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Serena Williams pre-Wimbledon

Sunday 23 June 2013

Serena Williams gives her pre-Wimbledon press conference.

Q. Here you are the defending champion. Are you under time pressure that you must reach the final, you must lift the trophy?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think everyone in here that knows me knows that that's kind of how I feel.

Unfortunately. I wish I didn't feel that way, but it's definitely I must and I want to, but I don't have to. I think that's the most important thing I can take from this, is I don't have to, but I definitely want to.

Q. You want to win and want to reach the finals?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yes. I think that's everyone's dream. It's definitely my dream, to reach the finals.

First, it would be a good thing for me, and go from there.

Q. You are playing Mandy Minella on Tuesday. Can you tell us how well you know her?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm not really familiar with her game as well as I would like to be. That's one thing I do enjoy about playing new players. It's always an opportunity to see a new face, to have a lot of experience.

Q. If you defend your title this year, you would surpass your sister Venus. Is there any family competition? Does that mean anything?

SERENA WILLIAMS: For me there is no family competition, but this is the first year I believe I've played Wimbledon and Venus hasn't been here. I'm not sure. Yeah, that's true.

So I feel so lonely. I feel like something is missing. So I talk to her all the time - more than usual. We stay together and I'm still staying in the small room because she always had the bigger room. I just can't imagine being in the bigger room.

So she told me before I left, she said, Snap out of it. It's time for you to pass me. So that was really encouraging. So hopefully I'll be able to do it.

Q. Yesterday Maria Sharapova made some pointed comments about your personal life, particularly regarding the divorce of your boyfriend. I wonder how you felt about her bringing it up and whether you want to say anything in response?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I definitely was told of the comments. I definitely like to keep my personal life personal. I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on it.

But, yeah, I've always, in the past - you guys have known - I've kept my personal and professional life very private. I'm going to continue to do that.

Q. Has it been tough dealing with the fall-out of that particular interview in the last week leading up to such a big tournament?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Uhm, it definitely hasn't been easy. And I feel like I really wanted to say, I apologize for everything that was said in that article. I feel like, you know, you say things without having all the information. It's really important before you make certain comments to have a full list, have all the information, all the facts.

I reached out to the family immediately once the article came out, and I had a really productive, sincere conversation with the mother and the daughter. We came to a wonderful understanding, and we're constantly in contact.

Q. What was your reasoning behind doing such a big interview coming up to Wimbledon? Do you regret after all this fall-out doing that interview?

SERENA WILLIAMS: The interview was done a long, long, long time ago. I want to say in February. I think everyone definitely has different regrets in different forms.

For me, I take full responsibility. Like I said, I definitely wanted to apologize to the family. They've been through so much. In talking to them and learning the whole story, you just learn how strong the young girl is, how strong she's been able to make me through this process, which I think is incredible.

I really take pride. I'm glad that I've got a chance to get to know the family.

Q. You said that the comments about the Steubenville matter were not exactly what you wanted out there. Can you describe your thoughts about what was out there in the column about Sharapova, or at least was inferred about Sharapova?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, when the article came out I immediately reached out. One of the first things I did was reach out to the family. Not only that, I made it a point to reach out to Maria, as well, because she was inadvertently brought into the situation by assumptions made by the reporter.

I personally talked to Maria at the player party, incidentally. I said, Look, I want to personally apologize to you if you are offended by being brought into my situation. I want to take this moment to just pour myself, be open, say I'm very sorry for this whole situation.

Q. What are your thoughts about what's taken place since, given that apology you made?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't really have thoughts. I think it's important what I've learned this week, mostly that it's so important to know all the facts before you make a comment or before you make an assumption.

That's something I'm still learning. I'm still every day learning and experiencing and trying to grow. I feel like, until you know the facts, that's all you can do.

Q. What did you make of the Rolling Stone article on the whole? There's a whole lot in there. When you're reading it, what did you think about it?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I thought that the article was interesting, for lack of a better word. I think we all may know deep, you know. But it was what it was.

I think, you know, I've been spoiled dealing with professionalism here in the tennis world. I'm used to dealing with professional reporters. I have people come to my home. I have great conversations.

I'm used to dealing with these people not writing or commenting on a private conversation that I may have or kind of listening in or eavesdropping and then reporting on it. You guys have completely spoiled me.

With that being said, I've been in the business for a little over 200 years, so I should definitely, definitely know better (laughter). I should know better to always have my guard up.

Fortunately, as you've seen throughout the years, I've completely let my guard down with you all. I definitely want to continue to do that because I really, you know, appreciate you reporters.

I just want to keep that going.

Q. Bringing it back to tennis, how is big sister doing? How disappointed are you that she's not here?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's incredibly disappointing. Like I said, it's like a little cloud. I feel every time I walk into the home I'm like a little sad. Like I look in her room. She always had music in the morning. We kind of always dance in the morning.

She's definitely really missed.

Q. She's getting better?

SERENA WILLIAMS: She's getting better. I talked to her yesterday, and she was saying that she's doing a different type of rehab. I was really excited to hear that because it means that she's found maybe the root of the problem.

Q. It means you're not playing doubles this year.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I know. And we're defending champions in doubles, so, yeah, I'm really bummed out about it.

Q. You've always had strong opinions and you've always stood behind what you said. Why did you feel like you had to apologize to Maria?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I feel like Maria, unfortunately, was inadvertently brought into a situation she should have never been brought into?

Q. By you or by the reporter?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I just feel like she was brought into the situation, inadvertently, a situation she never should have been brought into.

For me always, I definitely stand up, but I'm the first person to apologize. I'm the first person to reach out to individuals and people if I feel that something may have hurt them or something may have been misconstrued.

