Last year, she came into the Australian Open with so many concerns over her form and fitness that the bookmakers were quoting her at a remote for the title. The contrast with the Williams could hardly be more marked. Grand slams mean a lot to me.
It happened right in the middle of pre-season. I was doing training, cardio, all kinds of stuff. It was a romantic tale, and an unusual incidence of Williams shedding some light on her personal life.
Some 18 months into the relationship, few outside her intimate circle even knew that it existed until she chose to make it public in this unexpectedly artistic style. Occasionally, though, rumours slip out. During the first two years of her professional relationship with coach Patrick Mouratoglou, she was understood to be dating him as well as employing his tactics.
The affair came unstuck around the time of Wimbledon , the theory goes. Which may help to explain that peculiar episode when she was forced to forfeit a doubles match because she could barely stand, let alone swing a racket.
A virus was the official explanation. Judging by her answers Saturday, she is wary of too much contentment, because she fears it will make her go soft on the court. Asked whether she needed a little anger inside to spur her on, she replied: Yeah, sacrifices are what you definitely have to have. Yet she is not alone there. Of the four enduring tennis stars from the early s, not a single one made it through to the end of the season.
The cartilage is known to be an issue, as you might expect after 22 years of professional tennis. And when she returned to action in Auckland earlier this month she won only a single match — against world No 69 Pauline Parmentier — before going out to Madison Brengle in violently windy conditions. Australian Open Players missing in action This lack of match practice could be an issue when she faces Belinda Bencic — a potentially awkward first-round opponent — on Tuesday.
But Mouratoglou says he is confident that Williams will be ready, on the basis of some thorough pre-season preparation. He also told the New York Times in a recent interview that her own excitement about her private life could help to supply inspiration.