Here’s the complete interview transcript of the Serena Williams Interview which took place after she won the US Open 2013 Championship final match. The top-ranked player defeated Victoria Azarenka in a replay of last year’s final in New York. Serena Williams received $3.6 million for the win, a record in tennis history. Source (US Open)
Q. Can you just talk about the bout of nerves when you served for the match twice in that second set?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think I got a little uptight, which probably wasn’t the best thing at that moment. I started to try to I wasn’t playing very smart tennis then, so I just had to relax and not do that again. But I did it again. I don’t know.
Q. Beginning of the tournament, any pressure on you to defend your title?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, there’s always pressure to defend your title. I didn’t feel a lot of pressure, but I knew I wanted to win. But I think, you know, losing a match before I got to the Open actually took a little bit of the pressure that was on me off of me, so it made it a little better.
Q. It’s obvious that winning Grand Slams, they’re all special experiences. But to win it having to sort of face that adversity that you did in the second set, overcome whatever hiccups were there and come back and win dominantly like that in the third, do you relish it all the more to have done it that way?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think at that point just getting the win under your belt is awesome. I obviously would have preferred to close it out in straight sets. But going against a great opponent like Victoria, you have to be able to realize that that can happen, and, you know, you have to keep fighting for everything.
Q. What are your thoughts on the milestones that are ahead of you in terms of majors, including Steffi Graf’s 22, given that you’re only almost 32 years old?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I don’t think about it. I always said recently like age for me is I feel great. I have never felt better. I feel really fit. I can play a tournament like this, singles, doubles, with tough, tough schedules. For the most part, I felt really good. You know, I haven’t felt like this in a number of years. I’m excited about the possibilities. I don’t know what can happen. I just keep playing and do the best that I can.
Q. How does the way you’re playing right now compare with any other time in your career? SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I think I played pretty solid in the tournament. You know, today wasn’t probably my best tennis of the tournament, but it was a lot of things going on going against a good player. But it was good just to get through that. Q. You have been so dominant this year. Did you feel like you kind of needed a second Grand Slam title?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Absolutely. Absolutely. I felt almost disappointed with my year, to be honest. I felt like, yeah, I won the French Open, but I wasn’t happy with my performances in the other two slams, and, you know, not even making it to the quarterfinals of one. So I definitely feel a lot better with at least a second Grand Slam under my belt this year.
Q. Earlier this week Victoria was talking about her X Factor. Help us out. What’s Serena’s X Factor? What makes you so special as a champion on court?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don’t know. I can’t talk about that myself. I think that’s a better question for someone else to answer. I don’t know what makes me special. I consider myself just like everyone else. I just play.
Q. What was it like to meet President Clinton?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I have met him several times. Kind of we reminisced about when I was a teenager and how he first saw me then coming to the White House and several times at the US Open. So it was interesting, because we actually have a history. That’s kind of unique to have a history with a former president of the United States of America.
Q. After the second set, what was your game plan or mentality going into the third?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I thought, you know, I have to stay positive. It was very easy to get down. I didn’t want to get down on myself. I wanted to be a little strict with myself so I could play better. I wanted to do different things and try to have a better performance.
Q. Everyone talks about Crissy and Martina’s numbers and Steffi and whatnot. You also just tied Federer, someone in your era. Does that mean anything to you? And did you ever think about changing your dress? In the wind seemed to be causing you some problems.
SERENA WILLIAMS: It’s an honor to be even with Roger. He’s been such a great champion throughout the years, and he’s just an unbelievable competitor and he’s still playing still, and he can probably still win more. So it feels really good to be, you know, in that same league as him. He’s just been so incredibly consistent, so we have had really different careers. Then to be compared with Crissy and Martina, not yet, because I’m still not quite there yet. I can’t necessarily compare myself to them, because, you know, numbers wise they’re still greater. No, I didn’t think about changing. Not at all.
Q. How much were you bothered by the wind out there? And also, what do you think for you was the key in the third set?
SERENA WILLIAMS: The wind was unbelievable today. It just got worse and worse. It just never let up. But at this point you have to be able to play under any circumstances. It wasn’t very easy. I think I made a lot of errors because of that. But, you know, maybe I could have done I definitely could have moved my feet better or gotten into position better, which I didn’t do at all. Next time I’ll have to remember that, you know, I just have to move more in order to adjust better.
Q. What was particularly unique about this Grand Slam journey?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don’t know. I just felt so good playing the doubles. I felt like it really was able to help me a lot in my singles matches. I was so focused these two and a half, three weeks really. I have just been so focused and so, you know, just really kind of crazy where I’m not losing I’m never leaving my room and just really trying to stay in the zone and stay in the spirit. What’s unique is just the fact of finally reaching No. 5 at the Open, so that’s pretty cool.
Q. Getting back to your strategy, your game plan for that third set, it appeared that you were deliberately taking some pace off the ball, making her generate the pace, substantially cutting down your unforced errors. Was that part of it, or was I just seeing something that wasn’t quite there?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Definitely something you saw. I definitely didn’t try to hit softer, but maybe I did. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but I tried to make less errors. I thought, This is outrageous that I’m still out here, because I had a great opportunity to win already. So I thought, You know what? I just have to relax, calm down, and play smarter tennis. The whole match I wasn’t playing smart, and I needed to play better.
