn't snap soon, Venus could happily vanish into her interior design business in a couple of seasons.

This is the Mope Tour, and it's devastating for tennis. While Serena is an ideal No. 1 — a sexy swimsuit success for Sports Illustrated with talent in every curve (Note to Anna Kournikova: You've been replaced in magazine covers per minute) — there has to be someone out there brave enough to at least voice a plan to topple her.

Where is the feistiness, the riveting rancor? Well, Martina Hingis is brushing horse manes in Switzerland. Not long ago, she was the unabashed foil of the Williams sisters, even as she started to become another dunk-tank target against their power. Now, she is gone.

There is no doubting the seriousness of her ankle injuries — Hingis didn't let surgeons wield their scalpels for show — but there is a feeling that she would be discussing a comeback if she thought she had a chance. Hingis was an expert at playing the arrogant No. 1, but lost at how to handle the humbling onset of also-ran status.

If the tour hangdogs would just look up, they would see how Serena is offering them a primer on self-affirmation, helpful hints on how to beat her. On even her worst days, down a set or just a service break, she still believes in herself. It's not the serve or foot speed that separates Serena, it's an attitude.

Will Serena win every match this year? Probably not, but as Serena said on Friday, she always sets her goals "ridiculously high" to see how close she comes to achieving them.


• It's the right philosophy. If only someone else would adopt it. Similar to Tiger Woods, Serena needs an opponent confident enough to challenge her greatness, to be more like Serena than Serena herself.

If there is to be a Serena interruptus, it will take a player ready to make the leap in self-esteem. Just as Serena did one year ago. This week, the top women will descend on Key Biscayne, Fla., where Serena separated herself from Venus with a victory over awkwardness.

"It's O.K. to do well against your sister," Serena said. "That was a big point I was able to accept. Finally, I was able to do what I knew I could."

Unabashed ambition, that's why Serena has it all right now. That's why she is the Marcia on a tour of Jan Bradys.




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post #4 of 71 (permalink) Old Mar 17th, 2003, 04:57 PM Thread Starter
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Serena cashes in

Serena cashes in

By Charles Elmore, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 16, 2003

In her teenage years, Serena Williams cheerfully played a costarring role in the family talent show that changed tennis. After four straight Grand Slam wins, 21-year-old Serena is enjoying some time on center stage, talking deals that could make her the highest-paid endorser in the history of women's sports.

She is already No. 1 in the world and the reigning Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year. Now it's time to conduct a little business.

Time to sell Close-Up toothpaste, not just package deals with her sister Venus for Avon cosmetics or McDonald's Dollar Menu. Time to take a $1.4 million place in Los Angeles, a part-time retreat from the family home in Palm Beach Gardens, and take a turn at acting on TV (cameo on ABC's My Wife and Kids). Time to receive a delivery of 20 roses from football star Keyshawn Johnson -- just give him the darn divorce decree. (Just friends, Keyshawn says). And as her Puma deal winds down, maybe time to negotiate the largest single endorsement contract ever for a female athlete, perhaps $50 million with Nike.

That would eclipse a record $40 million deal with Reebok by Venus.

What with all the business meetings, there was barely time to talk about tennis on a conference call Friday, including the Nasdaq-100 tournament this week in Key Biscayne.

"I've just done three photo shoots in three days," Serena said. "Whenever I have time, I'm doing photo shoots, or I'm doing commercials."

Look for her on the cover of a Parade magazine near you.

"I forgot I did that," Serena said. "I've done so many."

For its part, footwear- and apparel-maker Nike is playing down reports of a five-year, $10 million-per contract in the works.

"There's no contract or negotiations I'm aware of," a Nike spokesman said. He added, "If we were, we wouldn't comment on it."

Historically, there has been tension between father Richard Williams and Nike for what he felt was a failure to take a keen interest in the girls sooner. And there is this little thought in the minds of sponsors seeking to hitch their wagon to a clear No. 1: There is always the possibility that Venus, not retired or on leave but ranked No. 2 in the world, thank you, just might decide to turn the tables on little sister again. Venus won four straight and five of their first six meetings before Serena took five in a row herself.

On the other hand, can Nike afford to let Serena walk off with Puma or somebody else if she continues to dominate the game like this? No one has won four Grand Slams in 12 months since Steffi Graf in 1994. It has been done just six times in history. If not for an ankle injury at the 2002 Australian Open, Serena might well have won only the fourth calendar-year Slam in the record books.

Few athletes climb this high. She has arrived at the base camp of a big summit, looking up into the mists of Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan territory. Woods, the world's best golfer, stands by himself in endorsement deals that garner more than $60 million annually, including a multi-year, $100 million contract with Nike.

"I think she's very highly marketable," said Maidie Oliveau, a Los Angeles sports attorney who was the first managing director of what became the WTA Tour. "Whether she's worth $10 million a year is up to Nike to decide. They're not doing it for charity. Right now it looks like Serena is about to overtake her sister permanently, but that could change if Venus starts winning some of their matches again."

In recognizability and marketing dollars, Venus still holds a slight edge. Her name-recognition number was 73 percent vs. Serena's 72 percent in a 2002 survey by Marketing Evaluations Inc. of Manhasset, N.Y., and Venus will rank No. 4 among female athletes to Serena's No. 5 in a report to come out in a few weeks, company officials said. Skaters such as Kristi Yamaguchi still rank slightly higher in recognizability in the company's surveys.

If the people who track such things are correct, Venus earns $12.9 million a year from endorsements, compared to Serena's present $7.8 million. Serena may be poised to sign the single largest marketing contract, but in overall endorsement money, both sisters still trail a tennis player who is no threat to them on the court -- Anna Kournikova. She rakes in a reported $12 million to $14 million despite never having won a major event.

It's worthwhile to keep in mind that the reported numbers for contracts often include what the athletes would receive with maximum performance incentives, not necessarily a guaranteed amount.

"When they say it's a $10 million contract, what they mean is, it's $10 million if they're winning and on TV," Oliveau said.

Serena said her success does not mean the sisters are drifting apart, just that she is exploring her own way.

"I think I've made a few different big steps," Serena said. "People can realize that and see us in different lights."

Venus has reacted gracefully in public to her losing streak against her sister, sometimes applauding her.

After the Australian Open in January, Venus said, "I wish I could have been the winner, but of course you have a great champion in Serena and she has won all four Grand Slams, which is something I'd love to do one day. So yeah, I'd kind of like to be just like her."

Playing in Key Biscayne means a chance to spend some time together in Palm Beach Gardens, Serena said.

"This time of year we're always together at the same time," Serena said. "We watch TV. She'll cook for me usually."

It may be deal-making time for Serena now, but she's not counting on a permanent edge over her sister.

"I can't say I'm better than Venus," she said. "I'm winning right now. We're both doing pretty well."

Copyright © 2003, The Palm Beach Post. All rights reserved.

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post #5 of 71 (permalink) Old Mar 19th, 2003, 11:47 AM Thread Starter
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Winning smile
Serena Williams has emerged from her sister's shadow to capture the past four Grand Slams and become a coveted endorser

BY LINDA ROBERTSON
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Her 120-watt smile is as powerful and unavoidable as one of her 120-mph serves. It comes at us from magazine covers. From toothpaste boxes. From Wrigley's chewing gum and McDonald's commercials. From the set of a sitcom.

Whether she's wearing a white bikini, black cat suit or silver tiara, Serena Williams is smiling, and she doesn't figure to stop smiling anytime soon.

Williams has become the most recognizable, sought-after and adored female athlete in the world.

She's rich, winning a record $3.9 million on the Women's Tennis Association Tour last year and now negotiating for a shoe contract that will pay her at least 10 times that, but the money hasn't corrupted her smile. She's famous, shuttling to photo shoots as swiftly as she chases down drop shots, but the fame hasn't turned her smile haughty.

Williams and her sister, Venus, are living the ''Cinderella from the ghetto'' fairy tale their father, Richard, foretold, in which they go from the gang-hangout courts of inner-city Los Angeles to No. 1 and No. 2 in a country club sport. She's also fulfilling another of his predictions -- that his youngest daughter, the ''little sister,'' the one who was always ''meaner'' than Venus, would one day be the best.

Williams' emergence from the shadows of her statuesque sister and eccentric father can be traced directly to Key Biscayne, one year ago, during the semifinals of the NASDAQ-100 Open, when she defeated Venus 6-2, 6-2, and went on to win the tournament. The semifinal marked the first time Williams beat Venus in a complete WTA match (Venus also lost to her sister when she withdrew at Indian Wells because of injury).

