Just in case there were any doubts out there, Serena Williams wants to make perfectly clear that she’s going to be around tennis awhile longer. So is older sister Venus.
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”I have no intention of stopping, and I don’t think she does either. We’re definitely connected at the hip,” the 30-year-old Williams said Saturday, two days before Wimbledon begins. ”I enjoy being out there on the court so much.”
Asked what she likes most about tennis, Williams explained: ”I love competing. I love the challenge. I love holding up trophies. So I guess if ever I feel that I can’t do that, then maybe I won’t play anymore.”
On a bit of a roll, she continued: ”That’s what I love. I love stepping out on that court, having that atmosphere, that moment. That moment is all about me. Maybe it’s a little selfish, but I love that feeling.”
The last time she was on a court at a tournament, though, things did not go as planned, and there was no trophy anywhere in sight.
On May 29, Williams lost to 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano of France 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 at the French Open, the American’s only first-round exit in 47 Grand Slam appearances. Williams led 5-1 in the second-set tiebreaker – all told, she was two points away from winning nine times – but she wasn’t able to close the deal.
After a few weeks to ponder that disappointment, and to get ready for the switch from clay courts to grass, Williams is ready to seek a fifth Wimbledon championship and 14th major title overall.
”Whether I had won in Paris or lost like I did in the first round, I am always extremely motivated,” she said. ”If anything, you know, I think losing makes me even more motivated.”
A decade ago, Williams won the French Open and Wimbledon one after the other, mastering the difficult surface transition and short turnaround.
No woman has taken those two trophies home in the same year since.
The latest to try will be No. 1-ranked Maria Sharapova, who won her first title at Roland Garros two weeks ago, completing a career Grand Slam.
”It’s the toughest back-to-back, Grand Slam-wise, no doubt. Especially if you’re coming off a French Open win … as much as you want to celebrate and enjoy, you come here and it’s like a whole new ballgame,” Sharapova said.
Going from clay to grass is ”certainly an adjustment,” she said. ”The first two days, you’re like, `Wait, I can’t really slide that much.’ So you have to take a few more steps. I’m like, `That’s kind of unfortunate. I kind of got used to it.’ … I mean, on a fast grass court, you’re not playing more than five-ball rallies. If you are, probably doing something wrong.”
Sharapova’s triumph in Paris was the fourth major title of her career, but the first since having surgery on her right shoulder in October 2008.
Her first major championship came at Wimbledon in 2004 at age 17, when she upset Williams in the final.
Sharapova reached the semifinals at the All England Club in 2005 and 2006, but then went through a four-year stretch when she lost twice in the second round and twice in the fourth. Last year, the Russian made it back to the final – her first at a Grand Slam tournament since the 2008 Australian Open – before losing to Petra Kvitova.
”It was definitely a big step for me in the right direction,” Sharapova said. ”It had been a while.”
It’s been a while right now for Williams, who isn’t used to long stretches between Grand Slam titles. Her last came two years ago at Wimbledon; less than a week later, she cut her feet on glass at a restaurant, precipitating a string of health problems that sidelined her for three majors in a row.
The only time in her Grand Slam career that she went more than two years without winning one of the sport’s top four events came during a gap from the 1999 U.S. Open until the 2002 French Open – and her title in Paris back then began a run of four consecutive major championships.
For someone who loves holding up trophies, that must have been fun.
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