Home Sports I am Serena, call me Rena: Williams

I am Serena, call me Rena: Williams

I am Serena, call me Rena: Williams

serenaBEIJING: The stony-faced man at the immigration desk at the Beijing International Airport broke into a smile as he scanned the pages of the blue-coloured passport. “India, China… same…” he said in halting English, before quickly adding, “so many people.” He couldn’t have put it better.

Fittingly then, it is the people that tennis’ superstars – the ATP Tour’s No.1 & 2 playersNovak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal and women’s world No. 1 Serena Williams – will seek to engage this week at the China Open, in one of the world’s most populous cities.

Williams, who enjoys wearing her black-brown curls lose, is busy adding to her fan club ‘Rena’s Army’, these days. “Rena’s Army is about a worldwide following,” Serena, who opened her China Open campaign with a resounding straight sets win Russia Elena Vesnina on Sunday, said, “My nickname is Rena. So, I shortened Serena’s Army to Rena’s Army. It sounds a lot cooler. A lot of people call me Rena. It’s more intimate and my fans can feel closer to me. They can call me what my closest friends call me. That’s what I wanted for my fans.”

Djokovic, who has enjoyed great success here, having won the title the last three years, opens against dangerous Czech Lukas Rosol on Tuesday — China’s National Day. The reed-thin 26-year-old, whose book on diet, ‘Serve to Win’, points to what Chinese practitioners have been saying for years, eat warm food as it stirs digestive juices better than cold food, including salad, is wooing fans all over again.

“I love playing here,” Djokovic said, underlining his growing popularity in the region, “I have fans from here that follow me through the whole year. They come to give me presents, at the hotel or at the venue, and they wait for hours and hours to see me. That’s something that’s very unique and special about China.”

Djokovic, who listed the speed and bounce of the court as one of the reasons for his success here, will be under enormous pressure to defend his title this time. On the line is the world No. 1 ranking. The Serbian will have to win the title for the fourth time to even have a chance of retaining the top spot. While the man giving Djokovic the chase — 27-year-old Nadal, winner of the French and US Open crowns this year — will only need to make the final in Beijing to wrest the No. 1 ranking.

“As long as there’s a chance to keep the No.1 spot, I’ll be in the fight,” Djokovic warned, “This year Rafa has been the best player in the world. I have been having ups and downs throughout. Still it has been quite a good season for me and it’s still not over yet.”

Nadal, who returned to the Tour in February following a seven-month injury break, has enjoyed a spectacular season. A year that began with tennis writers all but putting out obit pieces on the Spanish superstar’s career, has seen Nadal go on to spoil the Djokovic-Andy Murray rivalry storyline with a stunning run in the American hard-court season that resulted in the US Open crown, making him the man to beat.

The Spaniard, who is billed to take the court opposite Santiago Giraldo on Tuesday, credited opponents for his run. “All my career I’ve had great opponents. They make me improve all the time.”


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