So, yeah.

Q. So when you read the interview, did you say, Oh, no, I can't believe I said that about the top five player?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, about the top five player?

Q. Yeah.

SERENA WILLIAMS: I feel like what happened, if you read the interview, I was involved in a private conversation that he even wrote in the article that he said he was listening to. I take full blame and responsibility for that because I've been in the business for years and years and I should always in a way have my guard up.

It was also, I think, personally a little inappropriate to comment or report. I've never had that problem with anyone in this room, to report on a private conversation.

Q. Will you look forward to a rematch of the French Open final here with a little more interest?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Absolutely. I think Maria and I have great matches. I think it's great for women's tennis when we play each other. The same when Venus and I play each other, or me and Victoria. When we're in the final, it's a really, really good matchup.

I think we both have so much intensity on the court, and we just really love the game.

Q. People would want to see that this year?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think everyone would. Well, not everyone. There's a couple people on the other side of the draw that would be like, No, I want it to be me.

For the most part, I think it will be a great final. I hope to be there. There's no guarantee that I'll be there. But I'm definitely hoping that I can play and win seven matches.

To finish your question, Matt, I have the most respect for Maria on and off the court. That's another reason why, being a woman, I wanted to reach out to her and say, Look, this is this, this is this, sorry.

Q. Did you tell her it wasn't you or did you just say, I'm sorry I said this about you?

SERENA WILLIAMS: What I told her was -- I never told her it wasn't me, quite frankly, no.

Q. On the same note, did she accept that apology or walk away?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, we always have great conversations, so I believe that she definitely did accept it.

Q. In view of that, are you disturbed by her reaction to your obviously genuine apology, that she came in here and said what she said about matters that you would like to keep private and personal?

SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I'm not really gonna comment on that, whether I'm disturbed or not. I know she also said that I should definitely focus on the tennis here, and I feel like that is another thing I can definitely take her advice on.

Maybe I wasn't focused enough in the past on tennis. I'm definitely going to try to focus on that for the next two weeks.

Q. What does your coach mean to you personally and professionally?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, Patrick, he means a lot to me. I was just talking to him randomly a couple days ago, and I said, Wow, in a year we've won three Grand Slams, two gold medals, a Championships. And he said, You've won 77-3. I said, Really? He's like, That's pretty good. I said, No, it could be better.

I appreciate that we can definitely continue to motivate each other. With that being said, when I'm at home, I always work with my father. My father still is completely 100% involved in my tennis. I do a lot of things with him, as well.

Q. How are you a different person because of that alliance, would you say?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Uhm, I would say that I am definitely more, if possible, an intense person. But I think the intensity being all towards the game, like all towards when I play, all towards hitting the ball.

So I think I take more pride into every stroke, into every tournament that I play, into every match that I play, and I think that's one big change that has happened in my career.

Q. You're on one of the greatest runs in history. It's like no other player can touch you right now. Do you feel like, between Sloane Stephens' comments earlier and Maria's comments, that they're trying to attack you mentally because they can't touch you on the court?

SERENA WILLIAMS: That can be one way to look at it. I don't think about that, however. I just think about -- when I'm on the court I just play my match. I do the best that I can. If I happen to lose, then, you know, I go home and I try to work harder.

I see a lot of people on this tour that does the same thing. When they lose, they go and work harder and they improve. That's what sport is all about and that's what I try to do, as well.

Q. All these stories about you and Maria, do you think they create problems or they're not so important? Or do you think they're important just for the media? And the reactions of the people who normally don't care about tennis, do you think that helps or is bad for the tennis? Doesn't make any change?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I feel like it definitely brings attention to tennis; however, I've always been a tennis player. I have a fashion business. Yeah, I do other things.

There's one thing I'm really good at, and that's hitting the ball over a net in a box. I'm excellent on that. And that's what I'm going to continue to do while I can.

Q. You haven't played competitively since the French Open.

SERENA WILLIAMS: That was two weeks ago (laughter).

Q. How do you make that difficult transition from clay to grass? What have you been doing in the interim to prepare?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, growing up, I saw how Andre Agassi always practiced on hard court, so all my career I've done what he did: I practice on hard court. In preparation for the grass, I just play on hard.

I mean, I've played maybe one or two grass court events in my career before, but I feel like it worked for him that time. It was such an amazing run. It was so great for American tennis. I was so inspired. I felt like I wanted to do what he did.

It's worked for me; Venus did the same thing. It's worked for her. I think it's pretty good.

Q. You mentioned your 77-3 record since you started with Patrick. How much of the credit do you think he deserves for that?

SERENA WILLIAMS: He deserves a lot of credit. We work together as a team. It's not just him. My dad was onboard for some of those wins. Sasha, Esther, they're onboard for every single one of those wins. My mom is, as well.

So it's a team effort. You see the tennis player. You see me sitting here talking to you all. Really it should be me, my dad, my mom, Patrick. Jill is looking at me, so it should be Jill.

You never really realize the complete effort that goes into making one champion.

I feel really, really fortunate to have not only Patrick, who I think does a great job with coaching me, but as well as the team.

Q. Talk about last year coming into this tournament and this year coming into this tournament, the difference in how you feel mentally, physically, emotionally, all of it.

SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, last year I felt good, awesome. I had no pressure. I lost fairly early the year before. You know, no one put me as the top to win.

So for me, when I'm going into a tournament and I'm always, like, not the favorite, it always feels good.

Unfortunately, that's not so often.

This year, it's definitely a little more pressure being the favorite. But, you know, as Billie Jean King said in inspiration from the WTA, 40 years, Pressure's a privilege, and I take it as a privilege.

Thank you, guys.

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