A role reversal ensued. From the Tennis Center at Crandon Park, Serena went to Paris, London, New York and Melbourne and won four straight Grand Slam titles, all over Venus, all in straight sets.

''It has never been easy for me to play Venus,'' she said. ``She's difficult to beat, and also it was a little bit of a mental block for me. To finally win a match against Venus in a big tournament was a confidence booster, like, it's OK to do well against your sister. That was a big turning point where I was able to do what I knew I could.''

When she opens her defense of the NASDAQ title on Friday less than 90 miles from her home in Palm Beach Gardens, Williams, 21, will be looking to extend her dominance of the game. She is 11-0 this year, and her goal is to finish 2003 undefeated, which would be unprecedented in the 35-year-old history of open tennis. The record is Martina Navratilova's 86-1 mark in 1983. Steffi Graf went 86-2 in 1989. Williams was 56-5 last year.

''Everyone thinks that goal is absurd and ridiculous, and you have to understand, I don't expect to reach it, and if I do, then it would be unbelievable because I don't think anyone can win everything -- even Edwin Moses had to lose eventually,'' she said. ``But I set my goal last year just as ridiculously high after I didn't play the Australian Open. I said, `Well, I'm going to win the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and that's that. I didn't think I'd actually reach that goal, but I wanted to see how close I could get.''

Rick Macci, a former coach of the Williams sisters, said Serena is no longer suppressing her natural confidence.

''Venus was always in the limelight and Serena was always the little sister,'' said Macci, who runs an academy at Pompano Beach. ``Athletically, Serena was bringing more to the table, but Venus was more together mentally. The girls are so close, like peas in a pod. But in the last 18 months Serena has taken off because she's competing for herself. She's grown up.''

Williams calls her feat of becoming just the fifth woman to hold all four major titles simultaneously the ''Serena Slam.'' After her victory in January's Australian Open, she is in position to win a calendar Grand Slam as well.

'I know what Tiger Woods said once: `I have all four trophies in my living room, so it is a Grand Slam,' and that's exactly how I feel,'' she said. ``I do own the Grand Slam right now, until the French Open comes around, so I'm trying to savor it as long as I can.''

SLAM APPEAL

In terms of her appeal as a sports celebrity, Williams has already won the ''Glam Slam.'' She's a ubiquitous newsstand presence, whether it's Vogue or ESPN The Magazine or commanding her own spread in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue.

She has entered the realm of Tiger, Shaq and Ronaldo, where the world is on a first-name basis with her.

''Serena has everything it takes to transcend traditional cultural and age demographics and sports star limitations,'' said Stephanie Tolleson, senior corporate vice president at IMG, one of the agencies that represents Williams. ``Her tennis accomplishments are matched by her great sense of humor and quick mind, making her appealing on and off the court.''

Williams has endorsement deals with Close-Up, Wilson, McDonald's and Wrigley, and is in the midst of negotiating with Puma and other shoe companies on a deal that should surpass Venus' five-year, $40 million Reebok contract.

While Venus, 22, runs her own interior design company, Serena has pursued an acting career. She played a kindergarten teacher in an episode of My Wife and Kids.

She says she's a football fan, and has her own fans in the NFL as well. She used to date Washington Redskin LaVar Arrington, and SI reported that Tampa Bay Buccaneer Keyshawn Johnson sent her 20 dozen roses before a match. She and Johnson were seen together at post-Super Bowl parties, and she was wearing his jersey at the Scottsdale, Ariz., tournament three weeks ago.

Williams and Venus were honored with the NAACP's President's Award at the same ceremony where Spike Lee and Danny Glover also won awards.

As for the whiners who say the Williams' dominance is dull, Williams counters that they have attracted a whole new set of fans to tennis.

'There's not a day that goes by that I don't run into someone who says, `I never watched tennis until you guys came, and if you guys aren't playing, I still don't watch.' It doesn't necessarily have to be African-American. I get that from everyone.''

Serena has always been more outspoken and witty than Venus.

PERSONALITY PLUS

''When you win and you're an interesting person, too, it adds up to a charisma that's infectious,'' said Keven Davis, the family's attorney who has known the sisters since they were 7 years old.

``One of the best things about all that's happened to Serena is that it hasn't changed her personality.

The only thing that changed was that she decided to really put her mind to tennis.''

Williams said the transformation in her dedication to the game occurred after an ankle injury forced her to pull out of the 2002 Australian Open and her frustration with injuries and inconsistency reached a peak.

Although she turned the tide against Venus in 2002, going from 1-5 vs. her sister to 5-6, she said their relationship hasn't changed.

''If anything, we're closer now,'' Williams said. ``To us, tennis isn't No. 1 in our lives. We always try to realize that family is first. We still do everything together. We just hang out and we watch tons and tons of TV. She'll cook for me.

``I can't say I'm better than Venus. I've just been winning. I think we're both doing really well and anyone would love to be in our shoes right now.''

Williams told Oprah Winfrey there used to be ''two Venus Williams in the Williams family'' until about two years ago, when she stopped trying to emulate her older sister.

''I think I established my identity a little bit ago, and it was hard because I'm so close to Venus and I always wanted to be like her,'' she said.

Davis said the sisters love each other more than they love to win.

''When tennis is all said and done, they'll still have each other,'' he said. ``You don't see rivalry or jealousy between them. They're both so well-rounded, smart, nice. They never forget where they came from.''

Macci said the sisters lose their killer instinct when they play each other, resulting in error-filled, ''crummy'' matches instead of what could be ``the greatest show on earth.''

But he also sees them dominating for as long as they want because no one else has their combination of speed, strength and size.

''Serena has taken it to another level because she has that Muhammad Ali attitude and she's the best competitor out there,'' Macci said. ``She has the best serve in women's tennis; she hits the corners and you can't jump on her second serve anymore.

``She can improvise shots from difficult positions. And even though her forehand can be a little dodgy, her running forehand is a unique shot. She takes it so early and is able to flow through the ball.''

Mary Joe Fernández said those who see Williams as merely a slugger are missing the way she's able to control points.

''Jennifer [Capriati] and Lindsay [Davenport] might even hit the ball just as hard, but Serena is hitting more winners even though in her high-risk game she's going to have a certain number of errors,'' Fernández said.

``She and Venus keep improving. That's the scary thing. I see in Serena's eyes a different look. She wants it more than anybody else.''

Macci credits the sisters for handling the pressure of being black stars in a predominantly white sport, of sharing the top ranking with a sibling and of living up to their father's prediction of greatness.

''Some people just see the muscles, but what's inside these kids is what has enabled them to answer every single challenge,'' he said.

``I don't see them having Steffi-type careers in terms of longevity -- they have too many interests -- so we better enjoy it while we can.''

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Women's Look Forward: Miami


They don't call it "the fifth Slam" for nothing. This year, Miami is actually stronger than the Australian Open. And it isn't the first time.

How strong? Well, every Top Ten player is here. The highest-ranked player absent is #13 Patty Schnyder. Indeed, of the players ranked high enough to be seeded based on last week's rankings, only four -- Schnyder, Conchita Martinez, the injured Anne Kremer, and the retired Martina Hingis -- aren't here. And even several long-injured players are back: Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian, the #32 seed, is playing her first event since the Australian Open, as are Anna Kournikova and Alicia Molik.

Which is not exactly good news for Serena Williams. The #1 seed and defending champion has a very tough row to hoe. She starts with a first round bye, of course (since all 32 seeds get one), but then she faces either Francesca Schiavone (who is currently ranked above #32 seed Mikaelian; she would have been seeded if they had used this week's rankings) or upset artist Barbara Rittner, who last week beat Jelena Dokic. After that, it's probably Tatiana Panova, who has no offensive weapons but who can scramble enough that she just might draw some Serena errors. She hasn't any real chance to win, but she could tire Serena out. Then in the round of sixteen, Serena would face Elena Bovina, who is one of the few players really able to hit with Serena. Then either Lindsay Davenport or Monica Seles, and then Kim Clijsters, who is here with a shot at the #2 ranking.

Sister Venus may also open against an upset artist, since she'll face either the Upset Artist herself, Magui Serna, or Shinobu Asagoe. Things won't be too bad in the rounds after that: The rusty Mikaelian, then either Meghann Shaughnessy or Magdalena Maleeva (Maleeva is seeded higher, but Shaughnessy likes the surface better. Both have beaten Venus in the past two years -- but Shaughnessy did it on hardcourts at an event Venus wanted; Maleeva did it indoors at an event where Venus perhaps wasn't quite as interested in).

