Serena Williams: The Great One

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The phone rings. it's Venus.

If they weren't actually sisters, the two could make a perfect CBS sitcom, Two Rich Girls. Venus is slim and elegant – Serena wears a don't-sass-me look. Venus plays with grace and little emotion – Serena is all grunts and glares. While Venus dated a golfer named Hank, Serena was with Ratner, a middle-aged Hollywood enfant terrible. Serena drives a Rolls-Royce, and Venus shyly replied to a question about her cars with "Uh, I get rides."

But whatever their differences, they share a sisterly alliance of Venus and Serena versus the universe. It was Venus who made Serena go to the hospital in 2011 when her leg swelled up because of a pulmonary embolism. Now it is Serena who consoles Venus through Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that threatens the elder Williams' career.

They talk at this time every day. After chattering about their dad, they move on to gossip. As usual, Serena does most of the talking.

"There are people who live, breathe and dress tennis. I mean, seriously, give it a rest." Serena exits the car and the conversation moves on to a top-five player who is now in love. "She begins every interview with 'I'm so happy. I'm so lucky' – it's so boring," says Serena in a loud voice. "She's still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it." (An educated guess is she's talking about Sharapova, who is now dating Grigor Dimitrov, one of Serena's rumored exes.)

This is sort of how Serena rolls. There's Serena and then the rest of the tennis world. She likes to say "Good match, girl" and condescendingly pat her vanquished rival on the shoulder after a match. Virginie Razzano, who upset Serena at the French Open last year, said that she has encountered Serena twice since and got the Serena death glare both times.

"I'm there to do a job, not to make friends," says Serena, before hastily adding, "but I'm not there to make enemies."

Serena clicks off the phone and drags herself into the gym.

Did you ever want to have one thing in common with a world champion? Now you can! Nobody dreads the gym like Serena. She plugs in her iPod and lets a trainer manipulate her legs without making eye contact. She lifts light weights with her left hand while texting with her right. The most painful part comes when she has to run intervals on a treadmill. Her trainer tries to talk her through them, forcing her to remove her ear buds, an impossibly annoying imposition to Serena.

"Are we done?" asks Serena.

"Two more," says the trainer.

"One more."


Serena climbs off sweaty and relieved, a kid whose calculus class ends early for a fire drill. We head back to the house.

"OK, shower and then nails!" Her whole demeanor changes; the face lightens up. "Finally, something I've been looking forward to."

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