There was a hair’s breadth between Serena Williams and her fellow American Alison Riske – until the 23-times grand-slam champion resorted to the “business bun”.
Riske, playing in her first slam quarter-final, was more than a match for her heavily-garlanded opponent in their first match-up together and there was every chance the 29-year-old from Pittsburgh could have added the scalp of Williams after knocking out world No 1 Ashleigh Barty in the previous round.
Her flashing returns caused problems for Williams and these weren’t the only irritations. “My hair was in the way in the wind,” Williams said. “I missed a shot because it was in my face. I was like: ‘This is not happening.’ I just needed to get it out of the way, put the business bun up and get to work.”
Williams eventually won 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 but Riske can feel proud of her performance. She presented a quirky challenge in the opening set where the women broke each other twice before Williams secured the decisive advantage but it could just as easily have gone the other way.
The second set did go the other way. Very few games were won straightforwardly. Williams continued to bang the aces but Riske would usually come out on top in the longer rallies.
Williams, still working her way back to full sharpness following her knee injury, had to dig deep in the final set.
“I just needed to fight,” she said. “Alison played great throughout the tournament. She’s beaten so many amazing players that have had great years. She was not giving the match to me. I needed to step up and take it.”
Williams has also had to take a fine at this year’s Wimbledon – $10,000 for damaging a court in practice.
Asked if she was surprised it was so big she said: “If you could tell me what I did, I would appreciate it. I have always been an Avenger at heart. Maybe I’m super-strong.”
She praised the US women’s football team for winning the World Cup. “I was super-excited for them to do good – they’re amazing,” she said. “They have a whole nation cheering them and [being] inspired by what they stand for. Taking a stand and fighting for being paid for something they are world champs at is something that I really feel close to.”
And Williams, who’s partnering Andy Murray in the mixed, speculated on the chances of a second-generation tennis partnership following them. Asked if their daughters had played together at the Wimbledon creche she said: “Actually I don’t know, but they would make a dynamic doubles team.”