Of the other major contenders, #3 seed Clijsters has it perhaps the easiest; although second round opponent Yoon Jeong Cho is tough, she isn't in the Clijsters league. Third round opponent Paola Suarez is a clay player. Her theoretical fourth round opponent Anna Pistolesi is in a slump, and doesn't like hardcourts anyway; we might see Lisa Raymond come through -- but she prefers faster surfaces. And in the quarterfinal, Clijsters would face either #5 seed Daniela Hantuchova, whose game and ranking are both slumping, or #9 Jelena Dokic, who is in terrible form this year; we're almost tempted to predict that Svetlana Kuznetsova will be Clijsters's opponent. In any case, Serena should be her first major problem.

#4 Justine Henin-Hardenne also faces a fairly opener. Her third round is more interesting, as she might face either Tamarine Tanasugarn or Vera Zvonareva, and Zvonareva is looking quite solid at present. Then comes probably Amanda Coetzer, then Amelie Mauresmo. But hardcourt really isn't Henin-Hardenne's surface.

Not all the other contenders to do well here are seeded high. Monica Seles is never to be discounted, and her draw is quite easy until she faces Lindsay Davenport. But they will face off in the Round of Sixteen! And Davenport too will have had an easy draw to that point.

Jennifer Capriati's draw is full of players better than their rankings (Daja Bedanova, Laura Granville, Iveta Benesova), but it's hard to see them threatening her. Ai Sugiyama or Anastasia Myskina, though, her potential round of sixteen opponents, are tougher. And then comes Venus.

Given her recent form, it's hard to imagine Daniela Hantuchova doing well here, but Amelie Mauresmo is perhaps more of a threat. Her big problem is that she'll face Chanda Rubin in the fourth round. And on a hardcourt. Can Mauresmo stay healthy and in form?

With 32 seeds, we really can't look at all of the possible outcomes of this event. In any case, even if you think both Williams Sisters can be beaten, it's hard to imagine anyone but Clijsters or Davenport or Seles or maybe Capriati winning here. But there are some quite interesting early-round matches.

First Round

Schiavone vs. Rittner. Winner takes on Serena. Both are very good players on their good days. Both have a lot of not-so-good days.

Matevzic vs. Black. Two players with no big weapons but a lot of interesting shots. It should be fun to watch, even though the winner is in the same sixteenth as Clijsters and won't be going very far.

Ruano Pascual vs. Kuznetsova. Two of the higher-ranked unseeded players. Ruano Pascual is a veteran with a lot of touch though not much power; Kuznetsova is a fast-rising prospect. This could be very interesting indeed.

Schett vs. Molik. Two players with big power and not much speed. Molik has been away for a while, but she was in fine form before hurting herself, and Schett has been in terrible shape. The winner takes on Hantuchova, and has at least a shot there.

Kruger vs. Gullickson. A veteran who has seen her career ruined by injury versus a player who is a solid prospect but who just isn't ready. (We've seen her live; she really isn't.) It's likely to be ugly, but we'd like a gauge of both players' forms.

Chladkova vs. Zvonareva. Another match of players who just missed seeding. Zvonareva is probably the better player, but she tends to prefer slow courts.

Safina vs. Kournikova. Call it "The Case of the Russian Head Case." And Kournikova, of course, has been absent for a long time. Against any opponent other than Safina, we'd give Kournikova relatively little chance. But Safina is as screwy as her brother. Whoever wins, she'll be in trouble against steady Ai Sugiyama in the second round.

Asagoe vs. Serna. A steady player against a talented but inconsistent opponent. The winner has the bad luck to face Venus Williams.

Second Round

Tulyaganova vs. (16) Bovina. A once-top-player versus a rising star. And Tulyaganova is finally showing signs of life.

(9) Dokic vs. Ruano Pascual or Kuznetsova. Given Dokic's recent form, and the skills of both her potential opponents, this has real upset potential.

Tanasugarn (30) vs. Chladkova or Zvonareva. Zvonareva is now ranked almost as high as Tanasugarn, and Tanasugarn likes faster courts anyway.

Bedanova vs. (31) Granville. Granville has had good hardcourt results lately, but has shown signs of nerves. Bedanova is in a truly dreadful slump, but showed some improvement at Indian Wells. And she's a solid player when she's on.

Third Round

(19) Dementieva vs. (16) Bovina. Two young Russians. Dementieva has more experience; Bovina a better head and more game overall.

(22) Raymond vs. (15) Pistolesi. Given Pistolesi's current form and the surface, this may not come off -- but if it does, it's a scrambler versus a fairly aggressive player, neither of whom has a big weapon, on a fairly neutral surface.

(17) Sugiyama vs. (11) Myskina. Myskina has a fairly simple game. She has more power than Sugiyama, but Sugiyama is good at sniffing out and exploiting weakness....

(13) Maleeva vs. (23) Shaughnessy. A good indoor player against a lower-ranked player who is stronger on hardcourts. And Shaughnessy has looked good this year.

The Rankings. You know the drill: "Serena Williams is safe at #1." Even if she loses first round and Venus wins Miami, Serena's lead should be on the order of 1000 points.

The race for #2 is getting just a little interesting, though. If Kim Clijsters can win the thing, and Venus loses early, we might just see a new world #2.

Clijsters certainly won't be falling; her lead over Justine Henin-Hardenne is just too big. But Henin-Hardenne won't be threatened, either -- not yet, at least; she's too far ahead of Lindsay Davenport. And it's likely that Davenport will be #5 when this is over. She was only a few dozen points behind Jennifer Capriati when the tournament started, and Capriati had finalist points to defend and Davenport none. Indeed, it remains to be seen if Capriati can stay ahead of Amelie Mauresmo; Mauresmo has more safe points than Capriati, since she has nothing to defend. Even Daniela Hantuchova, who also went out early last year, has a shot at passing last year's finalist.

#9 Jelena Dokic also needs to watch out; both Chanda Rubin (who has nothing to defend) and Anastasia Myskina are in striking distance of her. Two of those three will round out the Top Ten. We really don't know which two.

Monica Seles had better come back strong; she has a lot to defend and might end up falling even below her current #12. Several Russians are also in trouble: An early loss might cost Elena Dementieva her spot in the Top 20, and Tatiana Panova appears bound out of the Top 25 unless she can beat Serena. Even further down the list, Martina Hingis is bound out of the Top 60 -- but the fact that she isn't back yet means that she would come back with an injury ranking if she came back at all, so that hardly matters.

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post #7 of 71 (permalink) Old Mar 19th, 2003, 03:43 PM Thread Starter
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Serena seeking whitewash

World number one Serena Williams returns to the circuit in Miami this week after recovering from tendonitis in her left knee. The tournament's defending champion, who holds all four majors, continues with the stated aim of finishing the year unbeaten.




Miami proved a key moment in Serena's career last year: she beat Jennifer Capriati in the final just days after dethroning her sister Venus from the top spot in women's tennis.

Williams, who hasn't lost since a final in a mjor, wants to become the first player to win every single match played in a calendar year.

"Everyone thinks that the goal is absurd and ridiculous [but] it will be unbelievable to reach that goal" she told the Independent.

Once again, her biggest threat on paper will be sister Venus and third-seed Kim Clijsters who comes off her win in Indian Wells

Venus was last seen in action in Antwerp where she faced Clijsters in the final romping to the title. After a month off the courts, she'll have until the quarter-finals and a potential match against Capriati to shake any residual cobwebs from the layoff.

On the other hand , Clijsters is fresh from her stunning victory at Indian Wells and she will definitely pose a problem to Serena's charge.

Among the other contenders who would like to snap Serena's 11-match unbeaten run, there's fourth - seed Justine Henin-Hardenne who has already won one title this year in Dubai.

Fifth seed Lindsay Devenport had a great fortnight in Indian Wells reaching the final and confirming her return to form after a year of injuries .

2001 champion Jennifer Capritai is the sixth seed and after recovering from eye surgery, she also had two great weeks in California where she reached the semi-finals. The former teen prodigy appears to have put behind her first-round Australian Open exit.

The top seeds received a first round bye and Serena will be waiting for either Francesca Schiavone or Barbara Rittner to begin her title defence.

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Challenging the Williamses: Anyone?

