Serena's No.1 quest continues
Serena's No.1 quest continues
Modeling, acting and -- oh, yes -- tennis are on Williams' plate.
By DAVID JOHNSON
Serena Williams' attempted return to the No.1 world ranking makes its second stop this week at the Bausch & Lomb Championships.
But the No.6 woman in the world comes to Amelia Island with more than just tennis on her mind.
Add designer, model and aspiring actress to the list of Williams' interests -- a list that she says still has tennis at the top.
"When I first got off and took a break, it was like a relief almost. I was like, 'Wow, I never had this much time off. I can wake up when I want. I don't have to think about going to the courts,'" Williams said at a conference call before last week's Nasdaq-100 Open, her first tournament after an eight-month layoff. "But after awhile that gets old. And, indeed, I did enjoy doing a lot of stuff like acting and my fashion, but at the end of the day my true love has been and will always be tennis. I'm just so desperate to be on the court."
Since she had surgery to repair a partial tear of her left knee quadriceps Aug. 1, Williams appeared in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, jump-started her fashion line, acted in Law & Order Special Victims Unit and The Division, and performed a voice-over for The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
She also endured the loss of half-sister Yetunde Price to murder on Sept. 4, a loss that gave her new perspective on her life and her game.
"We are very close as a family and we talk on a daily basis and we all just try to pull each other together ... and remain strong for one another," she said. "I think it has helped me in my tennis game also with not coming back because I thought, to me, tennis was just so much of my life, and then you begin to realize that life is so much more than hitting a tennis ball over the net."
But now the six-time Grand Slam winner has returned to her true love.
On Saturday, Williams won her third consecutive Key Biscayne title, beating Elena Dementieva 6-1, 6-1 in 50 minutes.
That draw, though, didn't have the potency of this week's field at Amelia Island Plantation. The top four players in the world withdrew, leaving Williams in a familiar place -- the No.1 seed.
Three of the world's top four -- No.1 Justine Henin-Hardenne, No.3 Amelie Mauresmo and No.4 Lindsay Davenport -- join Williams in Amelia.
Tennis fans will likely be clamoring for the first chance at a Henin-Hardenne-Williams match since Williams' return. The two players have won the past eight Grand Slam titles, and Amelia Island marks the beginning of the clay-court season.
Henin-Hardenne began her Grand Slam success on the clay courts of Roland Garros in last year's French Open. Williams said she's looking forward to the clay season, but not looking at Henin-Hardenne as her lone rival.
"She has won three out of the last four Grand Slams, so she's doing awesome and amazing," Williams said. "I still believe, however, that you can't look at one person. There are a lot of young kids coming up and you never know."
And with her focus on tennis, the distractions of her other careers seem to be background noise.
"A lot of people say that you know, 'Serena isn't serious about her tennis, she wants to go to Hollywood,' which is true. I would love to get a lot of acting gigs," she said. "But you wouldn't believe the stuff I turn down because of my tournament schedule. I'm like, 'OK, I can't do that. I'm trying to play tennis here.'"