Serena Williams finds herself with slightly divided loyalties for the upcoming women’s World Cup semi-final, having developed a sneaky admiration for the England team.
The American great, who resurfaced at Wimbledon after maintaining a low profile since the French Open, will clearly be supporting her own nation on Tuesday.
But since finding herself at the same training centre as the England (she called them ‘British’) squad while in Paris she has a soft spot for them.
Serena Williams trained at Wimbledon ahead of the Monday start for the Championships
Williams (right) arrived with her coach Patrick Mouratoglou (left) at SW19 on Friday morning
‘It’s funny because obviously I’m rooting for U.S, I love the team,’ she said. ‘But when I was training in Paris, the British players were training exactly where I was every day.
‘We were at breakfast. It was so fun to see how hard they worked, just how amazing they were.
‘I was looking at them in the gym. I’m like, “Okay, I cannot do that..” At one point I wanted to join in their ab exercise. Wonder if I could scoot to the side and do exactly what they’re doing.
‘We were, like, workout buddies. I didn’t really work out with them, but we worked out in the same vicinity. I like to say we worked out together.
‘It’s kind of cool being in that experience of watching the Brit women, then having obviously the team that I’m rooting for, USA, go against each other.’
Williams has come to SW19 searching for a 24th Grand Slam title but, by her own admission, is short of matches after going out of the French Open third round.
The American great will be targeting her 24th Grand Slam success at the All-England Club
Williams admits that training alongside England in Paris left her in admiration of the Lionesses
Drama never follows her far behind, and her exit from Paris was marked by an incident in the press area, where men’s No 4 Dominic Thiem was asked to leave the main press conference room where he was speaking to accommodate her.
He complained that it showed a ‘bad personality’ and she has since cleared the air with him.
Picked up telling media staff they were rude, she insisted that was because she did not wish to see the Austrian evicted.
‘I asked them to put me in the small room. I begged them to put me in the small room, and they didn’t,’ she explained.
‘I said, “Listen, I can come back”. They’re like, “No, stay here”.
‘They pulled him out. I was like, “You guys are so rude to do that,” that’s what I said. The next day I had a bad personality. I actually stuck up for the guy, so… I don’t understand how I got a bad personality for telling them what they did was wrong to him.
England will take on Williams’ U.S compatriots in the semi-finals of the women’s World Cup
Williams says that she is short of match fitness ahead of the start of the Wimbledon this week
‘We spoke about it. I’ve always liked him. I still like him. I’m really, quite frankly, too old to be in controversy. That’s why I just wanted to clear the air. I’m like, “Dude, I told them that it wasn’t right what they did.” They should have never kicked the guy out. Like, it was not cool.’
While Williams would not rule out playing mixed doubles with Andy Murray, saying ‘I’m available’, it seems an unlikely alliance, given that she has been contending with knee problems this year.
What she did have was advice for the younger Scottish sibling, should he make it through to a possible third round meeting against brother Jamie. Based on her experiences of playing 31 times against her sister she said: ‘Don’t look at ’em. Literally look at the ground, don’t look at them at all. Disconnect.’
She has been gradually ramping up the training in the second half of this month.
‘I’ve had a good week and a half, but I have been really just mentally training, physically training for that time. I’m just going to do the best that I can now that I’m here. I know how to play tennis.
‘First day obviously is not super fast. I just did like 30 minutes on court. Each day my body, thank God, is really quick to learn. It learns really fast. Each day is a lot more. By day four I was full in with a couple hours, not including gym sessions.’
The American arrives at Wimbledon hoping to win at the All-England Club for an eighth time
Williams trained alongside her Venus (left) at the All-England Club as their coaches look on
She will be a fascinated spectator when her sister Venus, 39, plays 15-year-old American qualifier Coco Gauff, whose career she has followed closely.
‘She’s such a fantastic young lady,’ said Williams. ‘She works very hard. I see her out there working, training, her and her dad. It reminds me of the time where I was out there with my dad. I can’t help but look inside of myself and be proud and be happy for her.’
There is not a lot of evidence from this title-less year suggesting Williams is anything like the favourite she has been in the past but she sounded optimistic enough.
‘Let’s see how my knee’s going. I’m finally doing good. I can’t go into Grand Slams thinking about records. I just have to go in and think about just the first match. If I get that, I think about the next match. If I’m in the final, try to win one for once.’