March 19 2003
By Charles Bricker
THE SUN-SENTINIEL

KEY BISCAYNE - Daniela Hantuchova, a stick figure with a baseball cap and a racket, settled in behind the north baseline on the stadium court at the Nasdaq-100 and began serving while Nigel Sears, her estimable British coach, fed her ball after ball.

Sears continued until you had the sense that Hantuchova's long, slender right arm was going to collapse from fatigue.

"If you want to beat the Williams sisters, you have to serve accurately and you have to have a second serve that doesn't get annihilated. That's a huge key to beating them. We spend an enormous time working on Daniela's serve," Sears said.

"It's not bad now," he added, "but it needs to get a whole lot better."

That's what it has come to now on the women's tour -- not just training to improve your overall game but placing high emphasis on the specific skills it will take to beat Serena and Venus, who have become almost unbeatable in the big events.

On the first day of the Nasdaq, run down the list of suspects in the top 10 and eyeball a few young prospects, primarily Russian, who are rolling up quickly from the top 50. Is there anyone out there capable of knocking Serena and Venus off their perch in the next five years?

Jennifer Capriati? She's 0 for 4 against Venus and has lost her last seven to the sisters. Plus, she has a terrible serve when the money is on the table.

Lindsay Davenport? She has one win in her past nine meetings with Venus, at Linz, Austria, in 2000, and four straight losses to Serena, whom she last beat in 2000, long before Serena swapped her nerves for four straight Grand Slam titles.

Justine Henin-Hardenne? Nice game, great backhand, lots of grit and a small-time serve. Doesn't fit the how-to-beat-Serena-and-Venus mold.

Amelie Mauresmo? She's hurt all the time.

Monica Seles? She's 29, frequently injured and hasn't been in a Grand Slam final in five years.

If there are two young players on the WTA Tour that can challenge the Williamses in the next couple of years it's Kim Clijsters and Hantuchova, and nothing is certain about either.

Clijsters is big enough, quick enough, strong enough and has enough serve to compete with the sisters, though the results aren't there. She had Serena down 5-1 in the third set of their Australian Open semifinal this year but lost her nerve and the last six games.

She's 1-6 against Serena and has lost three of her past four to Venus, with the only win coming when Venus strained her leg at the tour championships last November.

At No. 3 in the rankings behind the Williams sisters, Clijsters has beaten back the rest of the tour. But there's a wide chasm between her and the sisters. Who can say when she'll play her best tennis? Maybe in the next 12 days. Maybe next year. Maybe when the Williams sisters retire from tennis, bored and ready for a new world to conquer.

At 19, Hantuchova is in only her third full year on tour and, though she has risen quickly to the top 10, Sears readily acknowledges that "she's still an evolving player, and a lot of the work she has to do is mental. Daniela is young, and that maturing will only come through playing in tight situations."

It's not just a bigger serve and mental stability she needs, but the ability to abandon her strong baseline game and come forward. "To beat the Williamses is not just a matter of outslugging them," Sears said. "It's outthinking them as well."

When Hantuchova finished her serving, she moved to the service line, where Sears gave her a hundred short balls -- a drill designed to raise her confidence in finishing points halfway to the net.

"When you get those half-chances against them, you have to take it, have to be able to come forward," he said.

It's not easy to bend for short balls when you're 6 feet tall and used to winning points from the baseline, but Sears urges Hantuchova on, telling her not to worry about making errors.

"Sometimes, you have to make a hash of a few things early on to get it right in the end," he said. "I want Daniela to come forward with an eye to the future rather than the immediate."

The future for her, and for Clijsters, is perhaps a year away ... maybe two. Will the Williams sisters still be playing tennis? If they are, they'll be on twin thrones, waiting for the next pretender.


Charles Bricker can be reached at [email protected].

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Serena is tennis' Tiger
By Karen Crouse, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 19, 2003



KEY BISCAYNE -- The people who keep comparing Serena Williams to her older sister, Venus, are like the rest of the players on the WTA Tour.

They have some catching up to do.

Since the men's and women's tennis tours stopped here last year for the Nasdaq-100 Open, Serena has taken her game to such an ethereal place that the only valid comparison anymore is with golfer Tiger Woods.

The world's best women's tennis player has met the world's best golfer. Williams said Woods had an aura about him, "kind of like Sean Connery." Serena is the same way. Her magnetism is as strong as Queen Latifah's.

The younger Williams has in her possession all four Grand Slam titles, as Woods did in 2001. She is undefeated this year and has a 50-2 record in singles in her past 11 tournaments.

Like Woods, she is virtually unbeatable when she has her "A" game -- and tough as Teflon even when she doesn't. Against Kim Clijsters in the semifinals of the Australian Open, Serena staved off two match points on her way to overcoming a 1-5 deficit in the final set.

Serena defeated Venus in the final in Melbourne in three sets. Serena, 21, is playing at such a high level, she is making some resplendent players feel vastly inferior.

After losing her fourth consecutive Grand Slam final to Serena, in Melbourne, Venus said she wants to be just like her sister. It was a stunning role reversal. As recently as two years ago, Serena was her sister's Mini-me, mimicking everything Venus did to such a degree that she has said it was like having two Venuses around.

This week, Serena returns to the place where she declared her autonomy. Crandon Park is Serena's Independence Hall. The 2002 winner's check, cut by tournament organizers after her defeat of Jennifer Capriati in the final, is her personal bill of rights.

When Serena defeated Venus 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals last year, a seismic shift occurred in the family dynamics. It was only the second time in seven tries that Serena had defeated Venus in a WTA match. She hasn't lost to her since.

"It has never been easy for me to play Venus," Serena said, and not just because of their blood ties. "She's a great player. She's difficult to play and very difficult to beat. It was a little bit of a mental block for me. To finally win a big match against Venus in a big tournament was a pretty big confidence booster for me."

Serena, who had lost to Venus in straight sets in the U.S. Open final six months earlier, said the victory came wrapped in an epiphany. She realized, "It's OK to do well against your sister. I think that was a big point that I was able to assess and... finally, I was able to do what I knew I could."

She parlayed that hard-won knowledge into a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Venus in the French Open final. With the victory came the No. 1 world ranking. Serena hasn't budged from the top spot, despite spreading her wings last fall to give acting and modeling a try.

Serena played a teacher on the sitcom My Wife and Kids and did her best Tyra Banks imitation for every magazine from Sports Illustrated to Vogue. When the new season began, she seamlessly jumped back into her role as the WTA Tour's leading lady.

If her rivals were banking on Serena resting on her laurels, they were in for a rude awakening to 2003. Jennifer Capriati, the last woman other than a Williams to be ranked No. 1, admitted this month, "I'd like to say if I'm playing my best that I'll be winning everything. But I can't say that nowadays."

Good for Capriati for giving credit where credit is due. She was slow to do so last year, and her public image suffered for it.

Capriati does not have a defeatist attitude. She's not giving up: She's trying to be gracious. That wasn't a surrender she issued. It was a concession that right now, Serena is that much better than everybody else.

We've heard Woods' rivals say similar things. Ernie Els, after finishing second to Woods at the U.S. and British Opens in 2000, conceded then that when Woods was on his game, everybody else was playing for second.

He wasn't being spineless, just straightforward. That same year, Els started working with a sports psychologist. Perhaps not coincidentally, this year Els has emerged as a most worthy challenger of Woods. Indeed, the golf world is waiting with bated breath for Woods and Els to tee off this week at the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando.

There's nothing wrong with Clijsters' game, or Amelie Mauresmo's, that a sports psychologist couldn't cure. Clijsters and Mauresmo are one frame of mind short of their Grand Slam close-up.

Serena keeps winning because she has turned her mind into her best weapon. A fantastic journey fueled by desire is soaring on the wings of intrepidity.

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post #10 of 71 (permalink) Old Mar 19th, 2003, 05:57 PM
 
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Nasdaq-100 Open: Serena's World

Harvey Fialkov
Staff writer
Posted March 19 2003

Serena Williams opened up to talk show host Oprah Winfrey in November, telling her that for years she has lacked an identity because "there were two Venus Williams in the Williams family."

Not only has Serena emerged from her big sister's shadow, she has eclipsed Venus both on and off the court in terms of ranking, Grand Slam titles and marketability.











Serena enters this week's Nasdaq-100 Open as the top seed and No. 1 player in the world after a dominant run of four consecutive Grand Slam championships, all accomplished by beating No. 2-ranked Venus in the finals.

In turn, advertisers who once clamored for Venus or the sister package are now knocking on Serena's door. The aspiring actress has flashed her pearly-white winning smile so often in the past year while winning eight titles that Close-Up toothpaste made her its spokeswoman for $500,000.

