Six-times Wimbledon champion Serena Williams began her bid for a seventh title yesterday and admitted she doesn’t feel “fresh”. But the bad news for challengers to her crown is that she’s “really hungry and super-motivated and ready to do the best”.
Williams, who defeated Switzerland’s Amra Sadikovic in straight sets, has 21 grand slam singles titles to her name. Another this year will pull her level with Steffi Graf, just two behind Margaret Court at the top of the pile.
Williams was pleased with her form in the 6-2, 6-4 victory. “It was a good start for me, a solid start to go in the right direction,” she said. It was achieved without much fuss, or any charging around, but there was no real need.
She’s won everything and won it often. Asked if she still found “joy” in her tennis or if “career fatigue” was starting to impact on her game, she said: “I would be lying if I said I felt fresh but I don’t feel fatigue. I don’t think I feel fresh but I feel real hungry, super-motivated and extremely ready to do the best.”
Williams was slow-moving from the start, performing a panther prowl along the baseline, and supplying an especially loud grunt when trying to retrieve a fluttery drop-shot suggesting she wouldn’t be receptive to too many of that nature. It seemed a tactic worth pursuing for Sadikovic but strangely was rarely repeated.
It was as if the qualifier, ranked 148, had caught a glance at Williams’ stats in the WTA Match Notes, a towering list of firsts and records and beat-that-sucker credits, and was intimidated even before having to face the champ’s sledgehammer forehand.
Both players had trouble with their serve in the breezy conditions and began tensely. But, as ever for a sprat confronted by such a voracious opponent, Sadikovic drew enthusiastic support from the Centre Court crowd, who cheered loudly when she first got a game on the board and then had chances on the Williams serve, not taken, the top seed wrapping up the first set in 35 minutes.
Born in Macedonia, Sadikovic quit tennis in 2014 because she wasn’t making any money. She returned last year and yesterday was battling with the player she most admired in the sport. She seemed to enjoy herself more in the second set, keeping pace and showing good variety on her backhand, but Williams’ power-game prevailed. Later this summer Williams will be defending her Olympic title in Rio, although some athletes have pulled out of the Games because of concerns about the Zika virus, the latest being golfer Jason Day. Did she regret this? “I do, I think it’s sad. But at the same time I understand where they’re coming from,” she said.
“Part of me feels that way too, which is why I’m going in with a whole mindset of how do I protect myself? How do I prevent and also raise awareness of this? That’s how I’m looking at Rio.”