Serena Williams has given a window into how she approaches matches and opponents.
The American, currently sidelined as she prepared for the birth of her first child, has been throughout her career known primarily as a power player, beating opponents through sheer force.
But it’s a portrayal that Williams bristles at; she’d like to be known for her abilities as a tactician.
“I think I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the idea of power,” she said in a recent interview with Vogue.
“In the beginning I didn’t like it when they said that my sister (Venus) and I were power players. I thought, I don’t hit as hard as a Monica Seles. In Australia last year, I read that Maria Sharapova’s backhand and forehand are as good or better than mine, and that the only reason I win is that my serve is bigger.
“I was like, wait a minute, please. I place my serve. And what about my volleys? My speed? I’m the player who’s hitting angles. I’m the player who moves you. I use my brain, and that’s really why I win.
“Now on the court I want people to think that I’m powerful. But I also want them to be shocked at how I play. I want people to expect something, then get something different.”
Williams has throughout her career given the impression she doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the daily goings-on of the tennis tour.
She’s forever played a limited schedule, pursued outside interests and made it clear that tennis doesn’t consume every moment of her waking life.
She also claims to be unaware of playing conditions, and the variations in court speed from tournament to tournament, year to year and surface to surface.
Yet the Vogue article painted a different picture.
In it, Williams is portrayed as a voracious student of the game, watching this year’s Wimbledon on TV “with such intensity that her chef has started giving her concerned glances from over the breakfast bar”.
“I learn by watching. I’m like the (DC Comics superhero) Parasite. He’s a leech. He takes all your energy with him,” she said.
“Or I watch old matches of myself on the Tennis Channel. I hit amazing shots, and these girls are running them down and hitting winners, and I’m beginning to see why. It’s because I have patterns.
“I don’t want to say more than that. I don’t want these girls to read this article and get a leg up.”
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