Wimbledon: Serena Williams reminisces over Arthur Ashe

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Wimbledon celebrates Arthur Ashe's 40th anniversary win.

There are a few things Serena Williams has managed to achieve that Roger Federer has not. She has won 20 grand slam titles to Federer’s 17, she has won four majors in a row, while the Swiss has only mustered three… And she also had the privilege to meet the late Arthur Ashe, something Federer deeply regrets to have missed out on.

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 On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Ashe’s historic triumph at Wimbledon over Jimmy Connors, players paid tribute to the American legend, who was the first African American man to win a grand slam title and the only black man to win at the All England Club.

“It was amazing. My only wish is that I met him when I was a little older,” Williams said on Saturday of her meeting with Ashe. “Even though I was super young, he was doing a clinic, and I remember being in that clinic and just thinking ‘wow, I’m hitting with Arthur Ashe. This is so cool’.

“He was so nice. He took his time with all the kids that were there. He took a lot of time with me and with Venus. It was a great moment. It’s something that one never forgets. 

“After 40 years, his legacy still lives on in one of the greatest ways. That was just an amazing match that he played. It was against Connors. It’s meant a lot for African Americans not just in tennis, but in all of sports in breaking barriers.”

Ashe, a three time grand slam champion and ex-world No1, left a great legacy behind him, having opened the door for so many people to enter the world of professional sport.

He died in 1993 after spending his final months raising awareness on the subject of AIDS.

“Without him, I don’t know if I’d be playing today,” said Britain’s Heather Watson.

Federer added: “He was before my time. Unfortunately I never got to meet him. But I’m aware what an influential and important person he was in our game, especially for many other people as well. He’s been a leader.

“It’s too bad I never got to meet the great man. But it’s an honour always playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium of course in New York.”

Williams will begin her quest for a sixth Wimbledon crown on Monday against Russian qualifier Margarita Gasparyan as she attempts to win a fourth consecutive major trophy.

The world No1 hasn’t made it past the fourth round on her last two trips to south west London, which she says will help take the pressure off her this fortnight.

“I think the fact that I lost so early the past couple years definitely makes me motivated. But I think that also gives me a little less pressure because I haven’t done well here in the past two years. It makes me feel like ‘okay, I’ll be fine. I have nothing to lose here. I don’t have many points to defend here’. So it’s just like trying to have fun, go through it,” said the 33-year-old.

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Wimbledon diary: Stan Wawrinka not just pictured holding trophies

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You won't guess what these two stars do off the court.

Tennis players rarely get to do much off court. Their lives seem glamorous and fun but in reality a lot of it is spent on the court, in the gym, or in a hotel room binge-watching Game of Thrones.

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So when they do get a chance to do something different, it’s usually something really out there.

French Open champion Stan Wawrinka was revealed as part of the roster of athletes who have posed for ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue in which sportsmen and sportswomen are photographed nude. The magazine comes out July 10 and while Wawrinka said he wasn’t necessarily nervous about its unveiling, his face certainly suggested otherwise.

“It was a great experience. It was a great challenge for me. Took me a while to accept it. It was interesting shooting. It was different. I did it because they do it in a good way. They want to put athlete first, sport first, sport body,” said the Swiss world No4.

“I think in general they find a good way to mae some nice pictures. That’s the only reason why I accepted.

“I was nervous for the photo shoot. For that, it wasn’t easy for me, but we’ll see what comes out from that.”

A player with numerous talents and many off-court activities, Serena Williams is unlike the majority of her peers. Her hobbies include dancing, singing karaoke and most recently, showing off an incredibly impressive one-handed cartwheel.

Williams posted a video of herself and some friends performing a song from The Sound of Music which tempted a fellow journalist to ask her what inspired that routine.

“Wait for it. That’s actually an old routine. Didn’t look like it. But it was an old routine that we choreographed a long time ago,” said Williams.

“I have a dance team. Yes, a dance team. It is a competitive dance team. Like I said, wait for it. It’s coming. It’s coming. We do competitions. Just local. Our dream is to perform on Ellen,” she added with a laugh.

