Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 24th 2013 Contents LONDON---As her agent nodded
along approvingly from a front-row
seat, Serena Williams sounded con-
trite and composed. Well-rehearsed,
Williams even managed to crack
herself up with a couple of jokes dur-
ing her news conference at Wimble-
don as the defending champion,
where the primary topic was hardly
her 31-match winning streak or her
bid for a sixth title at the All England
Club or her injured sister Venus
absence from the field.
Instead, more than half the ques-
tions at Sunday s session revolved
around themes generating the most
buzz on the eve of tennis oldest and
most prestigious Grand Slam tour-
nament: what Williams was quoted
as saying in a recent magazine arti-
cle---and Maria Sharapova s surpris-
ingly forceful verbal swipe in reaction
to that story.
"It definitely hasn t been easy," the
No 1-ranked Williams said about the
stir created by a Rolling Stone profile
posted online Tuesday. "And I feel
like I really wanted to say: I apologise
for everything that was said in that
Williams already had issued a state-
ment expressing regret for remarks
about the 16-year-old victim in the
Steubenville, Ohio, rape case.
Yesterday, Williams said she
approached the No 3-ranked Shara-
pova to try to smooth things over by
extending an apology at a pre-tour-
nament players party Thursday. The
back-and-forth between two of the
sport s most popular and successful
women can be traced to a passage
where the story s author surmised
that something critical Williams said
during a telephone conversation with
her sister referred to Sharapova.
But Thursday s interaction didn t
end the matter because Sharapova
delivered this broadside at her news
conference Saturday: "If she wants
to talk about something personal,
maybe she should talk about her rela-
tionship and her boyfriend that was
married and is getting a divorce and
Given a chance to react directly to
that swipe 24 hours later, Williams
declined, saying: "I definitely was
told of (Sharapova s) comments. I
definitely like to keep my personal
life personal. I think it would be inap-
propriate for me to comment on it."
All in all, nothing tennis related
has drawn nearly as much attention
in the run-up to Wimbledon. That
might change today, when play begins
and four-time major champion
Sharapova is among those scheduled
to be on court, facing 37th-ranked
Kristina Mladenovic of France. Also
on the schedule: two-time Australian
Open champion Victoria Azarenka,
2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvi-
tova, and a matchup between up-
and-coming Americans Sloane
Stephens and Jamie Hampton.
The honour of the year s first match
on Centre Court goes to the defending
men s champion, Roger Federer.
"You feel very unique, clearly,
because you are the one opening the
court," said Federer, who will be bid-
ding for a record eighth Wimbledon
championship. "I think it s a big deal
for, also, the players I ve played, who
got the unluck or luck of the draw
to play me in that first round."
This time, the recipient of that
"unluck" was Victor Hanescu of
Romania, who s never made it past
the third round in seven previous
Others playing today include No
2 Andy Murray, the runner-up a year
ago; and No 5 Rafael Nadal, whose
12 Grand Slam titles include two at
Wimbledon. Federer could face Nadal
in the quarterfinals, with the winner
possibly meeting Murray in the semi-
"I d rather Rafa and Roger were on
the other side of the draw," said Mur-
ray, aiming to give Britain its first
male champion at Wimbledon since
Fred Perry in 1936, "but they re not."
No.1 Novak Djokovic, meanwhile,
is expected to have an easier path
through other half of the field and
won t get started until tomorrow.
That s also when Williams is sched-
uled to play.
By the sound of things Sunday,
she might be pleased to be able to
focus on tennis rather than talking.
"There s one thing I m really good
at," said the 31-year-old Williams,
the oldest woman to top the WTA
rankings, "and that s hitting the ball
over a net, in a box. I m excellent."
Certainly true. She won her 16th
Grand Slam title by beating Sharapova
two weeks ago at the French Open,
and declared Sunday, "It s great for
women s tennis when we play each
other." (That might be because
Williams has won their past 13
Williams is 74-3 overall and has
collected three of the past four major
titles since the start of Wimbledon
in 2012. That, perhaps not coinci-
dentally, is when she began working
with French tennis coach Patrick
Mouratoglou, to whom Williams has
been linked romantically.
Neither has confirmed publicly
whether they re a couple, but Shara-
pova s shot on Saturday was taken
as a reference to Williams and
Mouratoglou. Sharapova was
responding to a question about the
portion of the Rolling Stone story in
which Williams spoke to her sister
about what the reporter described as
"a top-five player who is now in love."
Williams lamented yesterday that
"a private conversation" was reported
about, but she also broke into peals
of laughter when saying: "I ve been
in the business for a little over 200
years, so I should definitely, definitely
know better. I should know better to
always have my guard up."
She is quoted in the article as say-
ing: "She begins every interview with
I m so happy. I m so lucky ---it s so
boring. She s still not going to be
invited to the cool parties. And, hey,
if she wants to be with the guy with
a black heart, go for it."
That is followed by these words in
parentheses from the writer: "An
educated guess is she s talking about
Sharapova, who is now dating Grigor
Dimitrov, one of Serena s rumored
Yesterday, Williams said: "I made
it a point to reach out to Maria. ...
I said, Look, I want to personally
apologize to you if you are offended
by being brought into my situation.
I want to take this moment to ... be
open, say I m very sorry. "
Williams repeatedly used some
version of the phrase "inadvertently
brought into a situation" to describe
the way Sharapova got involved.
"It s important what I ve learned
this week---mostly that it s so impor-
tant to know all the facts before you
make a comment or before you make
an assumption," Williams said.
"That s something I m still learning."
There were other subjects discussed
Sunday, if only briefly.
Those included Williams first-
round opponent (92nd-ranked
Mandy Minella of Luxembourg).
And how Williams feels when she s
not the favourite to win a title ("Not
so often," she noted).
And what it s like to be at Wim-
bledon without the 33-year-old
Venus, who also is a five-time cham-
pion but is sidelined by a lower back
injury and will sit out the tournament
for the first time since 1996.
"I feel so lonely. I feel like some-
thing is missing. So I talk to her all
the time---more than usual," the
younger Williams said.
"Before I left, she said, Snap out
of it. It s time for you to pass me. So
that was really encouraging," Williams
continued. "Hopefully I ll be able to
do it." (AP)
BOSTON---The champion of the men's
2013 Boston Marathon returned his win-
ner's medal to Mayor Thomas Menino
yesterday to honour the city and those
killed and injured in the bombings near
the finish line of one of the world's top
"Sport holds the power to unify and
connect people all over the world," Lelisa
Desisa of Ethiopia told the crowd
through a translator. "Sport should never
be used as a battleground."
More than 6,400 athletes gathered on
Boston Common for the 10K organised
by the Boston Athletic Association, the
same nonprofit that handles the annual
marathon. Spots for Sunday's race sold
out in 13 hours online.
"Let me tell you: As mayor of this
great city for the last several years, I
have never seen Boston come together
like it has after the attacks," Menino
said. "Thank you for making Boston
A moment of silence paid tribute to
the three victims killed in the April 15
bombings and to Sean Collier, the Mas-
sachusetts Institute of Technology police
officer who was shot and killed April 18
in a search for the suspects. (AP)
2013 Boston Marathon winner returns his medal to city
in build-up to Wimbledon
Maria Sharapova of
Russia is watched by
a coach during a
training session at
start today, with
attempting to win
the title for the sixth
time. AP PHOTO
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