Venus and Serena Williams have opted for the comfort of a Wimbledon hotel over the Athletes Village and might miss the opening ceremony, but the tennis siblings were still able to soak up some of the London Olympic experience on Tuesday.
Soon after arriving in the English capital, the Williams sisters and their US teammates got a taste of Olympic traffic gridlock, delaying their pre-Games press conference.
Everyone then had a good chuckle at the expense of doubles partners and brothers Bob and Mike Bryan, who were denied entry into the Olympic media center for not having validated credentials.
Serena, still basking in the glow of her fifth Wimbledon singles title, quickly made it clear, though, that she was not back in London for a few laughs, but for medals.
If the 14-time Grand Slam winner can claim the women’s gold she would become the only player to win all four slams, plus singles and doubles gold.
“It’s exciting to be back so soon, usually we have to wait 12 months to walk back on to Centre Court,” Serena, who will set up camp with her sister and the rest of the US tennis team at a hotel near Wimbledon, told the press conference.
“For me, I’m going to be really excited to have such a quick turnaround and get back on the grass where I love to play,” she said.
Since rejoining the Olympics in 1988 after a 64-year absence, tennis and the Olympics have not always been a comfortable fit, with many players putting a Grand Slam victory ahead of a gold medal.
However, Wimbledon and the Olympics, two ancient sporting institutions, will come together at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
“Growing up as tennis players, you always dream of winning Grand Slams and doing well at tournaments like Wimbledon,” said Venus, who will defend the doubles title with her sister. “To have an opportunity to win a gold medal and be mentioned among all the great athletes, that’s an honor.”
Between them, Serena and Venus have won 10 singles titles on Wimbledon’s manicured lawns along with five doubles crowns, the most recent three weeks ago.
They have never lost as a doubles partnership at an Olympic Games, taking gold in 2000 and 2008, while Venus also has a singles gold in her trophy case from Sydney.
There is also the possibility of a Williams playing mixed doubles and adding to their medal haul. The US will not confirm their mixed doubles teams until Tuesday.
After pulling out of her World Team Tennis commitments to rest a sore back last week, Serena had more bad news for her opponents, saying she was back to full fitness.
“I think when we first heard about mixed that we wanted to play for all three and knew we would really have to be at the ultimate fitness level to do so, but at the end of the day it’s going to be what our team captains want,” Venus said. “Obviously, we’re interested in seeing who could have the best chance to win, because we really want to bring medals home. It’s about the betterment of the team and what would be the best for the USA.”