FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY - Samantha Stosur, Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic held Pre-Tournament news conferences at the US Open on Saturday.
Serena photo © Enrique Fernandez for Tennis Panorama
Q. A lot was made of the Olympics about your joyous celebration. Do you think the media made too much about it and we might see some choreography here in Queen’s next two weeks?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t know. I read zero press. That was been my policy since I was 17. I don’t know what was made too much or whether it was too little.
I think winning the Olympics was awesome for me and for the USA. I’m still kind of in the Olympic moment. I love the Olympics. You know, I was just so proud of the final tally of gold medals that I contributed to. It was really awesome.
Q. Going back to the first question that was asked, you of all people know that the Crip walk is not just a dance. I was wondering, do you have any regrets doing it in front of everyone?
SERENA WILLIAMS: First of all, it was just a dance. I didn’t know that’s what it was called. Second, why are you asking me that? Like that’s so ‑‑ I mean, if anything you should be trying to ask me questions to lift me up not bring such things.
Q. It was just the fact…
SERENA WILLIAMS: I’m done with that question.
Q. You didn’t say the name of it.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
Q. I think last year was kind of Samantha who for a lot of tennis fans. Do you think this year it shows that 2011 was not a fluke?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Yeah, sure, but I think even if I don’t win the tournament I don’t think it was a fluke anyway. It was one of those things of course you want to come back and do just as well as the year before.
I have been trying hard and training well, and really looking forward to this year’s tournament, as well.
Q. What has Kim Clijsters mean to the tour, and what are your thoughts about her ending her career at this time?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Well, I mean, I think it’s going to be a loss for the tour, and she’s obviously been a great player and a great champion and great role model to a lot of people, you know, out here on tour and probably, you know, all the kids playing at home.
Q. You mentioned Serena and then some of the other greats who were around when you started your career. Where do you rate Serena in terms of her talent and her accomplishments?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I mean, to me Serena is the best ever just because I think physically she just stands out. When she’s in good shape I think she just stands out tremendously. I mean, you know, she’s fast, she’s strong, she has a very good eye, as well. I think the combination of that is ‑‑ I mean, what we have seen over the last few months is the best player ever.
Q. What has she shown you by her ability to come back from life‑threatening illness to where she is today?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I mean, every day there is people that inspire me just by whether it’s, you know, seeing a mother on TV or seeing ‑‑ reading a story in the paper. Serena’s is one of those, as well, what she’s been through. Not just with, you know, the health problems, but dealing with the loss of their sister and all those kinds of things.
It’s not just one thing. We sit here and do our press conferences, but we have a personal life, too. That’s something that’s maybe not always ‑‑ you know, on the court everything always looks great and perfect, but it’s not always that way.
I think it’s great to have, you know, big names like that and open up about it and be role models, as well.
Q. When you think about Venus and what she’s been through, she’s had injuries and the latest illness, why do you think she can continue to play?
KIM CLIJSTERS: I don’t know. I mean, like I said, tennis, you know, has been for so long the only part of our lives almost. Okay, we traveled with our family and so did they. We have been playing since we were four or five years old. In a way we almost don’t know any differently.
You know, I think in my case it’s easy. You know, when I retire I go home and I have my family. But, you know, it’s something that’s probably ahead for all the girls that are going to retire at some point in their career.
It’s a feeling that you need to have in the inside if you still want to keep going and you want to have more of those adrenaline rushes. Everybody is individual. You know, I just know for me the time is right.
Venus Williams photo © Enrique Fernandez for Tennis Panorama
Q. Kim Clijsters was in a moment or two ago. She said when your sister, Serena, is at the peak of her form and in good shape that she regards her as the best player ever. I just wonder, what are your thoughts on that? Is it possible for you to detach yourself and make a verdict?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, she’s amazing. I think when she’s playing great and feeling confident ‑ even when she isn’t ‑ it still takes a hurricane to beat her. You have to be on your best tennis and basically make no errors. I think her record speaks for what an amazing player she is.
Q. I was walking here from Citi Field, and I saw the American Express banners with you, Sloane Stephens, Ryan Harrison. Some people didn’t know any of the three of you. You’re becoming celebrities on just that alone. Have you had a chance to see yourself on the boardwalk, so to speak?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, I have. I actually have a picture with me. I barely actually touch my knee standing up.
Well, I have been a partner with American Express for a second year now. We had the great campaign last year. This year has changed. I’m really excited to be working with them again, so, yeah.
Q. How did you come up with the name Sugapova, and can you tell us a little bit about the company?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I can’t take credit for coming up with the name. I was having a meeting with my manager who had met with Jeff Rubin, who is a pretty influential in the candy business, and they had started talking about it.
I mean, originally it was something that I was going to be a part of. Then I thought it’s not something I wanted to be a part of. I really wanted to own this.
Q. Do you feel more confident coming into this than you ever have before?
ANDY MURRAY: I get asked that before every slam. Am I more confident? You never know what’s going to happen when you get out there on the court. I prepared well. I trained hard the last five, six days, so I’m ready to go.
I mean, I guess I can say it started because I have been a part of so many little things in my career, been a part of collaborations and collections. It came to a point where I really wanted to invest my own money into something, make all the final decisions.
