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HindustanTimes Sun,23 Nov 2014

Tennis

Serena wins over crowd in French and with art
AFP
Paris, May 27, 2013
First Published: 08:30 IST(27/5/2013)
Last Updated: 08:36 IST(27/5/2013)

Serena Williams crushed French Open first round opponent Anna Tatishvili and then conquered another Roland Garros foe, the fickle Paris crowd with a live, confident speech in French.

The world number one and 2002 champion brushed aside Tatishvili 6-0, 6-1 while most of the well-heeled of Court Philippe Chatrier were still digesting lunch.

By the time they had retaken their seats, however, the 31-year-old American had them eating out of her hands by conducting her on-court interview in French.

It was something she had planned last year but that was before Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano sent her crashing to defeat in the first round, her worst ever Grand Slam loss.

Fast forward 12 months and Williams is transformed.

She has swept her last four tournaments, is on a 25-match winning streak and is the overwhelming favourite to collect a 15th major.

"It didn't work out for me last year," said Williams.

"I have been speaking French for years and years, but I don't really have a lot of confidence. I just had to kind of jump in."

"Like once I get there and I get warmed up, I know how to say things and what I can speak. It's just getting that confidence to speak in French. It's way, way, more nerve wracking than playing tennis."

Williams is becoming quite the Francophile, buying an apartment in one of Paris' upmarket districts and being romantically linked with French tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou at whose academy she routinely trains.

Williams also revealed she is developing a Parisian's passion for art, even attending a painting class in the city last week while her rivals were shivering on the Roland Garros practice courts.

"My friend's taking a painting class. I said, Wow, that sounds so French, you go to Paris and you paint and you meet someone. That would be really cool," said the American.

"I was like, I want to get in the class. I ended up going to a painting class. It was fun. Really random. I'm probably the worst artist alive. So I didn't do so well, but it was really, really, really fun."

Next up for Williams is a contest with French 19-year-old Caroline Garcia who was a set and 4-1 up on Maria Sharapova in 2011 before running out of steam in the third set.

Williams admitted that the French Open has always posed the greatest challenges for her.

Apart from her 2002 triumph, she has not been in the final since, having to be content with a semi-final run in 2003 and making the quarter-finals on five occasions.

"I just keep trying, and it hasn't been working out for me. I may have gotten nervous in the past or may have basically choked a few matches away," said Williams, the oldest player to be ranked at number one in the world.

"Some matches I just lost because maybe I wasn't intense enough or maybe I didn't do enough work before I got here to the tournament."


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