Serena Eager To Kick Grass At Wimbledon
By Richard Pagliaro
Tasting Grand Slam defeat for the first time in a more than a year after sliding out of the semifinals on the red clay of Roland Garros has left Serena Williams ready to kick grass at Wimbledon.
The top-ranked Williams took time out from reading scripts to chat with the media on a conference call today. While she's declined a role in the upcoming Wimbledon film which stars Spiderman's Kirsten Dunst, the woman who has emerged as an entertainment triple @#%$ through her acting, modeling and tennis-playing prowess, suggests she's already set her sights on her next role: staging a successful sequel to her 2002 Wimbledon title triumph.
A week ago, the star of so many Grand Slam shows held a 4-2, 30-0 lead in the decisive set only to become unnerved by a jeering crowd at Phillipe Chatrier Court. Upstaged by the feisty fourth-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne, Williams dropped five of the final six games in suffering a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 setback that snapped her 33-match Grand Slam winning streak.
Today, the five-time Grand Slam champion said she's wiped away the memories of that moment and is looking forward to regaining her winning ways at Wimbledon.
"What happened at the French (Open) happened a week ago," Williams said. "It's all water on the bridge and I've moved on. If it does anything it just makes me a stronger individual. I actually look forward to playing these players again."
The hot, hard court of her home court in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida has been Williams' training grounding as she prepares for the lawns of the All England Club.
"I'm working the way I do every year before Wimbledon," Williams said. "It's so hot here in Florida I think I'm getting ready for the Australian Open. But I've just been working out doing a lot of conditioning, as well as practicing, and a lot of off court projects — that's the best part."
Dismissing the notion that playing a grass-court tune-up tournament is a prerequisite for Wimbledon success, Williams said she's more comfortable training at home. The owner of an 18-3 career record at Wimbledon, Williams said she believes Wimbledon warm-up tournaments aren't particularly helpful to her since she believes the grass at those events presents a much different bounce from the All England Club's lawns.
"I don't like to be in Europe for eight weeks in a row," said Williams of her decision to return home after Roland Garros. "I've been successful at Wimbledon not playing the warm up tournaments. The warm up tournaments are not anything like the courts at Wimbledon so I'd rather not play one."
While the long rallies on the slow, red clay courts of Roland Garros can challenge the legs and lungs, Williams said winning Wimbledon can be a pain in the butt that requires rapid reactions
"On clay you're working your abductors and legs and on grass you're working a lot of your glutes," Williams said. "It's definitely working different parts of your body physically. You have to be able to react much quicker than you do on the clay. On the clay, you can be a little lazy and lackadaisical and you take a break, however on the grass you have to be on your toes at all times. And that's the main difference and that's what I work on in practice."
As her dog barked in the background, Williams — who participated in the conference call to promote her first appearance in the Advanta Championships, scheduled for October 27th-November 2nd — said she's looking forward to playing in Philadelphia for the first time. The Advanta Championships return to the Philadelphia area for the first time since November 2000. The tournament, which hosts the top women's tennis players from the WTA Tour, will be played at the Villanova University Pavilion. Past champions include Lindsay Davenport, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Martina Hingis.
"I've always wanted to play there (in Philadelphia)," Williams said. "It's a great city. I really like Philadelphia. I'm going to be very excited to go to Philadelphia and play there for the first time."
The multi-talented No. 1 is actively advancing her acting and modeling careers — she has appeared in television roles and in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition — and said those professional pursuits can help prolong her tennis career.
"I think it's definitely important to do different things," Williams said. "That way you don't burn yourself out at a young age. I've been playing tennis since I was four years old or maybe even younger so its important for me to do different things — that way I won't become tired...Actually, I've just gotten three scripts today I'm looking at. I'm really excited about them. I have to read them. The opportunities are great. I keep getting scripts, I've turned a lot of things down. There's a lot of roles I won't do."
One role she seems especially eager to avoid is that of upset victim in a Grand Slam. The woman who can turn the tennis court into a stage for her action-hero performances said she has no interest in being typecast solely as a tennis player.
"The Wimbledon movie that they're filming with Kirsten Dunst right after Wimbledon, I just don't want to do that type of movie," Williams said. "And there's a lot of other roles, like I don't want to do a role where I'm laid out on the ground. I'm a good actress and I have a lot of skill and I would like to challenge myself. If I'm playing a part in a tennis movie it's not going to challenge me at all."
With the exception of her semifinal victory over Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open and her semifinal setback at Roland Garros, Williams rarely looked challenged in seizing four consecutive Grand Slam championships. Former No. 1 Martina Hingis recently suggested that Williams' toughest opponent is herself and said maintaining motivation to continue her dominance of the WTA Tour may be Williams' toughest challenge. Today, the aspiring actress spoke like a woman completely comfortable in her role as world No. 1 and said she has no intention of stepping out of the part in the near future.
"I can't even see the finish line at all, it's so far ahead of me," Williams said. "I'm not to the point where I can see that. Hopefully, I can keep it that way for another seven, eight years. As long as I'm healthy and as long as I'm enjoying it (I'll keep playing)."
She's right. She needs to go for roles that challenge her. I mean why do a part in the sport you play in? She applies this same philosophy to the clothes she wants to design (evening gowns, etc.). The Williamses don't want to limit themselves or be labeled as just a tennis player. They're doing everything to ensure that by avoiding all things related to their current career in relation to their future careers. Those are some smart girls.