When Serena Williams takes to the court Tuesday or Wednesday for her first-round match at the US Open, it will likely answer only a couple of the multitude of questions regarding the former No. 1 and her fluctuating physical condition, including her chronic knee injury.
The younger Williams sister has not reached a tournament final in 2006, competing in only four events and missing the French Open and Wimbledon. In July Williams made her first appearance since January at the small event in Cincinnati, losing in the semifinals to former Russian Top 10er Vera Zvonareva, and earlier this month losing in the semifinals at LA to Jelena Jankovic.
“I’m really excited. I’ve had two solid tournaments,” Williams said. “I was able to get some solid results under my belt. I’m really looking forward to this week — two weeks. As long as I stay healthy, I’ll be fine.”
Needing a wildcard to get into the main draw this US Open, Williams opens against Spain’s Lourdes Dominguez Lino before a potential meeting with No. 17 seed Daniela Hantuchova, then No. 16 Ana Ivanovic.
“I haven’t looked at the draw,” Williams said. “That’s not me.”
Raised by her father to never admit weakness, Williams will never delve into an injury, and rarely admit a problem, dancing around media questions like a public relations professional. The knee that has allow her to play only four tournaments this year is apparently fine.
“My knee feels really good,” Williams said. “You know, I can’t complain right now.”
One thing Williams can complain about is the WTA Tour’s new “innovation” of allowing players to call their coaches on court during a match. The fiercely-independent Williams is no fan of her opponents getting help from on-court coaching — not that it will stop her from using it.
“I’m not really that excited about coaching on the court because it’s been a self game,” Williams said. “It’s always just been you on the court, and that’s it. I probably will take advantage of it, for sure, but initially it wasn’t something that I would really go for.”
With only 12 matches under her belt in 2006, this US Open and the final months of the year as the tour winds down could bring some decisions from the Williams camp. Her already -surgically-repaired knee has not been holding up under the strains of tournament play. Serena herself has shown more interest in her off-court pursuits of acting and designing clothes and perfumes than staying in tennis shape, showing up at the Australian Open as overweight as fans have seen her during her career, while she claimed she was in shape.
If the knee fails again before the end of the year, another knee surgery or even an early retirement are not out of the question for a player that many pundits agree should have been the best — ever.
Richard Vach, Tennis-X.com senior writer, is reporting live from the US Open this week and can currently be seen on The Tennis Channel’s “Tennis Insiders: Super Insiders” episodes, and was recently awarded “Best Hard News” story for 2005 by the United States Tennis Writers Association. You can belittle him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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