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The holistic Serena tuning up

January 21, 2012 08:45 AM
Serena Williams in action against Greta Arn in her third-round match.
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com

MELBOURNE, Australia
-- If Serena Williams develops any more off-court interests, someone may have to name a university after her. The 13-time Grand Slam champion, who thrashed Greta Arn, 6-1, 6-1, in the third round at the Australian Open, keeps evolving.

Beyond her plans of opening a nail salon and to continue acting (she says she will soon appear on a big TV show), she is about to take a course in kinesiology and another one in management.

When Serena is engaged in her main profession, she is keenly focused, hence her 39 career titles. But she is not a narrow-minded person and loves to learn.

"If I'm thinking too much, I'm thinking too much about my job, which is tennis," she said. "Then I can start thinking about too much what to do. I try to keep my mind as far away from that. When I'm here, I keep my mind so on it that I'm like crazy. But then when I'm away from it, I just try to relax."

Williams was quite relaxed in her victory over Arn, a hard-working Hungarian veteran who has nowhere near the talent that Williams has and later said that she felt honored to be on the same court with her. After Sam Stosur shocked her in the US Open final, Serena took off the rest of the fall, but she got herself into incredible shape and has happily been showing off her six-pack (ripped stomach muscles) on the beach.

But in her second match in Brisbane in the opening week of this season, she tore two ligaments in her left ankle. She was fortunate to be able to play the Australian Open, or maybe not. Given her long history of injuries and ailments, she has taken a keen interest in how her body works, and she seems to be more in tune with it.

"Every time I go to the doctor, I can pinpoint and tell him exactly what's wrong with me," she said. "I know more about my injuries than they do at the time. The communication that I have is really great. I've always thought if I could just learn about my body and keep learning about physiology, sciences, stuff like that, just for the future I thought it would be really cool. You never stop learning about your body."

Serena is taking a more a holistic approach to healing, too. She has tried acupuncture (she wants to learn it from a Japanese master) and tries to stay away from too much synthetic medicine.

While some traditionalists might scoff at her approach, Serena went through a life-threatening scare last February when she suffered a pulmonary embolism and has been through a slew of leg injuries since she came on tour in 1998.

"I hate having to take medicine that's man-made; I like the holistic," she said. "It's better on your system. It takes longer. But overall the effects of synthetic things are longer term and not really so good for you."

Williams will occasionally partake in yoga, although she doesn't like the spiritual side of it, and would like to try meditation to clear her mind. She is still interested in fashion and has been emailing her clothing sponsors some new inspirations.

But for the next nine days, even if she is trying to work out how she can start her course work with her professors while in Melbourne, she'll be focusing on grabbing her sixth Australian title. She has not come close to her 2010 winning form yet, but that really does not matter, as she has lurched through plenty of first weeks at the majors and turned up just fine by the second week.

"I'm nowhere near where I want to be," said Williams, who has won her last 17 matches in Melbourne. I'm just trying to play through it. A little rusty -- just trying to play through my rust."

Serena will play Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth round, who stunned former US Open finalist Vera Zvonareva. She'll be heavily favored there, but then her draw will likely get very rough: she might face an in-form Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals, possibly Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the semis, and maybe three-time US Open titlist Kim Clijsters in the final.

She is the last Amercian standing in singles, and while she says she tries not to focus on that, she will go out there with more than a little U.S. pride.

"I'm definitely going to keep representing the flag and doing the best I can," she said.


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