MELBOURNE – On neighbouring courts, the two most compelling figures in women’s tennis prepared to face each other – for the first time in a Slam in eons.
The contrasts between the two, as the contrasts in their personalities, are evident in the way they prepare.
Serena comes out dressed in a skirt on match days, looking ready to go. She was MASHING the ball in her warmup, with hitting partner Robbye Poole working up a serious sweat within minutes. Not sure I’ve seen her hit the ball this hard in the warmup in a long time.
Venus, on the other hand, came out in a T-shirt and spandex capris, looking for all the world like she was out for a leisurely Sunday hit.
Part of that, of course, is that it’s been fairly clear over the court of the tournament that Venus’ shoulder is at less than 100 per cent.
Neither hits very many volleys in warmup; Serena hit a few overheads, and tried to punish a few short balls. It always amazes me how few volleys the women hit in warmup generally – even though, at crunch time, in matches, they might need that key volley to win a match.
It’s also rare to see Poole hit practice serves as hard as he did today; he even stepped into the court so that the effect as Serena practiced her return would be even more pronounced.
A year ago, before this very match, Poole had trouble duplicating Williams opponent Angelique Kerber’s second serve, which might have ended up costing Serena in the match as the second serve is by far the weak link to attack on Kerber’s service games.
That wasn’t an issue today.