Q. I asked her that question, and she sensed you were taking some pace down, cutting down your unforced errors, and she said she didn’t see that.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. So maybe I didn’t.
Q. You and I saw it.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, you was out there, so you saw what you saw. I know that’s right.
Q. Don’t you think I was out there with you, too?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yes, I do (laughter).
Q. They were playing Party Like It’s 1999 on the sound system after you won. I’m curious if you could describe the difference between winning tonight and winning in 1999 as a 17 year old, what you learned through that whole process.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Gosh, it was amazing winning like at 17. It was just a great feeling. For whatever reason, I never thought I was going to lose that year. I just knew I was going to win it. The difference is it hasn’t settled in yet. I think because I was up so much in the second, and, you know, I didn’t quite take my opportunities, I feel I’m thinking still about what I could have done better and why I didn’t do that. So when I was 17 I remember I took my opportunity right then and there, and I made some shots and I wasn’t making as many errors. It was great. But, you know, being older, it’s always awesome and such a great honor, because I don’t know if I’ll ever win another Grand Slam. Obviously I hope so. I say that every time I win one. But, you know, I’m really excited about this.
Q. Which is basically the same question I was going to ask. You mentioned going to see Clinton, and that would have been towards the end of his presidency, around the time you won this the first time. Your appreciation for winning a Grand Slam, is it greater now than it was back at that time of your life?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It’s different now, because when I won earlier it was just one or two or three or four. Now it’s like sixteen, seventeen. You know, it has more meaning into history as opposed to just winning a few. It definitely has a different feeling.
Q. Going back to 1999, hypothetical question: If a 17 year old Serena Williams played a 31 year old Serena Williams, who would win it and why?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t know. I have been looking at film when I was 17. I remember I played Steffi Graf in Indian Wells, and, gosh, I was good (laughter). I was really I had no idea. I came to the net, and I’m like, Me? I had volleys. I was like, I hit volleys? Yeah, so, I mean, I don’t know. Both of us are fighters. We both never give up. So it would be interesting to see.
Q. A few moments ago, Victoria said when two great champions meet the one who is more brave will prevail. If you could talk about that desire you had and the intensity with an opponent like Victoria, what it takes to get over the top.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t necessarily think I was more brave than Victoria was tonight. I felt she went for broke a lot. She changed her game and she kept going and doing the right things. But I think, you know, I just pulled myself together and just started playing tennis that I know I can play.
Q. When you’re presented with the types of checks that you were tonight, what sense do you have of how much money you have earned in your career and what meaning does it have for you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I never, never, in my life have picked up a check. I don’t play tennis for the money. I honestly love to play. I love Grand Slams. When I grew up playing tennis in Compton, I just never thought about any of this. I didn’t think about the press. I didn’t think about I didn’t even know all this came with everything. I think my dad got me into tennis because of the money, but me being naive and silly, I never thought about it. I just thought, I want to win. I wanted to do what Venus does. I want to win and I want to do more and I want to do more. To this day I have never ever picked up a check in my life. I remember back in the day before wiring they used to mail it because I just would forget it. So, yeah, I didn’t pick it up tonight. I’m just really more happy about the opportunity that I had because of my sister, because of Billie Jean King, because of so many pioneers to have an opportunity to win some money like this. But for me, I play for the love of tennis.
Q. Do you have a sense of what your career earnings are?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, someone told me today I passed 50, but half of that goes to my Uncle Sam (laughter). I love him. I’m always giving him half my money.
Q. During the tiebreaker when you were changing sides, you really slowed down, took small steps. You were almost meditative in a way. What was going through your mind? What were you reflecting on?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I tried to get myself to cut down, and I said, Serena, you just played a good point. You can do this. You just have to play better. That didn’t work.
Q. You’re a pretty emotional person. Can you just talk about the range of emotions you go through on court, celebrating, yelling, what you’re talking about when you seem super calm? It seems like you’re trying to be real quiet.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I just think sometimes when I say, Come on too much, I get out of breath actually. So I really try to pace myself in terms of that. I try to keep everything to a minimum, but not always I do have to be me, too. I do say, Come on a lot. Since I can remember. I’m pumped up on the court a lot. And also, I realize that if I’m not doing that I don’t tend to do as well either. I just have find a happy medium.
Q. Do you think there will ever come a time when the USTA will permit a coach to come down and calm you down for a moment in the game? Do you think there will ever come a time when a coach can come down maybe one time during the course of a match?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, they have that in regular tournaments, just not in Grand Slams. As for me, I don’t want anyone out there on the court with me. It’s my moment. I grew up when tennis was just about you. I’m going to leave the sport with it just being about me.
Q. Any specific goals you have for yourself for this year?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I still have some goals left. I don’t really talk about my goals, but I’m glad to win the US Open this year.
