THE ******************** NEWSLETTER: THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
Behind the scenes with Serena
* On the cat suit and being a sex symbol
* On acting
* Whether Venus is burnt out
* On winning the Grand Slam
* On motherhood
By Matthew Cronin
FROM THE U.S. OPEN -- The day after her third straight-set victory over her sister, Venus, in a Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open, Serena Williams kicked back at Parker Meridian Hotel at 10 a.m., working on just on five hours of sleep. But just being bleary-eyed wasn't going to keep the Hollywood-loving 20-year-old from discussing her acting ambitions.
"Do you remember the movie, ‘Clash of the Titans,’ asked Serena. "I really think they should remake the movie and I would like to play the princess.”
During most of the U.S. Open, Serena took the court in a skin tight, black cat suit that was as revealing as any piece of clothing ever seen on tour. She was chided by some for her choice of outfits, but was unfazed, knowing that her celebrity had grown to the point where she’s on every Hollywood star’s A-list and has become so popular with her sprinter’s physique, catwalk smile and flowery personality that she sees herself as a sex symbol. "I kind of get that feeling, especially lately,” Serena said. "It’s exciting. A lot of people want to meet me, a lot of people think I’m fun. It’s definitely a cool feeling.”
Serena also said that she's more than comfortable in the spotlight. "It’s not that I really enjoy it, it’s that I don’t mind it," she said. "I think Venus minds it more than me but I definitely do enjoy it. I don’t think Venus would mind stuff but maybe she’s been in the public eye a little longer than I have and it’s just different. She’s gone through some different things and maybe tougher times and kind of paved the way for me. Now she just has a different outlook."
With so much tabloid focus being paid to the model-esque bodies of Anna Kournikova and Daniela Hantuchova, it’s a healthy trend that the buff Serena is showing that you don’t have to tend toward waifishness to attract attention. "I used to be self-conscious with my arms ... ‘They’re too strong, too muscular, too cut,’ ” Serena said. "I think they were bigger in ’99. You have to be happy with who you are and if I’m successful with who I am, that’s fine. They’re not as cut as they used to be. Everybody would say: ‘You have the greatest arms. They’re so nice. I would give anything to have them.’ So I decided to show them off. I like my arms.”
WHETHER VENUS IS BURNT OUT
Serena showed a previously unseen side, switching roles with her caretaker when defending her older sister against comments that Venus is burnt out. "Had she played anyone else besides me, she would have won,” Serena said. "I don’t think she’s worn out at all of defending or chasing me. It presents a challenge: I have a challenge to try to stay ahead and she has a challenge to catch up and pass me.”
For the first time, Serena admitted that all those years of practicing against Venus has paid off strategically.
"It’s easier, for sure,” she said. "At least I know Venus’s game a little better and I feel more relaxed. When I played Lindsay (Davenport) in the semifinals, I felt a little tight. I don’t think I played very well. But against Venus, I was way more relaxed because either way I felt like we could both walk home winners. And I just really wanted to get to that point because I know Lindsay and (Amelie) Mauresmo want to stop us, and they did a good job this year.”
Serena is not the same player who went on a giggling spree when she won her first Open in ’99 or broke down sobbing after she was beaten up by Davenport in ’00 or Venus in ’01. "I’m a better player and I have more fun than I used to. I’m not as stressed out,” Serena said. "When I won in ’99, I wanted it so bad and when I got it, I didn’t know how to keep up the level and how to stay there. Now I’m mentally stronger. I realize you just can’t win one Slam and drop off."
That newfound mental strength aided her in the final, when she didn't have as much to play for as Venus who hadn't won a Slam all year.
"Once I got to be No. 1, I was thinking ‘Wow, what’s going to keep me motivated,’ ”she said. “But yesterday when I played Venus I realized I had a chance of losing No. 1, so that got me motivated. Plus, I really enjoy the battle, the winning. I’m very competitive. I used to cry when I lost. Not anymore. Now it’s just another day for me. I used to be so upset and down about it but now it’s something I’ve just gotten better at it. What keeps me motivated is that I don’t like to lose. I’d rather work a little harder and have better results than just stay the same level and not have any changes.”
ON WINNING THE GRAND SLAM
Serena is so sure of herself now that she’s aiming to what would have appeared impossible for her two years ago when she was struggling to stay with the elite -- win a calendar year Grand Slam in ’03. "I have that focus,” Serena said. "As long as I’m physically ready and as long as I’m able to win the matches, I don’t think I’d have any problems mentally. It’s something I’d work towards I’m ready for anything that comes my way. I’m nowhere near my peak. I can rally a lot better, my strokes can be better. I hardly come to the net so there’s so much more I can do, it’s scary."
However, she doesn't plan on grinding forever, a la Martina Navratilova. "Not at age 30," she said. "If I’m going to have kids. I would like to have kids before I’m 30 or at 30. I don’t want be 45 raising a child. I have no patience. That’s too much."