Even though I was always ‑‑ you know, I was influential in the things I did. You know, I never just put my name on something. But at the end of the day, I wanted to be 100% owned by me. That’s how the name came about.
Then I thought it was really funny and young and full of energy. And then I put candy together, and God knows how much candy I eat and how much food I eat.
Yeah, it was just something that I wanted to start from scratch. It took two years since the idea came out. 18 months; feels like two years.
Q. Exactly how many months were you feeling tired before the doctors could pinpoint what the disease was?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Years. Years.
Q. Like starting what year?
VENUS WILLIAMS: The main year for me was 2007 when I really started to feel tired.
Q. You still won Wimbledon 2008.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yes.
Q. Then was it worse year after year after year?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. I just had to get a lot worse before I could get diagnosed. I had different diagnoses, like asthma. One doctor told me that maybe I should go see a psychiatrist.
I want to go back to him. I watch a lot of the Golden Girls. There is episode where Dorothy has chronic fatigue syndrome, and the doctor tells her to go buy a new dress or whatever.
She goes back to him and tells him off. I want to go to that doctor and say, I had something real. Don’t go see a tell me to see a psychiatrist. Something is wrong with me. So I want to go see him.
Q. How would you describe your mindset right now and the level of your game? Do you feel the season has been emotionally draining?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s been a long season and a long summer, but my year has been really good. You know, it’s hard to compare obviously with 2011, even though I have got that question asked many times this year. You know, what has changed from 2011.
But I actually try to always look from a positive side. I do feel physically stronger and very prepared than I did last year. Mentally I had some ups and downs throughout the season, but I think that was maybe expected in a way. It’s normal to have ups and downs.
I mean, it’s really hard to expect that I can go, you know, five, six months every year without losing a match, so, I mean ‑‑ on this level.
But as I said, I feel good. You know, I had exhausting four‑and‑a‑half weeks and also successful. I was very glad that I had a very successful Toronto and Cincinnati tournament.
Coming into US Open, it was very important for me to get into some hard court matches. Hard court is my most preferred surface, so I really look forward to the start of this major.
Q. When you think back about that forehand on match point against Federer, a year later, what do you think about that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It brings me the nicest memories, that’s for sure. That point, you know, saved me from losing the semifinals and giving me the opportunity to win the title. I have done it.
I mean, this is another example that on this highest level in men’s tennis, few ‑ maybe one point, one shot ‑ can decide a winner.
Yeah, it was a great shot, and, you know, it’s something that I will remember forever.
Q. Does it feel strange to be at a slam and not have Rafa around?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it is strange because he hasn’t missed a slam for a long time. I think neither of us top four have really missed a slam for a long time, which can only work in favor of the sport.
I think that’s why it’s one of the reasons why we are experiencing a great era of men’s tennis, because all the top players are really committed in their performing and all the top events and, you know, reaching the final stages of those events.
So Rafa is a great competitor and somebody I know really well on and off the court. I’m sure that there is something serious going on, you know, because otherwise he would come here and play.
So I know it’s in a way a loss for the tournament and, you know, for tennis itself, because he’s greatly appreciated, successful, and very popular athlete around the world.
But, you know, I wish him a speedy recovery, obviously.
Roger Federer photo © Enrique Fernandez for Tennis Panorama
Q. I believe your twin daughters who are turning three years old were at Wimbledon when you won this year. I heard you quoted saying that having a family has helped you become a better player. I know in years past there were champions that sometimes got distracted getting married or juggling family and career. Do you think that having children, being married, has made you a better player?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, not worse. I mean, I’m back to world No. 1. (Laughter.)
Honestly, I think, was it 2009 when the kids were born? I think I won Cincinnati I think the second tournament back; and when I turned 30 I also right away won a tournament where people thought now I’m old.
I think it’s always worked out well for me. Of course it’s not been just easy cruising either.
You know, having twin daughters and traveling and trying to manage the situation with my wife and the kids and just seeing what’s best, what can we learn. It was a hard process, too.
I mean, not that we’re through it, but it’s definitely getting a little bit easier now that they’re three and not newborns.
Also definitely had its role to play with them. Happy I have been able to combine them, because first up when I heard Mirka was pregnant with twins I was worried about my practices. I was worried about the playing schedule, that it was never going to be the same again.
But my wife has made it work for me. She’s made incredible sacrifices for all of the family. I couldn’t be more grateful or thankful. It’s been a great ride. Yeah, for that reason, having that Wimbledon victory plus seeing my kids in the stands after the match, yeah, doesn’t get any better than that. It was a dream come true for me.
Q. Do you miss Rafa’s presence here in sort of that odd way that rivals miss each other?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, it would be better if he would be here, but then again, it’s good to see him maybe giving it a chance to heal and taking tough decisions like not coming here.
It’s been a brutal process for him, I’m sure, missing the Olympics, which I’m sure was also a big goal for him. Then the North American swing and now this? I mean, this is significant, but it’s not been six months yet.
So I think it’s not the end of the world, but it’s obviously much better if he were to be here. There’s no doubt about that. But he’s had a great run in Grand Slams as well and playing so many tournaments.
Many people thought he was going to break down way earlier, and he has played I think four years longer than people already expected. People thought four years ago the end is very near. None of that.
I just hope he’s taking a little rest right now and hopefully coming back strong for the end of the year.