From All-England to New England
Serena stops by to take a crack at the Lobsters
DANVERS - Yesterday afternoon, Celtics fans were celebrating their newest member as Rasheed Wallace was being introduced to the media in Boston. There was talk of him being a missing link in bringing another NBA championship to town. Meanwhile, north of the city, the attention wasn’t on a title that someday might be, the buzz was about a champion known worldwide who was only five days removed from capturing both the Wimbledon ladies singles (her third) and doubles (her fourth) crowns.
Although it was a relatively small crowd of media members who greeted Serena Williams in the Marblehead Room at the Sheraton Ferncroft, the fan reception she received from the Ferncroft Country Club crowd down the street in Middleton as she arrived for her World TeamTennis match for the Washington Kastles against the Boston Lobsters was nothing short of ecstatic.
Before the match, Williams looked exhausted, which is understandable considering the grueling nature of the tournament at the All-England Club. But although there have been constant demands on her time, she said she was thrilled to be in the Boston area.
“It has been nonstop, I’ve been doing a lot of stuff,’’ said Williams, who helped the Kastles defeat the Lobsters, 24-17, by winning her singles, doubles, and mixed doubles matches. “I’ve just been going on and on. I really haven’t had time to just sit back and take too much of a day off. I think it’s good that way because that way you can kind of keep going and really enjoy your time off whenever you do get it.’’
Williams, 27, said she had never played a WTT match here, but had played Federation Cup in Boston.
“It was a while ago, and obviously a different venue,’’ she said. “One thing I love about TeamTennis is that we get to travel to a lot of cities that don’t have [major] tennis in those cities, so it’s really exciting to be here. I come here and I look at the stadium and I see how kind of warm and intimate it is, it feels good. It’s so small and your fans are really close to you and they kind of get to know a little bit more of a sense of how you play and how you are. It’s awesome. I love it, actually.’’
Williams is ranked No. 2 in the world in singles. She has 11 Grand Slam singles titles to her credit, one shy of tying World TeamTennis founder Billie Jean King. Williams, whose chance to tie King will come next month at the US Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., said she’s has only allowed herself to consider those types of achievements recently.
“It’s definitely not too soon [to think about it],’’ said Williams. “I actually thought about that after I won [the Australian Open] this year. I thought, ‘Wow, I know what I want to do and that’s to be with Billie.’ The only reason I played TeamTennis is because of Billie Jean. This is her idea, this is her baby. It’s so fun and I love it.’’
King sits at No. 6 on the all-time list of women’s Grand Slam singles titles. Were Williams to surpass her, the two who are tied for fourth are the estimable Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18.
For now, Williams is content to chase King’s mark. She said she keeps in touch with King on a regular basis, although they have not discussed Williams’s pursuit of No. 12.
“I had the opportunity to play for her, she was coaching us Fed Cup one year, the year we won , and it was just a wonderful experience,’’ Williams said. “It was great, I learned so much from her. We always talk, she always e-mails me nice messages. She’s just a really good friend. We haven’t talked about [Grand Slam pursuit]. It’s actually just become my goal recently. Whenever I see Billie, we don’t even really talk about tennis.’’
No matter how long she decides to keep playing, Williams said there is more to life than tennis, and she hopes her contributions outside the sport will be what her fans take into consideration.
“I think your legacy is not what you do on the court but how you live your life and what you do off the court,’’ she said. “I feel like I’ve been blessed with having the opportunity to have two unbelieveably wonderful parents. Not everyone has that and people can take it for granted. Through them, I’ve been able to play tennis and be a role model for other people. The fact that I’ve had that, I feel like I should give back to others who either don’t have that or don’t have the same opportunities I have. To me, that is what legacy is about.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.