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An Interview With: Venus Williams

Monday, August 25, 2014

Q. Is that one match where you can feel like you're the youngster out there?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, right? Definitely I was younger today (smiling). But when you step out on the court, I don't think anybody thinks about age. Because if you're out on this tour it means you deserve to be here. You've got the skill. It must mean you know how to play. So at that point she has the number, as they say.

Q. How did you feel out there? Obviously got off to a bit of a tough start, but you really fought your way back.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, definitely. Not the ideal start, but she's a tricky player. I think she started coming up with some really good shots off my serve. I think I just wasn't able to convert enough holds. She just goes for runs, and I give her a lot of credit for winning the first set and really making it extremely challenging.

Q. You had another adversary out there in the flying form. What about that?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, she has so much class she didn't swat it. So once it was my turn, then I think I would have been remiss to swat it myself. Kind of came up with a strategy to hopefully, you know, follow her example in that. Just let the fly land on the racquet and in the towel. I guess he's on his way now.

Q. Is there something nerve-wracking about playing the first match? In gambling terms the opponent is playing with the house's money. They can afford to be loose and have fun, where the main player is the one the pressure is all on. You have done enough of these matches at these slams.

VENUS WILLIAMS: As they say, it's easy to watch a match. It's easy to watch and do everything, but when you get out there it's not always easy. Pressure, as I think Billie Jean King says, is a privilege. But a lot is mental. At the end of the day it's all the pressure you put on yourself. So, yeah, everybody is putting pressure on theirselves in this tournament. It's the last major of the year. It's prestigious. At the end of the day you have to find a way to just get out there and put it in.

Q. Speaking of pressure, you have your clothing line, EleVen. Now you've ventured into interior design. What do you like best? Do you like doing that? Do you like doing that for celebrities?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, both are serious businesses for me. I have been doing interior design for a decade now, and fashion with EleVen since recently, for quite a few years, as well. It's a lot of work. I love it, and I love a challenge.

Q. When you play in a match like this which takes such a toll in this heat and more than two hours, is it a cumulative thing? Do you worry that this will follow you as the tournament goes along and play doubles? You play all these matches, is that a problem?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, that's always a risk, but what can you do? You just live another day. Live to fight another day, as they say.

Q. Would you ever consider dropping the doubles?

VENUS WILLIAMS: No. I don't think that's wise, because the doubles is a title. When they say your name and they say so-and-so has X number of titles, guess what? Those doubles ones feel real good. For me the doubles is very serious. It's not, oh, let's play for fun. Those are Grand Slam titles that I am trying to win. So I never would withdraw from a Grand Slam competition, singles or doubles, lightheartedly.

Q. Today is Althea Gibson's birthday. How has she inspired you during your career, and what did it mean for you to be out there on Arthur Ashe stadium on her birthday?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, what she accomplished is something no one else did, to be not only the best player in the world during that time where she had no support and in a time when it was hard to feel good about yourself because who you were was something that was considered inferior. So that was very difficult. I can't imagine how she felt. She did it with class and she did it with grace. I'm very fortunate not to have had to play under those circumstances. I have had an opportunity to play well and be myself, and because of her, I'm really proud of who I am. Really, what she has done, you know, goes beyond words.

Q. What role do you think you and your sister have played in terms of diversity throughout the course of your career?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Serena and I played in a different time. I think we played in a different time where you're able to have opportunities. And people love to be on the side of a winner, so, you know, the things that everyone did, women's rights, civil rights, all of those things are a different time, thank God. I'm not saying it's a perfect time, but it is a different time. So, yes, I think that Serena and I influenced lots of young people, lots of African-Americans, hopefully all kinds of people all around the world, to live a better life through sports or even if they never played.

Q. You have had this incredible year, an incredible career that spanned a great deal of time. All the great Championships, the doubles, playing with your sister, role model, pioneer in terms of equal money, overcoming a sickness. What's been the best part over the years of being Venus Williams?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think the best part has just been having the support and the love of my family. My family member is here, Aisha. That has been crucial. You can have an unbelievable career, but your life outside of your career can be just awful. So for me to be able to have success is what I do, but it's not who I am. And to have a great family behind me and a sister on tour, for me that's the best part.

Q. Do you ever think, Gee, my father was kind of special? He planned it after he saw a match on TV and exactly how he planned with his long guidelines and it just came true. Does that ever strike you as totally amazing?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yes (smiling). He's an unbelievable guy, and I couldn't thank him more for what he did for our whole family and just giving us an opportunity to play tennis.

Q. Is he unbelievable because he also seemed to have a knowing of when to step back a little bit? That you were older and not be like smothering you girls, which a lot of the parents around here don't seem to...

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, thankfully our parents raised us to make our own decisions. Thankfully. And thank God they understood how to protect us when we were younger, but also how to let us also grow at the same time. So I'm sure that's tricky. I haven't been a parent, but it has to be tricky to try to protect your kids from the world, try to make the right decisions for them, but also let them move on. So really it was just a perfect combination.

Q. Do you ever feel old out there?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Not yet (smiling).

Q. You're aware you're 34. It's not unique to you. But a lot of people, Why is she still here or whatever? When is she going to retire? Then with the syndrome a little bit, like, Why does she keep playing? You have a year like this - you won Dubai; final in Canada - is it like an I-told-you-so moment? Like why are you trying to push me out the door?

VENUS WILLIAMS: No, I don't even they think about it anymore. According to Kimiko I have another decade. She set the prime example. She's top 100 and no one can beat her easily. Yeah, she's breaking the mold.

Q. Do you laugh a bit? I remember you girls saying, I don't even think we'll be here at 25. Here you are still wanting to play at 34.

VENUS WILLIAMS: When you're 16, 25 is a few decades away (laughter). Now 25 is literally a decade behind me. But I'm going to stay as long as I'm playing well and as long as there is an opportunity, as long as I want to be here. As long as I'm here it's because I want to.

Q. Are you a free agent when it comes to endorsements? No Nike swoosh. Normally we see that.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I throw that EleVen out there.

Q. You have won here and other places. When you come here, you know the atmosphere. You have to get mentally ready for the airplanes and the noise and everything, or can you just play your game?

VENUS WILLIAMS: It's definitely different. I mean, also there is amazing moments, too, when the crowd is screaming, it's 4-All in the third, and then the silence comes. But also there is the hospitality and then there is the airplanes and the wind is constantly swirling. The court is massive. So somewhere between there you have to center yourself.

Q. The three-setters this summer, do you think you have gotten better since your diagnosis?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I was feeling better this summer and I had some better results. I never want to play three-setters. It's not in the plan. Somehow I ended up in these matches. I would like to think the more I play the better I'll get at closing it out.

Q. How do you feel coming into this tournament with the good results that you've been having? Do you feel better this year than you have, say, in the last several in terms of the chances to go deep or contend for the title?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Honestly, I have won slams where I didn't feel like I was playing my best. I have won when I felt like I wasn't prepared. I felt like I lost when I thought I was playing amazing. You can't ever tell what exactly it's going to take. If I would tell you every win that I have had, it took something a little bit different to win that tournament. So unfortunately there is no magic formula besides you better play really well and you better figure it out somehow. That's my whole thing, is like I don't know what's gonna happen, but I've got to figure out how I'm going to play well.

Q. You and your sister came in as the top two ranked Americans again. What are your thoughts on the young Americans on the tour?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think we have some good Americans. I think there was an American on before me. I think she was American. I haven't heard of her. But she was playing well. That's nice. We even had Jamie Hamilton as well, who is out on injury. But she's playing well. Of course I'm always rooting for great American tennis. I'm pretty biased on that.

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