Serena Williams blitzed her way into the third round with a display that combined discipline and bravura in equal measure. She saw off the South African journeywoman Chanelle Scheepers 6-1, 6-1 in 49 minutes.
Those who took the result as a done deal before the match began, take note: nothing is a given, and Williams has been on the receiving end of the proof. At last month’s French Open she was the white hot favourite for the title and was dumped out by the largely unheralded Garbine Muguruza in the second round.
“I’m always the favourite,” acknowledged Serena afterwards. “It’s been that way for the last three years and maybe years before that. So it can create pressure. But it’s OK – I’d rather it was that way.”
Williams is 32 now, bidding for her sixth Wimbledon title and 18th Slam singles title. But at this tournament she is working overtime as she has entered the doubles too, with her sister Venus of course, with whom she has won 13 Slam doubles titles including five on the lawns of SW19. On Tuesday night the two of them played until 9pm, beating Oksana Kalashnikova and Olga Savchuk to reach the second round, but Williams appeared to feel no after-effects of that late night.
Her focus at Wimbledon 2014 looks laser-sharp, and she can only be pleased with her first two matches. Yet she seemed not thrilled with having to undertake a post-match press conference. At first it was noticeable merely that her answers were short, but after a few minutes she left no room for doubt, even though the questions were in no way tricky.
“I’m trying to figure out when this [press conference] is going to end,” she said. “I’m really losing focus up here. The longer these interviews go... Maybe that’s why at Wimbledon they have them long. This is getting... The questions change from tennis to Novak and then Rafa. It’s no longer about the match. Is this the last question?”
Perhaps as much as anything her frame of mind was a reflection on life at the top of the tennis tree, and the very many years she has spent there. Maybe this particular afternoon she was not in the mood for a press conference; maybe something happened between the end of a very good match and the start of a very routine question-and-answer session. Who knows?
Whatever it was that meant she was not in the sunniest of moods was not clear, but it was a window on to her world – observers expect her to sail through a match such as this second round encounter against a player ranked No.94, and of course the vast majority of the time she does exactly that. But we are used to seeing such results as “normal”, with no consideration for any influencing factor other than the respective ranking of the two players in a match.
Players – even the most elite, among the greatest of all time – are not automatons. Who knows what else may be going on in their lives to make them feel great or rotten, and which might be a boost or a distraction? The wonder of players such as Serena Williams is not that they lose occasionally, but that they are so often marvellous at either shutting out negative influences or channelling them to positive effect.
Whatever the case on this particular occasion, the five-time champion here looks fearsomely in the zone at Wimbledon 2014.
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