© Ella Ling

Serena Williams

Briefing: Serena Williams loving shopping and not tennis

Five things you need to know about: Serena Williams preferring shopping to tennis.
This is a long way from Andre Agassi’s claim that he “hated tennis, and hated it with a dark and secret passion”.
That was the line and the theme which threatened to spoil Agassi’s otherwise excellent autobiography, as it was so difficult to believe, and you started to doubts other parts of the book. Serena’s claim, though, is credible. In fact, no one should have been shocked at all, as here is someone who talks as excitedly about becoming a qualified nail technician as becoming the Wimbledon champion. “I don’t love tennis,” the Californian said at the Brisbane International this week, before her withdrawal because of a twisted ankle. “It’s not like I have fallen out of love. I’ve actually never liked sports, and I never understood how I became an athlete. I don’t like working out. I don’t like anything that has to do with working physically. If it involves sitting down or shopping, I’m excellent at it.
Tennis enthusiasts would clearly prefer their players to love tennis as much as they do, but loving, or even liking something, is not a prerequisite for being good at it. Talent, and application, wins you more slams than grinning your way through every practice or gym session.
Her anti-jock comments are an attempt to be seen as a girly girl.
“Deep down, she’s a great athlete, but she wants people to know that she’s a woman, a girly girl, that she likes to get her nails done,” said Brad Gilbert.
Vanity will help her to win slams.
As much as the Californian doesn’t like working hard, she still does it, not least because she wants to look fabulous in a bikini. “It sounds ridiculous,” she once said, “but I work out because I want to look good. When I’m running, I’m not thinking about winning a grand slam, but whether I am going to look good in my bikini. That keeps me extremely motivated.” I once interviewed Serena in a hotel in Miami as, sitting in a chair with some needle and thread, she made some alterations to her bikini bottoms. She was about to go to the beach, she knew there would be photographers, and she didn’t want “my butt hanging out” (paparazzi shots of her in the ocean would later confirm that she wore that bikini, as well as a single black lace fingerless glove on her left hand).
The received wisdom on Serena’s extracurricular activities has changed.
There is now an acceptance that Serena’s sidelines in acting, selling a pomegranate lip-balm, and hawking her range of clothes and necklaces on the television shopping networks, is prolonging her career, not shortening it. Serena is 30, but she could go on winning slams for at least two or three more years. Serena and her sister Venus have always played a limited schedule. Perhaps the secret to Serena’s success has always been that she has never loved tennis; she has never obsessed about it, and has never tried to play too much.
We await Serena’s first screenplay with interest.
A few years back, she said she was writing a script, but it has gone a bit quiet on that front.