THE MOST DIFFICULT QUESTIONS: Now that Serena Williams has won 600 matches on the circuit, IT had this exchange with her:
Inside Tennis: Of the 600 matches you’ve played, what was the most magical, most wonderful and close to your heart?
Serena Williams: You always give me the most difficult questions. I have to say Australia 2003. It was four in a row, four Grand Slams in a row. That has to be the the best one.”
At the time, after Serena beat her sister in three sets, she said, “I never get choked up, but I’m really emotional right now.” Close to tears during the trophy ceremony, she added, “I’m really, really, really happy. I’d like to thank my mom and my dad for helping me.”
For her part back then, Venus said, “I wish I could have been the winner, but of course you have a great champion in Serena and she has won all four Grand Slams, which is something I’d love to do one day. So, yeah, I’d kind of like to be just like her.
I don’t want to be just a player who won four Grand Slams, whether she wins five or 15,” Venus added. “Look at those players who won 20. I still have a long way to go and not much time.” Venus has won 7 Slams—5 Wimbledons and 2 US Opens. Serena has bagged 16.
THE ROAD TO WIMBLEDON: When you approach Roland Garros in Paris, you walk with continental metros—chic, cosmopolitan, and well-wrapped in their endless scarves. Along a broad, loud boulevard, you pass ornate architecture and endure a gauntlet of in-your-face vendors aggressively selling their sometimes suspect tickets.
In London, you stroll to Wimbledon with gray matrons, proper gents, happy families with picnic baskets, and Japanese fans—eager to see Kei Nishikiri and Kimiko Date-Krumm—who pause and pose, rather stiffly, for the obligatory photo. All the while, your mind still reflects on the rather quirky verbal digressions of Radio Wimbledon, which this morning—in addition to major segments on Czech and Dutch tennis—featured an Olympian reflecting on a wretched accident with his pet chicken (he was injured, the chicken died), and a gold medal rower going on about her power serve (which she admitted lands in once every 100 times) and her 100,000-word Ph.D. thesis on murder.
As you descend towards Wimbledon, you pass impressive urban estates—rather vast, but not imposing—and a golf course which hopes to survive the fortnight mud-free. Near Centre Court, a mournful sign pleads for help to find a lost cat named Tippy, a jolly couple talks of their delightful holiday in Tuscany, and teen Gabby Francis and a pal gently sell cookies and cupcakes on St. Mary’s Road, right by the church which, under its famous spire, offers to carefully park your car for only $35.
A CHANGE IN THE LANDSCAPE: First it was a virtually unnamed knoll by Court 1. Then it became Henman Hill. Now it’s Murray Mount. Some see a future where it will be called Robson’s Green.
MADISON KEYS, FUTURE STAR: She may still need to work on her movement, balance, conditioning, mental toughness, and backhand, plus she still seems to be growing into her body. Nonetheless, with her power serve, punishing forehand, upbeat ‘tude, and athletic physique, Madison Keys appears to be a star in the making. Plus, she’s confident. She told IT that she could be top ten in a year, and could possibly win Wimbledon in two or three years. And BTW: Chris Evert said she has the tools to become No. 1.
JUST WONDERING: In two years, who will be in a better position: Sloane Stephens, athletic and now ranked No. 17; lefty Brit Laura Robson, with her adept forehand; or Madison Keys, just 18, but loaded with a massive serve?
SAVVIEST WOMAN BATTLER SINCE JUSTINE HENIN: Agnieszka Radwanska.
IN THE MOMENT: The monks at the Buddhist temple where Novak Djokovic takes refuge can’t watch any form of entertainment, including tennis. Lynne Parry, a volunteer at the temple, told the Daily Telegraph that Djokovic might find their meditations and teachings appealing because, “It’s all about the moment, focusing on the now, not the past or future. And it’s about people—the Buddha wasn’t a god, he’s a man.”
BIG DEAL, OR NO BIG DEAL AT ALL: Sloane Stephens dismissed the fact that there were three African American women playing deep into the first week of Wimbleon. Still, in a tennis universe that 15 years or so ago was pretty white, it’s a marker that’s worthwhile to note. Then again, maybe it’s more worthwhile to note that many consider it not a big deal at all.
KIND OF DEPRESSING: When you start to Google the name of Monica Puig—the rising Puerto Rican player—the first name that shows up is Monica Lewinsky. Speaking of Monicas, Puig told IT that—sorry Seles—she wants to be the best Monica of all time.
QUIRKY NAME, FABULOUS STORY: South Korean junior Duck Hee Lee may possess a quirky, Disney-like name, but it’s his story that is truly remarkable. The No. 41 junior in the world lost in the first round here, but he inspires many because he is deaf and a world-class junior athlete. Imagine playing tennis without hearing line calls or the ball coming off of your opponent’s racket.
THE KING OF NONCHALANCE: Alexandr Dolgopolov.
SAY IT ISN’T SO: After a disappointing loss to Kaia Kanepi where she was up a set and 5-1 in a tiebreak, Angelique Kerber received a barrage of threatening and insulting messages on her Facebook page.
GO FIGURE: Since 2000, only Venus Williams has had a longer winning streak then Serena Williams, who has now won 34 matches in a row … David Ferrer has now reached the fourth round at Wimbledon for the fourth year in a row … Tonight was Serena’s first night match at Wimbledon—she said playing indoors was amazing and that she loved the sound of the ball.
TIME FLIES: Serena’s third-round opponent, Kimiko Date-Krumm, reached the Wimbledon semis and lost to Steffi Graf sixteen years ago, in 1997. BTW: Date-Krumm ran the London marathon in under three hours, helped fund a school in Laos, and is married to a German race car driver who as soon as he spotted her said she would be his future partner … Simon Barnes said a new sport, for all those who play Serena, is bagel avoidance … Date-Krumm said her first goal in playing Serena was making it to the hour mark. She lasted 61 minutes.
IT’S TOO EARLY TO ANOINT ROBSON THE NEW QUEEN OF CENTRE COURT
JANOWICZ STARTING TO EYE POLE POSITIONS
HE SURE PLAYS A MEAN TENNIS BALL
BLACK HEART DIMITROV SLIPS UP
ROGER RUSE SERGIY HAS MELZDOWN
THE BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA
HANDS OFF OUR GRASS—IT’S BLADE PERFECT