With her $13 million Puma shoe and clothing deal nearing expiration, Serena's IMG agents are negotiating a shoe contract that may rival Venus' $40 million Reebok deal signed in 2000.

While Venus is covering condo walls with Russian oil paintings in her new V-Starr interior design business, Serena graced the cover of nationally syndicated Parade magazine on Sunday, displaying her sculpted physique in burnt-orange hot pants.

Serena, not Venus, made the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Madison Avenue is threatening to break up the doubles team by singling out Serena in Tiger-like fashion.

"As Serena has matured on the court and become more successful, her personality has emerged," said IMG business manager Stephanie Tolleson, who represents both sisters. "It changed her marketability because companies got a better understanding of Serena as a person."

If the long-legged, 6-foot-1, stoic Venus is Vogue, then the extroverted, 5-10, muscular Serena, who made a splash in a skin-tight black cat suit at last year's U.S. Open, is MTV.

"Print ads purposely want to form their own identity. Everybody lumps the two sisters together, but they are two distinct people and personalities with two different looks and likes," said Ryan Schinman, president of Platinum Rye Entertainment, which hires celebrities for ads.

According to Marketing Evaluations, which measures popularity of celebrities for advertisers, awareness of the two sisters is at an all-time high. Serena is recognized by 72 percent of the general population, compared to Venus' 73. Internet queen Anna Kournikova is at 58 percent.

While Serena claims that the sisters are closer than ever, she recently bought a $1.4 million condo in Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, often leaving Venus alone in their sprawling Palm Beach Gardens home, dubbed La Maison des Soeurs (House of the Sisters).

"To us, tennis isn't No. 1 in our lives," Serena said. "We always just try to realize that family is first, and I think, if anything, we're closer now. ... We realize that not many people share this uniqueness."

Robert Lister, a sports psychologist, said, "It's very healthy. I'm sure Venus wishes Serena success in [avenues] other than tennis, and a little separation won't pull them apart."

The family closeness could have been shattered last year when their parents' divorce was finalized. But Richard and Oracene's split may have strengthened the sisters' bond and accelerated their independence.

"When we're in town together we just hang out," Serena said. "She's my family. We watch tons of TV, and she'll cook for me, and we like doing a lot of activities together."

The dramatic role reversal seemed to coincide with her 6-2, 6-2 semifinal rout of Venus at last year's Nasdaq-100 Open. Venus had easily won five of the first six historic sibling matchups before dropping the last five.

"It was hard because I'm so close to Venus and we're so close to each other, and I always wanted to be like her," Serena said. "That was definitely a big win for me. I mean, it has never been easy for me to play Venus, not only the fact that she's my sister as well as the fact that she's a great player.

"It was a little bit of a mental block for me as well," added Serena, who at 21, is 15 months younger than Venus. "Then to finally win a match against Venus in a big tournament was a pretty big confidence booster for me, and it's OK to do well against your sister, and I think that was a big point that I was able to assess and think finally I was able to do what I knew I could."

Psychologists now debate which Williams sibling owns the mental edge since Serena has turned the tables.

"It's difficult for any No. 2 to overcome a No. 1," Lister said. "Now magnify this by five times since they're sisters and they're so close in age and companionship. You have to give Serena the edge, but Venus has the ability and could win at any time, unless Venus has mentally thrown in the towel and said, `I'm No. 2.'"

As Serena's tennis identity approaches legendary proportions, she's now seeking fictitious characters to create, as she did on an episode of ABC's My Wife and Kids.

She told her agent that she wants to play a victim, a stretch for someone who has brutalized her opponents, winning 50 of her last 52 matches.

"When Serena's plugged in, she's unbeatable right now," said Rick Macci, who trained the Williams sisters in their formative years. "When [Serena] was 10, she was already a pit bull.

"The gap is not as wide as people think. If Venus wants to, she can do it. It's not a matter of practicing 100 more serves or a few more dumbbells in the gym. It's really between the ears. She's got to want to dig deep, compete even harder."

Some have questioned the desire and fire of Venus.

"I don't play the same game Serena plays," Venus said at Wimbledon. "For her, it's all or nothing. For me, it's not this."

After falling to Serena in the Australian Open final, their most competitive match, Venus admitted her sister was "mentally tougher."

A few weeks later, Venus showed Serena-like spunk after winning a tournament in Antwerp, Belgium.

"If you want to challenge me here, Serena, if you're watching, come on," Venus said.

Richard Williams always predicted Serena would be better than Venus, but Serena won't admit to holding an edge over a sister she idolizes.

"I can't say I'm better than Venus. I just have been winning," she said. "You can never really say what's going to happen. ... I think we both are doing really well and anyone would love to be in our shoes right now."

So while Serena juggles tennis with photo shoots and interview requests, as well as hanging out with rapper Jay-Z and receiving roses from Bucs receiver Keyshawn Johnson, Venus brushes up on her French.

"I think I've made a few different big steps as us being separate people," Serena said. "Some people can realize and see us in different lights. Every photo shoot I do, it's just another step forward."

If the tide on court doesn't turn, perhaps it'll be Venus on Dr. Phil's couch, questioning her identity because there are two Serena Williams in the family.

Harvey Fialkov can be reached at [email protected].
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Venus Williams talks to the press about her new deal with Wrigley's chewing gum

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DOUBLEMINT "FEEL THE GREEN" PRESS CONFERENCE WITH VENUS WILLIAMS

THE MODERATOR: I just wanted to thank you guys all for coming and let you know we're here today to launch the "Doublemint Feel the Green Auction" for charity. It's for the Tom Joyner Foundation. One hundred percent of the proceeds will benefit the Tom Joyner Foundation, which is a charity which provides scholarships for historically black universities and colleges.

The program will launch on Monday on Doublemint.com. There's a lot of really fun stuff that's going to be up for auction on Doublemint.com that Venus will tell you a little bit about, including a private tennis lesson with Serena, some outfits that are going to be worn here at the NASDAQ-100 Open, as well as the French and Wimbledon.

I will pass it over to Venus.

Before, I just wanted to note, unfortunately, Serena wasn't able to join today. But we're really, really excited about this program. Venus will tell you a little bit more about it.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Okay. I guess it's my turn to speak.

I'm really excited to be partnering with Doublemint. We've done some really, really good programs. They're actually, with Wrigley's, sorry. I've got the Doublemint T-shirt on.

I think it's really been a lot of fun. I've been able to feel proud and good about myself because of the programs that they do have.

Serena and I feel really good to be able to launch these kinds of initiatives and to be able to bring attention to these kinds of things. It makes a lot of sense to give back and makes us feel good.

So what's going to happen is there are going to be a few outfits that we wear at the NASDAQ and some tennis balls and tennis racquets and huge tennis racquets, also a tennis lesson with Serena, and it's going to benefit the Tom Joyner Foundation. That benefits historically black colleges. I guess you know how I feel about education. It's almost number one in my life.

Other than that, I'm ready for any questions you may have.

Q. Why is Serena doing the lesson? Why aren't you doing the lesson?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I guess she's a better teacher (laughter).

Q. Can you tell us a little more about the Tom Joyner Foundation, the sort of things it does?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, Tom Joyner, I'm not sure if you guys all know who Tom Joyner is, but he does a really popular morning show here. It's called the "Tom Joyner Morning Show."

He's also African American. His foundation benefits a lot of great things. In this case, it's going to go 100 percent of the proceeds directly to scholarships for historically black colleges.

I covered the whole...?

THE MODERATOR: Yep.

Q. I wanted to say I'm from a morning show in Miami. The foundation is really doing some fantastic things. How did you decide to team up with Tom specifically?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think basically Wrigley comes up with the best ideas.

Q. You're like, "Let's jump on it"?

VENUS WILLIAMS: When they make sense, it makes sense.

Here I am. I think that for me, education is really important. A lot of times colleges, especially historically black ones, aren't always getting the funding that some of the other colleges do. So it's very important to me.

Q. I think the baseball pitcher Randy Johnson just paid $55,000 to have a private lesson with Andre and Steffi. I was wondering, do you think someone will pay more than that to get that private lesson with Serena?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I hope so.

Q. Would it be worth that?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think so. Like I said, she's a good teacher.

Q. What makes her a good teacher?

VENUS WILLIAMS: She's patient. She understands the techniques.

