Venus is getting intense luvs it
JJ with the "flu" on court two days later
MARIA Sharapova has already announced that she won't be seen, Venus Williams doesn't want to be seen, and Jelena Jankovic sees the world as her stage. Ana Ivanovic, meanwhile, remains the contender everyone wants to see.
So was the scene at Melbourne Park yesterday, where three leading hopes for the Australian Open women's crown got their eyes in ahead of next Monday's start to the first grand slam of the year.
With Sharapova unable to shake a shoulder injury in time to defend her title, organisers praying for a withdrawal-scare-free week would have blanched at the news that world No. 1 Jankovic had shortened last week's Hong Kong hit-out citing a virus. Her presence on court two yesterday morning, sweating and scowling her way through a vigorous workout, was welcomed. A teensy hint of melodrama tends to follow Jankovic, the self-styled Serbian princess who rose to the top ranking by year's end despite not winning a major and reaching only one slam final, at the US Open. There were heavy sighs aplenty in yesterday's session, often directed at her Spanish coach, Ricardo Sanchez.
"Move, move," Sanchez implored his charge. There were hints that her health might not be as rude as she would like, with Jankovic panting heavily and sinking hands to knees several times during her 15-minute window in front of the cameras. A distressed Jankovic is hardly a novel sight; her last Melbourne outing, a semi-final loss to Sharapova last January, included a medical break and a bizarre post-match rant about the painkillers she was popping and how she didn't want to end up like Heath Ledger.
Yesterday's unease may have simply been down to working hard while throwing off an annoying bug, and Sanchez seemed unconcerned about anything beyond the fitness of her backhand and forehand.
"This important — many ball, many ball," he told an onlooker, before turning on Jankovic again and providing a theatrical demonstration of how she should be hitting through the ball, not up and over it. If Jankovic was taking notice, she hid it well.
Perhaps she was miffed at not getting first run on the main stage, where compatriot Ivanovic slugged it out alongside her Australian trainer Scott Byrnes.
The 2008 runner-up was all smiles, perhaps still thinking about the teenage ball boy who proposed to her in Queensland recently, although more likely happy to be back in a city she loves and over the dizziness and lethargy that forced her withdrawal from the Brisbane International.
Last season was a breakthrough for Ivanovic, who rose to No. 1 in the world after winning the French Open, but then had a spate of injuries that limited her preparation for the last two majors of the year and kept her out of the Beijing Olympics.
She is fit now and she appeared to relish hitting a ball over a net, over and over.
It's easy to smile when your life as a tennis pro is only five years old. Add another decade on the merry-go-round, and you might be moved to break off from your warm-up, call your nearest lackey, and order the removal of those pesky cameras that have come to watch you hit a ball.
When you've been playing as long as Venus Williams, it must be hard to see tennis as a game.