Wednesday 21 March 2018

Serena reveals delicate touch honed in years as 'family runt'

Simon Briggs

Where does Serena Williams get her versatility from? In the French Open women's final she beat Maria Sharapova with a performance that offered huge power – most obviously in her 120mph first serves – but also an unexpectedly delicate short game.

After the match, Sharapova made reference to Williams' muscular physique, saying: "I think if I was built like Serena, I hope I'd be able to hit a big serve like that, too."

Yet Williams has not always been a powerhouse. As a girl, she was a late developer who had to compete with her taller and stronger sister Venus.

"I was talking to my mum about this and to Patrick," said Williams, who not only trains with the experienced French coach Patrick Mouratoglou, but has now struck up a relationship with him, too.

"He said I had unbelievable hands, great drop shots and angles and slices. I said, it was because when I was younger I was so small – I was like the runt. I didn't have power, so I had to learn how to play other ways.

"I think at the end, that really developed me as a player, to learn how to win. Then when I did get bigger and stronger, it just helped me to win easier."

Her weak point in the past has been her focus, which used to ebb and flow from one day to the next. But then, as Mouratoglou pointed out, her mindset changed after the year she spent out of the game between 2010 and 2011. After surgery on her foot, she suffered a pulmonary embolism that could have ended her career or even her life.

"She was close to dying," Mouratoglou said, "and she realised how much she liked tennis."

The 6-4 6-4 victory brought up her 16th grand slam title, taking her to within two of the great 1980s duo of Chris Evert and Martina Navatilova.

"It's so close but yet it's still so far," she said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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