Q. Do you have to let them win a few points to make sure the thing's interesting?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I mean, I don't know if they'll exactly want to play a match against her. But they may want some pointers. I guess it's up to how much nerve they have, because even the top players don't want to face Serena Williams (smiling).

Q. Now that you guys are out of the braids, would you consider auctioning off some old beads?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't have that many left. I tried to save them, but I think they got, like, caught in the move when I moved out. But, you know, that is a good idea. Next time we should auction the beads, those are like...

Q. Collectibles?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, you know, that's a good way of putting it.

Q. It's about chewing gum, is it?

VENUS WILLIAMS: It's about chewing gum and then a little more. What, did you just get here?

Q. Just arrived (laughter).

VENUS WILLIAMS: Okay. I'll go through it again just for you, Bud.

Q. Sorry, Venus.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Don't worry.

Okay. It's the initiative that Wrigley's is launching with Serena and I, with our help. We are going to auction off items starting on Monday, all the way through April 25th. The items will include tennis balls, racquets and tennis bags, tennis dresses. I suppose the climax is a lesson with Serena, a tennis lesson. Someone can bid and get that one also. The bidding is at Wrigley.com.

THE MODERATOR: Doublemint.com.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Wrigley, Doublemint, they link.

The funding, 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Tom Joyner Foundation, and the Tom Joyner Foundation, unless you heard that part...?

Q. No.

VENUS WILLIAMS: And you know Tom Joyner?

Q. I'm sorry if my colleagues have heard all of it.

VENUS WILLIAMS: I hope there's a transcript.

Tom Joyner is a very popular radio show host. He has his own morning show, and it's syndicated all over the United States. It's my mom's favorite, actually.

His foundation is really, really a positive foundation. In this case the proceeds are going to go towards scholarships for historically black colleges.

Q. Very good. Are there any particular schools?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, both my sisters went to Howard, so I guess I'm kind of particular to that one, yeah.

Q. I'm a proud Spellman graduate. I want to see some of that money going there. I know last year you guys were very involved with ACE and the Wrigley program, you slugged through all of the applications and essays. Will you be meeting with some of the people as well who receive some of these scholarships?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't think that's a provision, exactly. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure how the colleges will award the people who deserve it, but it's going to a good cause.

Q. What do you think you might hopefully raise? Any idea of what sort of target you've set?

VENUS WILLIAMS: No. What do you think?

THE MODERATOR: The goal is $10,000. So that's what we're hoping to get to.

VENUS WILLIAMS: We'll start the bidding high. I guess start -- hopefully, they'll go beyond their wildest expectations.

Q. Venus, in your role as a chewing gum spokesperson, I wonder if you could help with a problem that we have at my soccer club back in Manchester. Manchester United, the coach, manager, is the most successful coach in British football, Alex Ferguson. He has a terrible problem - he chews gum throughout the match and then he spits it out absentmindedly at the end. Do you think that should incur some kind of penalty?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I guess if someone steps on it then twists their ankle, that deserves at least a warning (smiling).

Q. Only if it's not Wrigley's.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Only if it's not Wrigley's (smiling).

Q. Can you talk about how you made Tom's acquaintance? Was it through your mom? Is he a tennis fan? How did you really hook up with him?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Just, to be honest, I mean, I feel like I've kind of known him for a few years because I was always listening to the show.

But I met him... Actually, I'm not exactly sure if I did meet him.

Q. Orange Bowl.

VENUS WILLIAMS: It was the Orange Bowl. Was that 2000? Yeah, it was the Orange Bowl, but I met everyone from the show that time.

But I haven't exactly -- I haven't been able to sit down and chat and that kind of thing. But he's a really, really positive person. That's how I envision him.

Q. How do you decide which charities to lend your name to?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm really, really particular towards, I suppose, children and really, I think, anyone who's a good cause. All kinds of requests, of course, for shoes and racquets and that kind of thing. If they're really doing the job, then that's what counts.

But my favorite is definitely my mom's foundation, the OWL Foundation. She's my mom, so I lean toward that (smiling).

Q. When you say "a lot of," you get "a lot of offers," can you...

VENUS WILLIAMS: They don't exactly come to me. They're through managers. Racquets. You wouldn't believe the things people ask for.

Q. Such as...?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm not even going to get into it in this press conference (laughing). It's what people, lots of people really -- especially good charities, they need help. So, you know, I suppose it's a little bit of my responsibility to be able to help where I can.

Q. Do you enjoy giving back to the charities with your time and your energy?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, when I have time, I try. Exactly like now, this is one of the best ways.

Q. Is Serena in this as well?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, yeah. All the way. There she is (pointing to her picture.)

She's not too talkative (laughing). Earphones...

Q. What's the designed "Feel the Green" racquet all about? Did somebody design it? It said on the release you specially designed it.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Maybe we aren't on the same wavelength. Well, "Feel the Green" is part of this campaign, also the ad campaign. But I don't know about a racquet.

THE MODERATOR: They're signed.

VENUS WILLIAMS: There are some designed racquets for auction?

Q. It says, "Specially designed Feel the Green..."

VENUS WILLIAMS: I thought she was talking about the big ones?

THE MODERATOR: Not the big ones. It will be up on the auction site.

Q. There's talk that we've heard that you're not going to go back to Amelia Island to defend your title. Have you made a decision?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm currently not entered. I loved it last year; I really did. Really, I never experienced another crowd like Amelia, at Amelia Island. I really haven't. I just really couldn't believe how wonderful the people were there and just how supportive and how much they wanted me to be able to succeed in my matches. So that was real, real nice.

Q. So you're not going to go back this year?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, I really want to, but I had some things going on in my life off the court so I couldn't exactly sign up.

Q. Speaking of "off the court," how are you finding balancing tennis with V Starr Interiors responsibilities?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I practice in the morning, go in the office in the afternoon. Then I get off work, put in my time card.

But, no, it's a lot of fun. It's something I wanted to do, so...

I like to think that once I put my mind to it, it will really go well.

Q. So what happens when you're practicing in the morning or when you're on the road?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm not the only person at the design office. I don't take care of everything.

Q. How many people are on board?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Currently, just two. But as I say, it's hard to find good help. I've learned...

Q. How many places have you designed? How many clients have you had?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I have a few clients. My toughest client is Serena. She pressures me (laughing).

Q. Is that for her LA apartment?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah.

Q. Is it an apartment?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Uh-hmm.

Q. How many bedrooms?

VENUS WILLIAMS: She has two.

Q. She's paying, too, for this service?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I would never charge her. I would charge the rest (laughing). I wouldn't even do that. She kept saying, "I want to pay, I want to pay." But, no, I wouldn't.

Q. How long does it take for your clients to forget that you're Venus Williams, a tremendous tennis player, and just that you're an interior designer?

VENUS WILLIAMS: To be honest, it doesn't take long at all because something like a home is very important, it's where you live and where you go back to every day. So you have to have a certain amount of confidence in whoever you hire that they are going to do a good job.

So when people do choose V Starr, then they have a certain amount of confidence that the job can be done.

Q. Are you one of the designers who fits the theme of a project to the person who's the owner, or you kind of just push your thoughts on them?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, I'm not pushy at all - only on the court, only on the tennis court.

Q. You mentioned your sisters in Howard. Do you have any ambitions to get a college degree?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm working on it, Bud. It's just not easy.

Q. I know.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah... One day. One day.

Q. I mean, you do have that ambition?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, for sure. But as the years go by, it looks harder and harder. But I will. It would definitely, I guess, be one of my proudest moments.

I don't know, there's a lot of great colleges. I suppose I won't be a candidate for one of the Wrigley's scholarships, but (laughing)... Who knows?

Q. Venus, you and your sister are so close. Never before on the women's tour have the No. 1 and No. 2 players had that kind of a relationship that you have. What kind of impact do you think that has had on women's tennis?

VENUS WILLIAMS: That's a good question. I don't even know.

"How has the impact of the sister's relationship impacted tennis?" I hope in a good way. I think in a good way, yes.

Q. Scared the hell out of a lot of them (smiling)?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Who (smiling)? What's the point of being afraid if there's nothing to fear?

What did that mean (laughing)? I don't know what I just said. It's kind of like a Chinese philosopher, you know.

Q. Why couldn't Serena make it?

VENUS WILLIAMS: She just wasn't able to make it.

Q. I'm not sure if you're aware, but yesterday Mal Washington's dad stationed a protest outside. He's sort of been a critic of the wildcard selections (inaudible). What do you think about that issue?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't even know. I like to think if you're good, people want you there, no matter who you are. If you're bad, you're not necessarily the attraction.

