Williams, Nadal Are Welcome Company On Our TV Screens

Serena Williams on A Late Show With Stephen Colbert (photo: CBS/YouTube video)

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

With less than two weeks to go before the Australian Open begins on Feb. 8 in Melbourne, some of the biggest tennis stars are popping up on American and worldwide TV screens to drum up attention. At a time that much of tennis has been on quarantine lockdown in Australia, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal have become welcome company for fans who are eager to interact with their favorites.

On Monday night, 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams was a virtual guest on CBS late-night talk show A Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Over the course of their 10-minute conversation, Serena and Colbert covered a variety of “nerd cred” topics such as Williams’ passion of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, plus DC and Marvel comics, and what she does with all of her Grand Slam trophies.

“I do have some nerd cred,” the 39-year-old Williams said during 10-minute interview. “I’m super into – and I heard you’re into – The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit. I’m really big into comics, like the Marvel thing and DC; I’m all into that world.”

Plus, Serena waxed poetically about her daughter Olympia and whether the elder Williams will push her toward a career in tennis: “She’s a perfectionist on the court, not quite sure where she got that from. …

“I never thought that I would let my daughter play tennis but during this pandemic it was the only thing that we could do safely. I was like, ‘Well, tennis it is,'” she said.

Williams suggested that while she would prefer Olympia avoid the pressures that come with playing tennis, she wouldn’t stop her from pursuing the sport if it’s something she really wants to do.


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“It’s all-consuming, it’s stressful, it’s a lot of work, it’s huge commitment, and it might be a little dab of pressure,” Williams said. “So, I’m like: ‘I wouldn’t naturally put her in it,’ but if that was something that she wanted to do, I would absolutely be like ‘Oh my god, she should totally do that.'”

Speaking of the pandemic, the challenge of handling the two-week Australian quarantine came up and Williams responded:

“They’re doing it right,” said Williams, who has been quarantining in Adelaide in advance of playing an exhibition against Naomi Osaka at Day at the Drive on Friday. “It’s definitely hard with a three-year-old to be in the hotel all day, but it’s worth it because you want everyone to be safe at the end of the day.”

And, as Williams will once again try to win her 24th Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open, which would level her with Australia’s Margaret Court, Williams said: “I really play right now for Grand Slams and I love having the opportunity to even still be out here and even compete on this level. What it means to me is an opportunity.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday evening, Nadal joined CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Amanpour to talk about tennis records, quarantine in Australia, and what still drives him to excel after all these years. Like Williams, Nadal is quarantining in his hotel in Adelaide in advance of his exhibition match against Dominic Thiem Friday evening at Day at the Drive. Then, he heads to Melbourne to play in next week’s ATP Cup and, eventually, the Australian Open.

Nadal told Amanpour that he feels “privileged” to be able to play in the Australian Open when one considers how much of the world is affected by the global coronavirus pandemic.

“We can’t complain,” Nadal said. He urged his fellow players who are quarantining in Melbourne to have a “wider perspective.”

“I feel very sorry for all of them but when we came here, we knew that the measures were going to be strict because we knew that the country is doing great with the pandemic,” he said.

“It’s normal to complain, but on the other hand, you see how many are dying around the world … how many people are losing their father, their mum, without having the chance to say goodbye.

“It’s a real thing, not a philosophical thing, that’s real life. That’s what’s happening in my country. Close people to me are suffering this situation.”

Melbourne WTA 500-series entry lists released

Beginning January 31, Melbourne Park will be hopping with a variety of Australian summer series events, including a trio of WTA 500-series events: the Grampians Trophy (a 28-player draw for those who were on a strict hotel quarantine and didn’t benefit from daily outside practice runs Feb. 3-7); and the Yarra Valley Classic and Gippsland Trophy (both draws with 54-players runs Jan. 31-Feb. 6).

Each event is worthy of its WTA 500-series status.

Top seed in the Grampians Trophy is World No. 7 Bianca Andreescu of Canada, who has not played since the end of 2019, followed by No. 2 seed Belinda Bencic (ranked No. 12) of Switzerland, No. 3 seed Victoria Azarenka (ranked 13th) of Belarus, and No. 4 seed Elena Rybakina (ranked 19th) of Kazakhstan.

The top seed in the Yarra Valley Classic is World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia, who has been idle for 11 months, followed by World No. 4 Sofia Kenin of the United States, World No. 6 Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic, and World No. 8 Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic.

Finally, the top seed in the Gippsland Trophy is World No. 2 Simona Halep of Romania, followed by World No. 3 Naomi Osaka of Japan, World No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, and World No. 10 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

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