Venus Williams Interview - French Open, May 26Posted on May 26, 2010
Q. You've been on tour long enough to have played somebody who uses two hands on both sides. Just talk about the experience and how you felt you played.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I thought the courts were playing slower than my first round, so definitely had to work the point a little more. She's scrappy, so she's going to throw up high balls, a slice, hit with some pace. I didn't know exactly what ball to expect.
Definitely kept me on my toes. Overall today I just thought I played you know, on the bigger points, especially on my serve, I thought I played those really well, and I think that was key.
Q. So have you gotten feedback on the dress? It looks like you're the sensation in Paris and worldwide now.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I guess you know, lace has never been done before in tennis, and I've been wanting to do it for a long time. So finally, you know, I've done lace. It's fun to wear, obviously.
For me, it's fun to design something that seems to be so successful.
Q. As you know, tennis is a kind of tough, very real world of rankings, breakpoints converted, first serve percentage, all that. Here and in Australia you've been talking about your attraction to illusion. Talk about illusion. Talk about illusion and fantasy in your life, and what does that mean to you?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I mean, I guess as far as my designs, a lot of it has been about the illusion of bareness. I mean, my last dress, the red one, the Can Can dress, it wasn't about illusion. It was just about the design. But in Australia and here it has been.
For me, it's just been pushing myself as a designer, too. I push myself on the court and off the court. So, yeah.
Q. What's the creative process? We've seen three very different dresses in three big tournaments. What's the creative process to come up with the designs?
VENUS WILLIAMS: First of all, I try to represent what I think my personality is on the court. That's the first part of it.
The second part is sometimes you just dream it up. Sometimes you can see a dress and say, Hey, I really like those slits, so let me put that in my tennis dress. Or I'm dying to do lace. How can we do that on the court and make it work?
Sometimes it's like, oh, here is the challenge. Sometimes it's like, oh, suddenly a bright idea. It's always different.
Q. This dress, the red one in Miami or the brown tone in Australia, which is your favorite if you had to pick one?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, my gosh. Probably maybe these last two because of the movement. I really liked the flounce on the end. And, you know, during the design process I'm nervous about, okay, is that going to move and get in the way of my racquet?
So when the dress comes and it doesn't, then I'm excited. I think these two, because it was a challenge but it worked.
Q. (Through French translation.) Well, talking about your dress, I discussed with the crowd. They watched you. They love it. They think it's very sexy and it's a bit of a change. When we ask the men what they feel about it, when the dress flies a little when you serve, there is a man who said, It's good for my imagination. Was that your objective?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, the whole that was never the objective. I mean, it all started in Australia with the slits, and it was about a I had a dress with really long slits in the front, and it was about wearing a dress that it looks like, oh, you have these slits with bareness.
So it has really the design has nothing to do with the rear. It just so happens that I have a very well developed one (laughter.)
It's all genetic. If you look at mom and dad, you'll see the same thing happening. If you look at my sister, you'll see the same thing. It's genetic.
But it's really about the illusion. Like you can wear lace, but what's the point of wearing lace when there's just black under. The illusion of just having bare skin is definitely for me a lot more beautiful.
So it's really not about anything else other than just that skin showing. So I'm glad that, you know, it's gotten good reviews. I mean, it could be worse.
Q. Some players have actually been fined I think for their outfits and so on. I wondered if there has been anybody here or at Australia who has talked to you and said, You need to cover up a little bit or talk about maybe you've pushed the envelope too far?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, I mean, I had no idea that it would, first of all, that it would match so well my skin. I had no idea. Like I said, I had no idea. So I just was going for the illusion of, in Australia, the slit. It went a whole other level to the point where I was getting calls from my publicist in the middle of the night.
I was like, well, the last time this happened there were rumors I was married. So what's going on? It's gone on to a whole other plane that I never was designing for.
Q. It became something where people were wondering for a while if you were wearing underwear at all. I wonder if you seen yourself from behind?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Serena showed me a picture from behind. At this point it's like the dress is here. This is what I'm wearing. You know, thankfully, like I said, everything is all fit.
Q. Obviously there has been a lot of response to your dress. I think about fashion, artists, musicians trying to provoke some sort of response. What response were you looking for? What would you like people to think?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Um, the first part is that I designed it for me. So for me it's how do I envision myself and what do I want to wear and what do I want to look like?
As far as how I might expect people to respond is more anything it's just different and unique. Because I feel like even in my game, style, attitude, personality, the way I approach my life is different and unique, so I feel my fashion style is also the same, especially lately.
Q. Can you talk about your book, Come to Win? What exactly is the project?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Come to Win is coming out next month, and it's really about how sport changes your life. I'm not sure if any of you have played sport in your life, but it makes a big difference.