But I don't know what his platform is, so I can't really comment on it.

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S. WILLIAMS/F. Schiavone[/B]
7-5, 6-1

An interview with:

SERENA WILLIAMS

THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. Very tough one. Did you just gut it out and get through it?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, that was the main goal, just to get through the day.

Q. Did you think at any point, at the end of the first set you might not be able to play?

SERENA WILLIAMS: At one point, I didn't think I'd be able to go on. I thought, "Gosh, I should have never came out here." You know, you got to keep fighting. I said, "Just give it a try." I was able to win that first set. I still was very fatigued.

Q. You really showed your concentration and mental tenacity tonight in a completely different way. You didn't look like you had the energy to move, yet you willed yourself?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I don't know where I get it from. I think it's energy that I stored up years and years and years and years ago. I'm just -- I'm really happy I'm able to get through today because I know I have the day off tomorrow. I know my body can recover more and by the time Sunday comes, I'll definitely be ready.

Q. Stomach flu?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, just amazing. It was horrible. I wasn't even -- I couldn't even walk yesterday.

Q. Think you might not -- obviously, you thought you might not be able to play?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I didn't think I'd be able to play. I just hit balls for the first time at six. I said, "Oh, let me try to hit a few balls." I hit a few, I said, "Oh, just let me give it a try." I mean, it amazes me sometimes. It's not me, it's -- I guess it's strength from God. He's given me some strength to go on.

Q. Had you ever had a match where you felt this bad?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, actually at Wimbledon.

Q. This past year?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I think it was 2001 when I played Jennifer Capriati. Then actually before that, I played Maggie Maleeva, those two matches.

Q. Could it be some food?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know, I went to the doctor and they said -- they've said a fancy way of saying food poisoning. I ate the same thing Venus ate and she didn't get sick at all. It was like me and my trainer, Venus. We all ate the same thing. I'm the only one that got sick. I didn't think it was really food poisoning. I didn't know what it was.

Q. A lot of people here are complaining about some kind of thing that goes with the weather, headaches, chills?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm used to the weather, I live here. I'm fine with the weather. It's definitely humid and I'm losing a lot of water but I just got to keep hydrating. I'm okay with the weather.

Q. You have cramps?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, knock on wood, no.

Q. Monica said in her press conference yesterday she thought security on the tour was not as good as it could be. Do you feel good about the way security's handled?

SERENA WILLIAMS: For me, yeah. I know I've had a couple issues myself and I can understand how it may be improved. I haven't really been paying attention. I'm young and I'm just trying to live my life and I don't necessarily want people following me the whole time I'm going somewhere.

Q. You were on the court in Paris when those two guys walked out or something?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah.

Q. Bizarre moment for you?

SERENA WILLIAMS: That was definitely bizarre. I was like, "Whoa" I got a little nervous after a while. I was like, "What are they doing?"

Q. They didn't hit her?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I think they had balls and racquets in their hand. It was definitely bizarre what they were doing. Who knows. It was definitely very strange. I think there could have been a little better security there.

Q. But overall, you wouldn't consider what happened in New York...

SERENA WILLIAMS: Overall, New York is great. I have a totally different respect for them now.

Q. How they handled it?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, how they were able to handle my situation.

Q. How about in everyday life? You go to the mall, people know who you are?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't go to the mall anymore. If I do, I can't get out. So many people, I either go -- I wear clothes that aren't going to attract any attention, big, baggy sweatshirt, some pants, I don't wear attractive clothing when I'm going out because it attracts too much attention.

Q. I think for you, because you're somebody who really likes to do things, that must be a real down side to this?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Actually, I love to stay at home nowadays and draw a lot of things and I'm working on a lot of different stuff. I don't really have time to go out that much. I'm really okay with it.

Q. A match like this, I mean, you obviously have done so much over the past year, do you take anything out of it, "I've proved myself, I can get through it," at this point, you didn't need to be sick, didn't have to be sick. Did you think it would have been better to not go through it?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It would have been. I wish I didn't get sick. Next time, if this happens again, I can say, "Serena, think back to 2003 at the Ericsson," the NASDAQ, sorry, the name changes every year, I can't keep up with it. "Just think, you were able to get through that match." I think that will be able to help me.

Q. Did it come to your mind at all, Pete Sampras' match at the US Open where he was having trouble with his stomach?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I didn't want to do that. I don't know how he went through that.

Q. You weren't in danger of that, were we?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I wasn't gonna do that.

Q. Was it fun being in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it was fun. It's always been a goal of mine, to be in the swimsuit. So I just keep my goals coming. One day, I'll make it, who knows.

Q. I thought it was fabulous, A, that you did it; B, that you looked as good as you did and; C, that the new beauty model is no longer somebody who weighs about a pound and a half. I think it's good for American girls.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it is. I'm really excited. I'm having a lot of fun.

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V. WILLIAMS/S. Asagoe
6-3, 6-1

An interview with:

VENUS WILLIAMS

THE MODERATOR: First question for Venus, please.

Q. Can you talk about your serve? It was not your best friend today, especially in that first set. What adjustments did you make as the match went along?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, my serve was, I think it's just my toss is not in the right spot, I'm not able to execute very well. But normally I'm not hitting a serve or making mistakes when the point really counts, making the errors when I'm up or winning or that kind of thing. But always, it's very painful to lose a game.

Q. Like on a double-fault?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Especially my service game. Was it a double-fault?

Q. On the one, yeah.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, I never do that. That was bad.

Q. You seemed to be cruising through the second set until the fourth game. Then you had the breakpoints against you.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think I just lost focus. To be honest, she was playing real good. She was trying to move me -- from what I could gather, she was trying to move me around, make me run. And I suppose trying to win the match, too.

But I'm glad things went my way today.

Q. You still won that set 6-1. Did that particular game, the fourth game, affect your rhythm at all?

VENUS WILLIAMS: No, not really because it's nothing I could do about it once I'd lost it. So I had to just break.

Q. Did you know before you went on court that you were scheduled to play again tomorrow at three o'clock?

VENUS WILLIAMS: No. This is okay with me, though.

Q. That's fine. Presumably, you were quite keen to get this first game over as quickly as possible?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yes, it seems like I've been waiting forever to play this first round. So finally -- or second round. Finally, I'm in the third. This is quite normal for me, or any tennis player, to play back-to-back like this. Actually, I'm fortunate that I'm not playing doubles also.

Q. Could I just ask you, do you feel that your victory, your title at Wimbledon, is the most prestigious of your titles? If so, why Wimbledon?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, Wimbledon is the most prestigious for tennis, but I think for me, my best titles were the Olympics.

Q. What do you feel about Wimbledon that makes it a little more special than, say, the other three?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I suppose the history and I suppose that's where the game started. Throughout the last 100 years, it's been the most prestigious title for a player to win. So it's just tradition, I suppose.

But any title's quite good for me.

Q. Do you feel that maybe it might be the ultimate in your mind if you didn't have the Olympics as well, that Wimbledon title of yours?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, it was my first large title. It was -- I remember the year I won, I was thinking I had no other choice but to win the tournament. I really, really wanted to. So it happens. And I definitely took some great memories from that. Once you win one, you always know how to win it again.

Q. Do you think that's going to be a pretty big goal for a couple of months down the track?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, for sure, but my next biggest goal is definitely tomorrow's match.

Q. I would think that when you get to the finals of four consecutive Grand Slams and finish second that you could either get discouraged or get toughened. People are talking about seeing a fire in your eyes. I was just wondering if you could talk, you haven't chosen the first option. It seems like you've, you know, you're rising to the challenge. Has that been easy, hard?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, all the finals that I didn't win, I didn't deserve to win them. I didn't play the best that day. I was beaten by a better player. It's not easy. Nothing's given to you, especially these Grand Slams. So... I was real happy to, of course, be in the finals. I was real happy that Serena won, but also I felt sorry for myself, too.

Q. It's been a great day for American women players today. I think six American women have won today.

VENUS WILLIAMS: I saw zero results. I didn't see who won or lost today.

Q. Right, Sarah Taylor beat the 11th seed. Carly Gullikson has had a good run in this tournament as well. How encouraging is that for you and Serena to see a few of the other young American girls coming through as well?

VENUS WILLIAMS: It's always real nice to have a good -- good Americans coming through because it's good for the Federation Cup and also for when the Olympics come around for USA.