Q. How long do you savor a slam victory before you kind of shift your thinking to the next match? Do you enjoy it for a while, or is it like…
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t know. I’m already thinking about what I could have done better. I think I’m a little crazy in that part, like something must be not right because I don’t even relish the moment enough. I just automatically think, What’s next?
Q. When the nerves come, is there any element that maybe as a 31-year-old player you realize how special the opportunity is and maybe you’re more nervous than you would have been ten years ago?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, maybe. You know, when you’re always trying to write history, or join history in my case, maybe you just get a little more nervous than you should. I also think it’s kind of cool because it means that it means a lot to you. It means a lot to me, this trophy, and every single trophy that I have. It makes me feel that I’m still fighting just to be a part of this fabulous sport.
Q. Clinton said tonight that your greatest quality was that you never give up. Do you think that’s true? Could you talk about that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. I don’t. I just keep trying and I keep fighting. I have that spirit just to keep going.
Q. The journey from the 17 years old Serena winning the 17th single Grand Slam is long journey. How do you see looking back, how much you sacrifice 14 years ago winning a Grand Slam? Because you are an insider. You experience everything on the court. How much you have to sacrifice for this moment?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t see it as a sacrifice for me. I see it as an opportunity to be here and to do the best that you can. I mean, maybe I didn’t hang out with people or go out as a kid, maybe I didn’t experience that, but I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. I feel it’s more of an opportunity that I have had. You know, I was given an opportunity where I could play tennis and I could be good at it. Maybe, for me, it wasn’t a sacrifice.
Q. Can you just say a couple words about each member of your team who are here I think tonight? All your sisters were here? Jill is here; Sascha is here; Patrick is here; your physio is here. Looks like they’re all packed in. Just a word or two about each of them.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I can’t about each of them, but in general, they all really love me. You know, they all want to see me do great. That’s everybody: my mom, my sisters, coach, everyone. And they get just as nervous I think as I do. They believe in me even more than I do. That’s a great feeling.
Q. You have now won US Open, Wimbledon, Australia each five times each. How do you sort of compare your road to those three tournaments? Are you surprised this one is sort of on level with those? Is this one that was sort of lagging behind?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. You know, I have been to finals the last three years here, and that’s been really kind of cool. You know, I never thought I would win Australia five times. That’s been really cool. Wimbledon is a little different. But, you know, this one I never seem to have won a lot before. Now I’m like, yes, I can finally say I have won this one a few times, too. Overall, it feels really good to have those multiple titles in each of those three, actually.
Q. Does something click for you here?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think I just got better with the conditions here. Obviously the weather changed, but I just had to readjust and get used to it. It’s not easy. This is one of the toughest ones because it’s so windy down there.
Q. Wondering if you were following the men’s side and if you have any predictions for tomorrow.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I have been following really closely. I definitely want to watch tomorrow. It’s tough to say. You know, it’s tough to say anything against Nadal because he’s been doing so well and he’s lost like never this year (laughter). Djokovic this is his fourth time in the final, and he has a good record against Rafael. It’s going to be an interesting match.
Q. Great couple of weeks you have had here at the US Open. I’m wondering from a different perspective, as a woman, I think sometimes we are kind of conditioned to sort of hide our age or maybe lie about our age. You have been so successful for so long. Do you feel weird or have any feelings towards when people reference you as sort of one of the older players or one of the veterans? And what do you see for yourself in the next couple of years as well, still playing phenomenal tennis as you have described yourself?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I feel great. I’m happy that I’m first of all able to get to this age. A lot of people don’t make it this far in our world and our society. So it’s an honor. God willing, I will be 32 soon. I embrace it. I think it’s awesome. There is a whole new level of sport. Technology and things are different. You can continue to play for so many years and be successful for so many years. I have won this tournament over three decades, ’90s, the 2000s, and this one. You can only do that when you’re younger and older, so I’m happy that I have had this opportunity.
Q. I know you said you couldn’t talk about all the family members and what they tell you, but your sister, Venus, how much of a contribution does she continue to make? What does she talk to you about before you go out to play? How do you share things about careers? She’s been there. That’s a real advantage.
SERENA WILLIAMS: She’s been really great. She’s so positive in the box. Out of every voice, I single hers out. Often hers is the only one I hear. I don’t know why. I can just hear her being so positive and so that’s really, really good for me, because I tend to be hard on myself and I can get negative at times. And so, you know, just to hear her always out there and always supporting no matter what, it’s such a great feeling. Again, my career wouldn’t be what it is without her, because every time when she was growing up and playing, you know, every time she lost I lost. So I felt like I was able to mature so much faster because I saw her going through those wins and going through those losses, and so I didn’t have to have those same losses and I was able to develop faster. It was just a great opportunity for me.
Q. You have played a lot of tournaments this year, especially in the past few months. But the season hasn’t been finished yet. Do you think you will be physically okay to play Asian season coming up?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. I actually look forward to it. Venus and I actually look forward to playing. “Veerena” is coming back. We are excited to play doubles there. And we want to get some more practice. We haven’t practiced enough this year. So that’s all we have been talking about, so it will be fun.