We did a lot of interviews with a lot of great people, fashion designers, Vera Wang and politicians like Bill Clinton and Condoleezza Rice and how they started out in sports and how it made a huge difference in their life.
Obviously they didn't become professional athletes, but they became great people in their field. So how those lessons, the lessons that sport taught them, and how they even still apply at what they do now.
Q. You choose the people?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, obviously we had a wish list. Yeah, and I ended up doing interviews, and I was nervous.
But, you know, it came out really well, I think. Hopefully you'll like it.
Q. You and David have been together for four or five years now. Can you talk about what you look for in a hitting partner and why that relationship works and endures?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I mean, I hit with him quite a few years ago up in Jacksonville, Amelia Island tournament, and came back and played again. He just wanted to hit with Serena and I, and so it kind of became something permanent.
You know, obviously he is experienced as a player, so that definitely helps a lot. You know, sometimes he gives some pointers that really make a big difference. And, you know, at this level it's those little things that make a difference, those tiny adjustments that really do make a difference. He helps us out on the court in singles and in doubles, so...
Sometimes on the doubles court we're like, Okay, Dave told us to do this on the first point, so we better do it. He's really good at the game.
Q. Traveling with somebody so much, getting along so well, is he able to keep the balance between professional and personal? That's probably a fine line to walk.
VENUS WILLIAMS: We're all extremely professional. I'm sure you've noticed. All of us are a little bit different, so everyone has to be a little bit we laugh a lot at anything and everything, so he fits right in with that.
We just all have a good time off the court.
Q. On the first shock yesterday with Safina losing, were you able to watch the match? Any thoughts about it?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I didn't see it. No match is easy, especially on this surface. You know, she hasn't been playing a lot, but I'm sure that, you know, with time she'll just get her rhythm again.
Q. What about somebody coming back to the game after 12 years at the age of 39 and beating a former world No. 1, is that a cause for concern for the women's game, or is that something to celebrate?
VENUS WILLIAMS: She knows how to hit the ball. The other day I was saying to Serena, I said, That means we have to play until 39. (laughter.)
That's a hard, you know, steps to follow in. I mean, if you watch her play, she plays very well. It's a credit to her.
Q. Is Harold enjoying Paris, and what does he do when you're here at the tournament?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, right now he's in school with Mrs. Williams, his teacher, Serena Williams.
Q. What's he studying?
VENUS WILLIAMS: He doesn't learn a lot. He's disruptive to the class, but he has a crush on his teacher. It's strange. He does. You know, he just likes traveling. He's a good little guy.
Q. A question about your interaction with President Clinton: When you spoke to him, did you remind him about your conversation after the Open when you asked him to lower taxes? And how did he say sports influenced him?
VENUS WILLIAMS: You know, I was very young at the time, and bold, and I thought I could make a difference. But it turned out I couldn't.
But, no, I didn't remind him of that. I was just glad to have him on the phone. You know, people with such a busy schedule, you hope you can get 20 minutes. It ended up being like 45, so I was overjoyed.
He played rugby, and I think he played football at first, but rugby ended up being his better sport. I mean, to this day he still runs. Right now he's involved with childhood obesity and helping, you know, it keep kids healthy. That's his main cause at the moment.
Q. What did he say about tennis?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I guess it's not his top sport, but I guess he's watched me play a few times.
Q. Your serve is such a big part of your game. Seemed you were a little bit uncomfortable for a while. At least today. Is that true, with the toss?
VENUS WILLIAMS: It was windy. It's windy, and sometimes when it's windy, I tend to bring my toss lower, kind of subconscious. I don't want the wind to blow it. I just have to restart and throw it up right.
Just get it right and try to get a good one in.
Q. You have to play Cibulkova, who last year reached the semis here. Just kind of talk about that. She's been a little up and down the past year, she runs fast, keeps the ball low. So talk about your feelings and what you think you have to do.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, she played very well here last year. And, you know, to get to the third round of a Major is a good few steps into the tournament.
So basically I'll continue to try to execute my game and not worry really a ton about what my opponent is doing. I mean, nothing extremely special, so I'll figure it out.
Q. You've talked at Wimbledon the times you've won about getting the special feeling early. You lock in. It all goes well. Can that happen to you here? Has that ever happened to you here, where all of a sudden, within the first week, you're saying, I'm super comfortable now; I'm going to start executing and nothing is going wrong?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I mean, there are times when you feel really comfortable but you aren't playing well. There's always a different strategy not different strategy, but every time it's always different. It's never the same.
So I never try to achieve that sameness. I just try to learn from the experience that I'm having at that moment.
Q. You're among the players who tend to scream a little bit on court. Is there a meaning to that? I mean, does it give you energy, or is it more like a weapon against the opponent?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I started because Monica Seles was my favorite player when I was 10. So I started grunting, and that was 20 years ago. I haven't stopped.
I blame Monica.