We’re pretty sure Ellen Degeneres would have Williams on her show in a heartbeat. We can’t wait!

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Wimbledon: Federer feeling fresh, home comforts help Nadal

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Huge tournament ahead for these contenders.

Roger Federer has a fabled history at the All England Club.

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The Swiss is the joint record leader at Wimbledon with seven titles, he’s finished runner-up twice – both in epic five-setters – and when he takes to the courts for his opening round on Tuesday it will be his 17th consecutive showing at the event.

At 33 years old, Federer must feel like he’s done it all and seen it all, yet as he bids to become just the second man in history to win eight titles at any grand slam, the world No2 has declared that his preparation for this particular Wimbledon is “the best I’ve ever had”.

Like so many other seasons, Federer has come to SW19 with a title in Halle under his belt, having picked up an eighth trophy at the German tournament two weeks ago.

But unlike other seasons, there has been an extra week between Roland Garros and Wimbledon, which has made the unforgiving and abrupt switch from clay to grass a little bit easier for the players, who now have three weeks instead of two between the two grand slams.

“It’s changed everything, to be honest,” Federer told reporters at the All England Club. “You might think that a week is not a lot, but a week is so much for us players.

“The good thing is you can heal problems you might have carried over from the French rather than taking chances right away running onto the grass, or not playing a warm-up event.

“Wimbledon comes around very quickly. You come in with many more doubts into the tournament. I could rest and relax and then really train and prepare properly for a change for a good grass court season.

“Just the moving on grass takes some adjustment. Also, in my opinion, some physical adjustment, which I had all the time to do. That worked well.

“I can totally pace myself, which is huge in an athlete’s career and life.”

The last of Federer’ 17 major triumphs came at Wimbledon in 2012 and he is looking to extend his lead at the top of the all-time grand slam leaders list in men’s tennis with another success here this fortnight.

Rafael Nadal is the only man to ever win more than seven trophies at one major, thanks to his nine Roland Garros titles.

The Spaniard is seeded a lowly No10 at Wimbledon and should he win a third time here, he would be the oldest man to win 15 grand slam titles (he is 29 years, 39 days the day of the final).

Nadal practiced twice on Saturday, once in the morning with Tommy Robredo and in the evening with Marc Lopez, in a clear attempt to be as prepared as he can for his opener against Thomaz Bellucci on Tuesday.

He ended a five-year title drought on grass by winning Stuttgart two weeks ago then lost in his opening match at Queen’s Club two days later to Alexandr Dolgopolov. Nadal flew back home to Mallorca for three days after that loss to hang out with family and friends, play some golf and spend some time at sea on his boat before he was back to business on the lawns at SW19.

“That was very important to me and I needed it,” said Nadal of his three-day break in Mallorca.

“I’m just happy to be here. Healthy, that’s the most important thing. Last year I was better, after 2012 and 2013 was when I couldn’t play well here. Too much stress on the knees.

“It’s good, losing or winning, doesn’t matter, but is good to be healthy on the second most important surface in my career, without any doubt.”

Meanwhile, 2013 champion Andy Murray will be bidding to become the first British man to win multiple Wimbledon titles since Fred Perry, who won here from 1934 to 1936.

The Scot has had the perfect preparation by winning the title at Queen’s a week ago and is touted by many as a top favourite for the tournament. Murray is choosing to focus on enjoying his experience here rather than worry about the pressure of home expectations.

“I want to try to enjoy it as best as I can. A lot of ex-players that I’ve spoken to have said ‘at the end really make sure you get every last ounce out of yourself because these will be the best years of your life. It doesn’t get better when you finish playing. So enjoy it as best you can’,” said the third-seeded Murray.

No4 seed Stan Wawrinka is hoping to become just the fifth man in the Open Era to win the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double having triumphed at the French Open three weeks ago.

The Swiss feels he is finally finding his footing on grass, after making the quarter-finals here last year, and says he’s feeling confident heading into his opener against Joao Sousa.

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