Serena: The Lightning Road

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• Serena’s biggest travel nightmare was a 13-hour flight from Russia to Chicago. She advised, “You probably shouldn’t eat chili in Moscow.”

• Serena has almost twice the ranking points of No. 2 Maria Sharapova, whom she’s beaten 17 times in a row. She’s 35-5 against her two prime rivals, Maria and Vika Azarenka. In men’s tennis, the Greatest of All Time, Roger Federer, has dicey head-to-head records against his top rivals.

• Before Wimbledon, Serena trained on Jack Nicklaus‘s grass courts in Florida.

• Serena would pick Stan Wawrinka as a mixed doubles partner because they’re friends, wear Audemars, and are “just cool.”

• Serena’s on a competitive dance team whose dream is to perform on Ellen.

• At this year’s French Open, after Serena had to come back three times in a row from a set down, she said, “It’s ok to go two tough sets, but to go three sets back-to-back-to-back is on the verge of unprofessionalism for me.”

• After being asked whether the focus on grunting in women’s tennis is unfair, Serena said, “I’m done with controversy.”

• Serena says she’d be happy if Venus played Indian Wells: “She’d get a wonderful welcome.”

• As for herself going to Indian Wells next year, Serena says, “I think it’s … a must.”

• Serena says she feels like a totally different person off court than on: “It’s almost a humbling experience for me.”

• Serena remembers being in a clinic led by Arthur Ashe. She says, “He was so nice. He took his time with all the kids … and a lot of time with me and Venus. It’s something one never forgets.”

• Fifteen years ago, Serena joined with others who were calling for the removal of the Confederate flag in South Carolina, and then boycotted the tournament in Charleston.

• The astounding pictures of Serena stretching during a photo shoot for New York magazine show off her beauty and lithe, muscular athleticism.

• Serena was Venus‘s’ first hitting partner on the road. She wasn’t paid.

• Serena lost the first time she played Steffi Graf, but then defeated her at Indian Wells, which she says was “one of the highlights of my career. It was my first big win.”

• When asked what position in the NFL she would play, Serena said she would be a “quarterback or linebacker … Nadal would be a good running back because he’s low and can run fast. Roger would be a good quarterback. Venus—wide receiver.”

• Serena says she doesn’t want to think about retiring, but wants to stop when she’s at her peak.

• Our favorite recent Serena observation is by Kerry Howley, who wrote, “A flippant past-tenseness has crept into her language. ‘We were so fast,’ she says of herself and her sister Venus as children. ‘We are. We were. Gosh, is this over?’ She laughs. There’s a weird anxiety in her stilted professional bio: Serena ‘continues to also pursue her other interests and has set herself up for a career after tennis.'”