Serena has bad news for rivals
By Bruce Matthews
WITH a winner's cheque for more than $1 million, new Australian Open champion Serena Williams could have thrown a party to remember on Saturday night.
Instead of toasting her grand slam achievement with fine wines at an exclusive restaurant, she went seeking even more booty.
With beaten big sister Venus in tow, Serena hit the blackjack tables at Crown casino after the pair had celebrated their centre-court duel by going to the movies to see the musical Chicago.
Serena, now the proud owner of all four major singles titles, loves to dabble in modest amounts in the gaming room to relax ... and she came away with a small win to cap a perfect day.
The sisters shared a room in Crown Towers for the past three weeks, despite being able to afford a penthouse suite each.
After all, they scooped up more than $2 million prizemoney, $1,691,775 from the singles pool ($1,127,850 winner and $563,925 runner-up) and shared $419,715 for winning the doubles title.
Facing each other for the fourth consecutive grand slam singles final didn't faze them, either, and they practised together two hours before the match.
The sisters share an amazing understanding, being able to put on the necessary competitor's face for the 142-minute final which Serena won 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 6-4. But the moment they shook hands across the net, they were inseparable friends again.
The Williams family left Australia early yesterday so Serena could fulfil another sporting appointment.
A staunch American football fan who follows the St Louis Rams, she's going to this morning's Super Bowl in San Diego. As Florida residents, the sisters will be barracking for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against favourites Oakland Raiders.
It will be the start of a brief break for Serena, who admitted to being drained after a demanding Open in which she came close to losing in the first round to Emilie Loit of France, and then staved off two match points to eventually overrun Belgian Kim Clijsters in the semi-final.
"This one definitely was more demanding because I had tighter matches, closer matches," she said. "People say, `Oh, you're so lucky to have this'. But luck has nothing to do with it because I spent countless hours on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come."
Serena became agitated after the Clijsters escape with constant questions about whether the Belgian had closed the gap on the sisters.
She need not be concerned. If anything, her dominance of the tour has extended to a chasm separating her from the pack.
The composed manner in which she fought off the danger, peeling off six consecutive games to defeat Clijsters, and then to out-psyche Venus again, illustrates a superior No.1 player.
And those seeking her crown can't gain any solace from a possible burnout factor. Serena said she was carefully plotting each annual tournament schedule to prolong her career.
"I never kill myself with the tournaments. Last year I only played 13 and I can't see myself playing any more this year," she said.
"That's just all about taking care of your body. You can't go out there and break your back for someone else. My whole theory is to take care of me. That way I won't have to worry about getting too tired, ending my career too early."