LONDON – Media Day is always a fun day at Wimbledon. Athletes and media let down their hair and don a relaxed attitude before tennis’s most storied tournament begins.
Serena Williams, the world number one and favorite at Wimbledon, appeared as relaxed as possible despite the pressure ahead of her. She could win her fourth Grand Slam in a row and be one third of the way towards the rare Calendar Grand Slam. She said the thoughts do not change her preparation or training.
“Personally, it [calendar Grand Slam] doesn’t make it feel any different, which I think is a good thing ’cause I don’t feel any pressure to win all four,” she said. “I’ve been saying that, but I really don’t feel that pressure. Maybe if I would happen to win here, then maybe I might start feeling it after that. Ultimately, I’m taking it one day at a time and I’m not thinking that far.”
Last year, Williams lost to Alize Cornet in the third round and withdrew from doubles after a bizarre health scare. In 2013, she lost in the quarterfinals to Sabine Lisicki. But she is determined to not allow these last two years to bother her play this year.
“I think the fact that I lost so early the past couple years definitely makes me motivated,” she explained, adding:
But I think that also gives me a little less pressure because I haven’t done well here in the past two years. It makes me feel like, Okay, I’ll be fine. I have nothing to lose here. I don’t have many points to defend here. So it’s just like trying to have fun, go through it.
Wimbledon pushed the tournament back a week to allow more time between it and the French Open. Only two weeks separated the end of clay season and the beginning of Wimbledon, but now players receive a much-needed third week. The players interviewed today told the media they enjoy the extra week to either relax or push in more practice.
“Yeah, I hit on grass in Florida one day or some days,” said Williams. “I thought you were going to say, ‘Was I tempted to go on vacation?’ I was, but of course I didn’t.”
She continued: “But was I tempted to play a tournament? Not yet. I do think the week is pretty awesome, because right now we would be entering the middle week of Wimbledon already. So I definitely think the week is really going to help a lot of players.”
Roger Federer, who hopes to win a historic eighth Wimbledon title, went into great detail about the extra week. Unlike Serena, Federer played and won the Gerry Weber Open in Halle last week. He insists the extra time means a lot to the players:
Yeah, it’s changed everything, to be honest. You might think that a week is not a lot, but a week is so much for us players. Obviously that week we have now, we have less after Wimbledon. So let’s talk about the positives right here. The body might feel it after Wimbledon. But, no, the good thing is you can heal problems you might have carried over from the French rather than taking chances right away running onto the grass, or not playing a warmup event. Wimbledon comes around very quickly. You come in with many more doubts into the tournament. I could rest and relax and then really train and prepare properly for a change for a good grass court season. Just the moving on grass takes some adjustment. Also, in my opinion, some physical adjustment, which I had all the time to do. That worked well. I could go early to Halle, train a lot, rest again. Same here. Arrived two days after the finals. Trained for three days, off today. I can totally pace myself, which is huge in an athlete’s career and life.
Rafael Nadal also thinks the extra week is great for the players, especially if they are injured or fatigued:
I don’t know if is easier or not, no? But the real thing, is better for everybody, obviously to have the possibility to don’t play a week after Roland Garros. I played, because my body asked me to play. But to have the possibility to don’t play, still have the chance to play two tournaments before Wimbledon, is a great news.
Less chances of injuries, if you don’t make, as I did almost every year the transition from Roland Garros to Queen’s in one day, the chance to get injury, you know, you change a lot of movements, a lot of things in your game, you know, the way that you hit the ball, the way that you move, the serves. All these kinds of things are dangerous for your body. If you don’t have the chance to do it, that transition a little bit slower is a danger for your body. So is a great news.
Maria Sharapova turned up looking a lot better than she did at the French Open. During that tournament she fought a horrible cold, which damaged her play. She did not provide more information on the illness, but did receive tests in California after the tournament:
Yeah, it’s not something that I like to talk about because I never like to set up an excuse for anything that I do. I was going through it and I was trying to kind of battle every symptom that I had for a week or so during the French Open, and a few days before. Once I got healthy and kind of got the green light to just start training, that was my goal. It was great to be able to be on the court and not have to cough or blow my nose a hundred times and all those things. It’s kind of annoying when you’re just trying to become a great tennis player. Going through that, it’s been a great last couple of weeks.
On Sunday, the media will interview defending champions Petra Kvitova and Novak Djokovic. The tournament starts on Monday morning.