The walk from Court 2 to the player's locker room takes about three minutes. Players are led by security through narrow sidewalks lined with fans, up small flights of stairs and across wide concourses en route from their match to the privacy of the clubhouse.
After winning her second-round match in three sets on Thursday afternoon, Serena Williams was joined on the walk by her father, Richard. The patriarch of the Williams family held some papers in his hand as he escorted his daughter and was eager to show Serena what was written on the pages:
ESPN announcers speculated that Richard was showing Serena notes from the match or a scouting report for her third-rounder. Yet the father and daughter appeared delighted to be reading the papers, hardly the reaction you'd expect from notes about the benefits of hitting to Maria Kirilenko's backhand.
A closer shot revealed that Richard wasn't holding notes, but a newspaper instead.
As Richard broke off from Serena, she said she'd call him later and then continued through the grounds of the All England Club. Upon reaching a terrace, she was abruptly approached by famed tennis coach Nick Bollettieri. They exchanged quick pleasantries and then Serena was off.
It didn't take long after that for the Holmesian minds at Busted Racquet to arrange the puzzle pieces and solve the mystery of the Court 2 newspaper.
Bollettieri wrote a letter to Serena and Venus Williams in Thursday's Independent as part of his daily column for the newspaper. In it, the coach showers praise upon the sisters' parents for "the values and work ethics they instilled in both you guys" and the positive reinforcement they gave the girls. Though he's never been a Jim Pierce or Stefano Capriati, Richard is often portrayed as an overbearing, controlling presence in the lives of his daughters. Bollettieri doesn't disagree but clarifies how it was out of love and, most importantly, how the tactic succeeded:
I want the entire world to know that Richard Williams never, never, not once raised his voice when working with his daughters. Over these years, since even before you turned pro Venus at the age of 14, many, many people, from the tennis establishment, coaches, former players, the media, put Richard down, down, down, right down man, when he did not let you girls play tournament tennis over your formative years.
He's crazy they said, the way he trains you. You know what I say? If only some of the tennis parents we see around today, from the very top level down, were crazy like that. I wish, and sometimes I even pray, that our tennis parents would follow the Williams' philosophy.
The article was accompanied by a picture of the family from years ago. A comparison between it and the page Richard showed Serena indicates that it's what the father was showing his daughter after the second-round victory.
Maybe we're wrong; it's impossible to say for sure. But the pieces fit and our theory is that Richard was delighted to share a memory from the past with his daughter, 19 years and 20 Grand Slams later.
You can see why a father couldn't wait to show off that picture.
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