Venus Williams feels in control of her game going into second round
Venus Williams began the 2015 ASB Classic with a first round match that lasted less than an hour, beating Jana Cepelova, 6-1, 6-0. She spoke with us about feeling like a home-town girl in Auckland, her confidence going into the next game, and whether she can influence her sister, World Number 1. Serena Williams, to come to Auckland too.
"I was very welcomed when I came back on the court. I felt like I left off right from last year, where I had such a great big welcome from everyone here in Auckland. I was very happy about that. I felt comfortable right away. You just get the feeling that the fans appreciate every point here. The fans are just very appreciative of all the efforts that the players give, so it feels good out there even when you don't hit the best shot."
Do you get as much enjoyment winning a match like that, as when you have to fight it out over three long sets?
"Absolutely, usually when you win a match more easily, it means that you're doing everything right. There's a lot of enjoyment out of all kinds of wins because you learn something from all of them."
You talked about the crowd support. Was that one of the factors for you coming back this year?
"Yeah, actually I was just on the phone with Serena. I said, 'You have to come, they would love to have you here.' Definitely I felt like I was a home-town girl last year, so it's nice when you come and you feel like the crowd is really with you. You don't get that everywhere, so it's something that I really remembered from coming here."
Do you think you might be able to twist Serena's arm at some stage to come?
"I can't tell her what to do. I never have, and I think it would be too late to start. She listens, but I've never tried to boss her around. I would love for her to come, I will try to influence her, that's for sure."
It was such a short game, 52 minutes I think out there on court. Did you get as much as you wanted to, out of the first game of the season?
"Absolutely. Especially thinking about even getting to the finals now, I have to play five days in a row. I definitely don't want to play super long matches, this is much easier on me and any player to play a little bit shorter. Of course I'd like to play as many matches as possible. Thankfully I felt comfortable on the court, which is always a plus, so tomorrow, hopefully I'll feel even better."
In terms of your performance today, what were the things that most pleased you?
"I was really happy with my serve, I felt pretty much in control. I felt very happy at the net, and pretty calm out there. Sometimes you can feel like your mind is going 1,000 miles an hour, especially the first match of the season, so for the most part I was playing in real time, and not in fast-forward."
How much of an intimidation factor do you think you still carry around, against most other players on the tour?
"Well, I guess I don't think about that every day. But I'm not sure that anyone would say, 'I want to play Venus.' I still feel that even on a day where I'm not playing well, it's very challenging to beat me, and it never goes easy. So if someone plays me and they win, they earn it, because it is a long, long match. But if I'm playing well, then usually I'm able to get those wins. That's pretty much how I feel."
Psychologically, that's quite handy, isn't it?
I think players that come out against me are focused and they know they have to play pretty well. So that's definitely a compliment, that I'm still doing something right.
You have Kurumi Nara in the next round. What are your thoughts on her?
We played at Wimbledon, the first set went to a tie-breaker. I think that's a great surface for her as well. So I think that I'll take some experience from that match, that was my first time playing her. I'm sure she's learned something from that experience as well. We'll both be a little bit wiser."
There's quite a few other young American players here, with Taylor Townsend and Sloane Stephens. How is that for you, as the American veteran, being able to look back at these kids that you've obviously inspired throughout your career?
It's great to see a lot of Americans with a lot of talent, that's for sure. It's nice to see the young crop coming up and getting out there and paying your dues, because you've got to do it, there's no way around it. I'm pretty pleased about that.
Do you have any specific goals for the year?
"I've always had goals, but in life nothing works out always the way that you think it's going to. It's been that way my whole career. There's times where you fall short, and there's times where you do more than you thought you ever could. So, my goal is to perform the way I know I can, each and every time. I have a good feeling about tennis this year."