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One-on-One with Serena Williams

The latest Serena Williams comeback story started with a stunner in January when the 25-year-old won her eighth Grand Slam singles title. It wasn?t so much the dominance - though Williams impressively routed Maria Sharapova, 6-1, 6-2 in the final - Serena entered the Australian Open ranked No. 81. Proving Melbourne was no fluke, she defeated top-seeded Sharapova and No. 2 seed Justine Henin on the way to the Sony Ericsson Open title last week in Miami. Serena and older sister Venus will play in next week?s Family Circle Cup, where they have been perhaps the most popular players since the tournament moved to Daniel Island in 2001.

Serena exchanged e-mails with The Post and Courier?s Gene Sapakoff:
You surprised a lot of people at the Australian Open. Did you surprise yourself?
"No. I knew if I worked out hard and believed in myself I would be able to win."

You and Venus have been huge fan favorites in Charleston. Why more here than other places, or why are you two not as popular everywhere else as in Charleston?
"I love Charleston and the support we receive. Typically we do get strong support but there are places like Miami and L.A. where we live and Charleston where the support is even stronger then usual."

You recently said in Miami that playing in tournaments is easier than training. What goes into a Serena Williams training program?
"I try and mix it up and do all sorts of cardio-vascular stuff and also run, hit, yoga and make sure to stretch as well."

How much would it mean to win a gold medal in Beijing next year?
"It would be great. I have played in China before and loved it. The Olympics are special because you are playing for your country."

Some tennis people say rivalries - such as Chris vs. Martina - are good, even necessary, for the sport. What do you think?
"I can see how they would say that but it's the media who makes those rivalries. I simply play who is on the other side of the net and try and win."

Is there potential for a "rivalry" between you and Maria Sharapova?
"Maria is a great player and I know I need to play my best against her just like Justine or Amelie or all the other top players."

You have done lots of charity work in Charleston and all over the world. Why are such projects so important to you?
"It's important to me to give back to people. Especially those less fortunate, and it's nice to try and give them hope. I remember where I grew up and what it meant to me to hear or meet someone you looked up to."

You obviously move around the court exceptionally well. So why do critics frequently question your physical conditioning?
"I think you need to ask them that. Maybe because I am not a size 2 and nor ever will be."

Any chance you might someday open one of your designer boutiques in Charleston?
"I love the city so you never know."

Your favorite way to spend time off the court in Charleston?
"The sites are great, and the city just has a great charm to it. But, like always, I love spending time with my dogs."

Any favorite restaurants in Charleston?
"Charleston Crab House."

Favorite movies?
"Ben Hur," "Boomerang," "ATL."

Favorite book?
"Anything by J.R.R. Tolkien."

Most impressive person you have ever met?
"Muhammad Ali."

Person you would most like to meet that you haven't met?
"Nelson Mandela."

Could you ever see yourself on "Dancing With The Stars"?

What will you be doing in 10 years?
"I will be happy."

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