But more than anything, I think we're more focused on our results. I'm not always familiar with the new girls. All of a sudden, they're ranked number 50 in the world and I've never seen them before, so I also have to keep up with who's coming up, too.

Q. A lot of the men are shooting up the rankings as well. Looks like good times for American tennis?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Everybody's good.

Q. If this tournament didn't fall on the date it does, would you and Serena be going to the Academy Awards, or would you watch it and critique everyone's dresses, and Serena, with her acting aspirations, would be interested in it, I would imagine?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Would we go to the Academy Awards? I guess. I don't know. Maybe if I was invited, but...

Q. I think you could probably wrangle an invitation.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Probably could sneak in, back door. But I'd much rather be here. If I wasn't here, it would mean I would be ranked 300 in the world and somewhere struggling in a qualifying match or in South America fighting, so... I'm quite happy to be here. But if it was another week, I would have a nice week off. I don't know.

Q. Real quickly, what was the highlight for you of that NAACP luncheon?

VENUS WILLIAMS: The whole awards show was wonderful. It was the best one I've been to. Most awards shows aren't exactly entertaining, but that one was. I enjoyed all the people that presented, all the people that got awards, I enjoyed the entertainment, I enjoyed getting my award. It was real nice. I got to meet a lot of nice people. More than anything, it was a real inspiration.

Q. When you think of people who have won that before, what was that like for you?

VENUS WILLIAMS: It was real nice. I think it was one of our -- Serena and I, our highest honors. It was real, real nice. A good one for me and my family.

Q. You said you met a lot of people. Was there anyone in particular?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, Serena always meets the most people. I usually miss out every time. But...

Q. Do people just gravitate toward her?

VENUS WILLIAMS: You know what, someone always pulls me aside and starts talking to me and, you know, a little bothering me maybe. Then, everybody else, Serena gets to meet everyone. That's what happens every time, so...

At least she told me about it.

Q. How was Serena today?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I didn't really see her today. I went to practice in the morning, then I went to my room and I didn't see her until this afternoon before I left to go to practice. She had her music on, so I guess she's doing better.

But I suppose when you're having a virus, it's making you a little bit weaker. So possibly you can't run as fast or have the stamina. But I think she's doing real good. Mentally, she's got it, so she's going to keep fighting because she really wanted to play I think.

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S. WILLIAMS/T. Panova
6-2, 6-1

An interview with:

SERENA WILLIAMS

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Serena, please.

Q. Can you just give us a health update?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I'm pretty good. You know, pretty happy. I'm getting better each day, each day the tournament goes on, I'm getting better and feeling better. I'm not 100 percent yet, but maybe tomorrow I'll be, hopefully.

Q. How much more comfortable was that performance tonight than your win yesterday?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it was definitely more comfortable because Tatiana is a really good player. She's been playing well. I was really satisfied to have a solid win like that over her. She was really playing well.

Q. You had an unusual expression on your face tonight, almost like serenity?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm at peace, I guess. I'm at peace with myself.

Q. Your stomach is okay now?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it's almost there. It will be all right.

Q. Can you give more detail about the partnership between Doublemint, Tom Joyner's Foundation and yourself?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, we just -- we're doing a small thing with the -- Tom Joyner does a lot for black history month and black history. We're just doing a slight campaign. I don't know, Doublemint is one of our sponsors. We always try to get together, we don't want to just get paid, we want to actually go out there and give back to communities. That's what we're all about when we try to get different deals.

Q. Would you consider your Wimbledon title the most prestigious of the Grand Slams that you own?

SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I was debating. Before I won Wimbledon and Venus had one won, I won the US Open, I was trying to debate which one was better. I mean, the US Open pays more. Wimbledon has more history. But, you know, so does the US Open, definitely has a lot of history as well.

I would say prestigious, it would have to be.

Q. Why would that be, not counting the money, obviously?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's just Wimbledon. Now that I've won -- before I won Wimbledon, you know, it was the US Open that was better. But now that I've won Wimbledon, you know, it's more prestigious. But I still love

New York.

Q. So would Wimbledon still be your next major goal after Paris? I mean, given the shape of the year, would Wimbledon be really, really important?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, actually, believe it or not, I would consider -- I'd like to take it one at a time. Right now, Paris is really what I would like to focus on. I'd really like to win Wimbledon and the US Open again, but, you know, we'll see.

Q. That's one of your goals now, back-to-back?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Hey, I'm just fighting one day at a time. I mean, obviously, I'm sure it's a lot of people's goal this year. I'm just going to go for it.

Q. Your win tonight means there's seven American girls in the last 16 in this tournament. What does that say to you about the strength of American women's tennis at the moment?

SERENA WILLIAMS: We're doing pretty good. We're definitely doing really well. The strength of our games, we're the top two in the world. I don't know how many are in the top five. I lost count after No. 1 and 2, I couldn't tell you...

Q. Do you watch the results in the locker room coming through and see how well the other girls are doing?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I haven't even been here. I've been ill, so I haven't been around. I got around today a little bit, I came in like around 5ish. If I'm passing by, I watch the results.

Q. Were you resting for most of the day, trying to fully recover?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I practice in the morning and I was resting. That's my usual schedule for a night match.

Q. I think there are people who are maybe sort of -- maybe some of your competitors were hoping that they saw you doing some of your acting gigs and other things in the off-season and thought, "Oh, good, she's not practicing, training, maybe she's gotten a little complacent." You clearly have not. Can you talk about that? Did you feel like you had to, you know -- you didn't want to rest on your laurels, so to speak?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I didn't have a solid -- I only had a few smaller gigs here and there, I didn't have a big piece. Who knows, if I get a big part, maybe I will slack off a little bit.

No, I'm just kidding, tennis is my main bread maker. I love tennis. I take tennis as number one - not in my life, but just in my career. It's my career. It's my job. I really enjoy it. If I become a successful actress, then we'll see. But right now, tennis is my major success.

Q. What was the difference when you won the US Open? I think you talked last year about how you got kind of comfortable with that and it was hard for you to get back to that level, or even raise the level of your game. What was the difference this off-season after the success you had?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I pretty much did the same thing I do every off-season. Actually, I played a tournament earlier. I played in Perth. But, you know, I can't really say I went out and worked much harder.

Q. Having the ability to win the successive Slams, was that a motivating thing for you?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think more than anything, it was motivating that I was going in the Australian Open trying to win four in a row, seven matches away from making four in a row. I think, for me, that was really motivating, as to want to win another Slam and win a Grand Slam. I mean, it hadn't been done since Steffi Graf. I had a chance to make history.

I think if I would have took it lightly on the off-season, just slacking around, then that would have been my own loss, so to say.

So I think, if anything, that motivated me. Maybe if I hadn't have won the US Open, I would have slacked around a little more. But I think seeing that I had a goal to reach, a chance to make history forever, I wanted to have an opportunity to do it.

Q. Can you give dates on the OWL Foundation event?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It is April 5th in Naples.

Q. Do you have a line-up of players yet?

SERENA WILLIAMS: We're hoping Monica Seles is going to be playing me, so it's going to be a really, really good match. It's for a good cause as well, my mom's charity for education.

Q. A private lesson with Andre and Steffi recently went for $55,000.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Uh-hmm.

Q. What do you think your private lesson is -- the value is?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don't give private lessons.

Q. The one for the Tom Joyner Foundation.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, well that one, I don't know. Has it went on auction yet?

Q. Monday.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Monday. I mean, if someone puts a low bid in, I'm gonna bid on it myself. Really, I'm going to put $56,000 so I can, you know, get over Steffi and Andre (smiling).

Q. The girl you're playing tomorrow, Iroda Tulyaganova, have you played her before?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I played her a couple of times. I played her here, was it last year or two years ago? It was three sets. She has a big, big serve. She actually moves pretty well, to be strong. She's a really good player. And really nice, I like her a lot.

Q. A lot of players tolerate press conferences. You seem to enjoy them. Can you talk about that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I'm... Well... I don't know. I don't like to say the same things. I try to be lively, not to be boring. I enjoy it. I don't really -- I can't say -- I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed it; she could tell you I don't really enjoy it. You know, if you're gonna do it, why not smile and have fun and enjoy it for the moment. I'm not going to be doing this for 50 years, this is only short term.

Q. Wonderful acting skills.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah.

Q. Are you wearing your doubles dress?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yes. I usually wear this outfit in doubles but I wanted to -- I've been wearing skirts. I haven't been wearing the one-piece since Australia. I'll wear it in the French again. I'm taking a break.

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