Fired-up Serena in no mood for small talk
Serena Williams, shown here at the French Open in Paris on May 28, 2014, has sent a warning to her Wimbledon title rivals as the world number one completed her preparations for the grasscourt Grand Slam in a feisty mood - by Dominique Faget
With Wimbledon set to get underway on Monday, Williams made an appearance at the All England Club's pre-tournament press conferences on Saturday, but it quickly became clear the American had no time for small talk.
The 32-year-old cut a grumpy figure for much of her brief session with the media, issuing short answers to many questions and showing little of her usually effervescent personality.
Williams has been mired in something of a slump of late following surprise exits from both the Australian and French Opens.
Although she has won titles in Brisbane, Miami and Rome, the five-time Wimbledon champion has also suffered underwhelming losses to the likes of Petra Kvitova, Jana Cepelova, Ana Ivanovic and Alize Cornet.
Serena's struggles have prompted some to suggest she is finally in decline.
But those chastening defeats have only strengthened her desire to make amends in south-west London and few would bet against the ferociously competitive American adding a sixth Wimbledon singles title to her glittering CV by the time the women's tournament comes to a conclusion on July 5.
Should the top seed move one title ahead of her sister and fellow five-time Wimbledon winner Venus, Serena might well label the defeat against Garbine Muguruza at Roland Garros as the turning point.
Asked on Saturday how quickly she had managed to put the French Open loss behind her, Serena gave a curt response that suggested she plans to get her revenge on the rest of the draw at Wimbledon.
"Who says I'm over it?" she said with a smirk. Yeah, I doubt it. Knowing me, no."
- 10 years after -
With Marion Bartoli now retired following her maiden Grand Slam triumph at Wimbledon 12 months ago, this will be the first time since Steffi Graf in 1997 that the reigning women's champion hasn't returned to defend her crown.
In Bartoli's absence, it is the fired-up Serena who most expect to carry off the Venus Rosewater dish awarded to the female champion and the 29-year-old Frenchwoman agrees with that verdict.
"I very highly favour Serena for it. Not only as she has won so many times but it is a surface that suits her game so beautifully," Bartoli said.
"When you saw her winning at the Olympic Games, the way she played, the way she beat everyone.
"She destroyed Maria Sharapova in the final and I don't think all those young players will be able to challenge her."
Sharapova, fresh from winning the French Open for the second time, is seen as the biggest threat to Serena and they are scheduled to meet in the last eight.
But the Russian, who is seeded fifth, has lost her last 15 matches against Williams, and even the memory of her famous Wimbledon final win over the American as a teenager 10 years ago may not be enough to slay those demons.
Sharapova has not played competitively since her Roland Garros triumph, but she is confident of getting off to a good start on grass.
"I don't like to come into this tournament thinking, 'I just won a Grand Slam'. I like to challenge myself and be hungry," she said.
"Always when I think about winning so many matches or having a great season, I don't know, I get a little bored in my mind. I want to challenge myself when I go out on the court."
Other potential contenders include China's Li Na, who started the year in fine style by winning the Australian Open, although the 32-year-old second seed has never been past the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
Romania's Simona Halep, who has won more titles in the last 12 months than any woman other than Serena, is the third seed after an impressive surge up the rankings capped by her run to the French Open final.
Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, beaten by Serena in the 2012 Wimbledon final, is seeded fourth.