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An Interview With: Serena Williams

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Q. Could you tell us what your expectations were entering 2014 and whether or not winning the US Open was critical to having had a successful season?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. I think my expectations are always really high. I always expect the best from myself. I always try to do the best that I can.

Q. What was your initial reaction when you found out you were opening against Taylor Townsend, a top ranked junior, a fellow American? We don't really see that in this tournament.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it's going to be a great match for me. She's such a great player. Extremely young. I have been able to see her play a little bit. She does everything really, really well. We're really good friends. We always talk and always text each other. It's going to be a really tough match for me.

Q. You're kind of known as one of the fashionistas of women's tennis on court. How would you say your style off the court has changed in the last five years?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I would say my style in general is super trendy, but I always love to add a classic silhouette with it. I always love to keep those classic forms. But keep it in style with, you know, the young things, the trendy things, but making it just wearable for every day wear and wearable for years to come.

Q. David Letterman the other night said No. 1 favorite for me. This is a monumental tournament in a sense. I know you talked after the Western & Southern feeling like you could play for a long time. Is it something where, if you get to 22 or 23 you might decide to hang them up?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, that would be just really amazing if I can make it that far. Competition is a little stiff now, so I have to do the best that I can. I can't even think that far, to be honest.

Q. This could be 18. This would be obviously a tie with Chris.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. Australian, Wimbledon, and French also could have been 18; didn't quite happen.

Q. I want to ask about your game against Maria Sharapova. Do you consider her your main rival? And playing with her, how would you describe it?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, it's always fun to play her. She's a very intense player. I think I'm a super intense player. I think in that aspect of intensity, we have a lot in common.

Q. How has your routine changed since you debuted in '98, and how has it stayed the same?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think my match routine, I just really try to focus on the match. I just really dedicate those few hours to just, you know, strictly tennis. When the match is over, I kind of do relax a little bit. But obviously in most tournaments and Grand Slams, if you win a match there is always a match the next day, so you can't let your guard down too much. It's a lot of mental work I think for two weeks to just always kind of stay super focused.

Q. How has your mindset changed, you know, since you were a teenager?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I'm not sure if it changed a lot. I have always been, you know, really intense and really incredibly passionate about what I do, whether I'm in the practice court or if I'm at a match. So I'm not sure if it's changed that much. Yeah.

Q. In the spirit of Artur Ashe Kids' Day today, what do you think Artur would say about you playing Taylor in the first round here and about your career in general?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think he would say it's a great opportunity to see, you know, a veteran American player play the future of American tennis. He was such an amazing guy. I had an opportunity to meet him. So I think he would be really proud and honored to see so many young African-American players, especially in America, doing so well and playing so hard and just being role models for even the next generation.

Q. What would you take from his career and his life?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I believe he had a great positive spirit. You know, you have to go through what he went through. He had an incredibly positive spirit and just a positive outlook on everything. Obviously I didn't get to know him. I was incredibly young when I met him and it was ever so brief, but his legend absolutely lives on.

Q. You have played a lot of matches leading up these last three weeks. How are you feeling with your prep? How are you holding up after that many matches? Do you feel like that many matches was good for you coming into this, which is obviously your main goal?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I think those matches were good for me because I haven't played a lot of matches this year. So technically I should be perfectly fine. I haven't played that much tennis this year.

Q. Before Cincy you said you were feeling very relaxed about the whole prospect of the hard court season. After that final and playing so well, it looked like you were kind of thinking, yeah, I'm playing well enough to win the Open. How do you reconcile those kind of two ideas, feeling relaxed but seemingly fairly confident?

SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I played well in that final, but this is a new week. These next two weeks I'm going to have to put that together for hopefully seven matches. Hopefully. If I can do that, I'll definitely have a good chance to be in the tournament for a long time. But we'll see. I'm just going to have to be able to put together that time and those matches.

Q. You're not the only American that ever wins anything in this industry anymore, anyway. Do you feel the pressures of your niche on your shoulders? You have been doing this a long time.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, no, not at all. We had Madison Keys. She won a tournament just recently. I think if anything, that just shows that she's definitely stepped up to the plate. So many Americans are doing really, really well and getting closer to the finals and making, you know, some big steps by leaps and bounds. I have never felt the pressure. I always felt honored to be holding that trophy as the American and leading American tennis. But I feel like there are so many players now that are willing, ready, and able to take that.

Q. You spoke of what a tough match it would be against Taylor when you meet her. What are the specifics of her game that most impress you, and how would you describe her progress?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, she's a lefty. I always wanted to be lefty (smiling). That just in general puts you on a whole new level as a player. She's a very aggressive player. She comes to the net. She makes her shots. You don't really see that in tennis so much. You see players that, you know, stay back and hug the baselines, as I do. But it's good, refreshing, and I think it's the future of tennis just by doing what she does.

Q. Why have you always wanted to be a lefty?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Because they just have this weird spin that you just -- no one can ever get used to. It just bounces different. It would be pretty awesome.

Q. On that note, we Europeans have this romantic notion when a new German guy comes to the NBA, Dirk Nowitski takes him under his wing. Do you see that as your role with younger American players?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I would love to do that. I would love to see myself in that role. I definitely talk to a lot of the younger players how to get a champions' mindset and how to become a champion. Hopefully they can take the advice and do it.

Q. Do you think the psychological qualities of somebody that's been as successful as you have been on the court, do you think they are innate or do you think they can be learned?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think a lot of things can be learned. A lot is innate. You may have some people who may not have as much talent as the next person, but they work really hard and they make it their own and make themselves a lot better. I definitely think it is something that can be learned.

Q. A couple of us have heard that you're having a show for Aneras in a couple of months. Is that something you can talk about at all, and what are you working on with the line?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, no. I'm having a fashion show for Serena's Signature Statement. I'm launching Aneras. They are two totally different fashion lines. This show we are doing for fashion week, New York. Has always been a dream of mine to have a fashion show New York fashion week. We are doing the collection that sold on HSN for Serena's Signature Statement. We have casted the models, and it's been a really great experience. I'm really excited and nervous at the same time to see the reactions, and hopefully we'll get a full house.

Q. This has been a great breakout year for Eugenie Bouchard because she primarily takes the returns so far in so often. Almost 25% more than you do. How much trouble does that give you, or no trouble at all when somebody takes those serves so far...

SERENA WILLIAMS: You have to be ready for that. She definitely takes the ball early. She likes to try to take the time away from the opponent, which is smart. It's a great thing to do. People can learn from it. I consider myself still a student of tennis, and I'm always trying to learn something new, whatever it could be.

Q. Do you think the era of your big shots may be coming to an end. Do you see that as hyperbole, or do you think there may be something to that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't think my big shots are particularly coming to an end. (Laughter.) I mean, if anyone -- I don't care if anyone is serving 130 miles an hour there's only so much consistently you can hit that back. So I think it's a great thing to do, however, and I'm really motivated by her game.

Q. Your career mirrored Tiger Woods' career in so many ways the last 15 years or so. He always talks about the majors are the most important thing. Would you consider it an unsuccessful year if you don't get a Grand Slam?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Probably, yes. But there's always next year and the year after, so I don't necessarily -- you don't give up. You just keep going and you keep fighting to continue to win more.

Q. How is the school in Kenya going?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's going good. We just had a great update. We built a new building. It's been really, really amazing.

Q. Community service is something that you perform a lot. How important is that to you, and what are some memorable moments from serving that you remember over your career?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, it's important, you know, for me, I think, to give back. If I have had such a great opportunity to do well in what I do and been fortunate to have this, I feel like I can kind of give back or pay forward, so to say. For me, I think it's just really important.

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