LONDON, Great Britain - Such is Serena Williams' desire to win more Grand Slam titles that, even at seven months pregnant, she is hitting tennis balls for almost an hour a day.
Naturally, last summer's Wimbledon champion and this month's Vanity Fair cover star is not dashing about the practice court. But, as Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou disclosed to wtatennis.com, those daily workouts mean she is continuing to exercise and to keep her mind plugged in to tennis. "Serena is seven months pregnant but still she's playing for maybe 45 minutes every day," the Frenchman said over coffee in a London hotel. "She doesn't run. She can't and she should not. But she hits every day so that she's still mentally into tennis, and also she's exercising."
Mouratoglou's expectation is that Williams, who was pregnant when she won her 23rd Grand Slam singles title at this year's Australian Open, will return to competition in Melbourne next January. "First of all, she's very happy that she's going to be a mother," he continued. "That's something she had been expecting for a very long time. At the same time, she's disappointed and frustrated at not being able to play. So she has mixed feelings. With her playing every day, I'm sure at the moment that she's going to come back."
"But I'm also saying let's just wait until she has the baby in her arms and see how she feels because for a woman to have a child is something so special so it's difficult to guess how she will react."
Mouratoglou welcomes suggestions that Williams, who turns 36 in September, will never be a force again. He knows that those comments will only motivate Williams, whom he described as being both mentally "strong" and having an astonishing "tolerance for pain". "Serena's the kind of person who, if you tell her that something is impossible, will only want to do it even more. She will want to prove people wrong. That's her personality," said Mouratoglou, whose book. 'The Coach', has just been published in English.
"I love it when people say that there's no chance of Serena coming back. That's the best thing that the media can do, so I say to all journalists and commentators: 'Please, go for it.' If she comes back, she will do everything in her power to win Grand Slams again. She won't play again if she thinks she couldn't win Grand Slams again."
While Williams will be swinging her racket during the Wimbledon fortnight, what she won't be doing much of is sitting in front of her television watching the women's singles. She will find that far too distressing. "I don't think Serena will watch the women's tournament so much as she'll be too frustrated at not being able to compete. When you're off the tour for reasons you can't control, and when you feel competitive and you still feel as though you can win Grand Slams, I think that's difficult and frustrating to sit at home watching others win," Mouratoglou observed. "Maybe she will watch a little bit but not too much. She will watch just enough to feel that frustration and to feed her appetite to play."
If Williams was unhappy about John McEnroe's remarks about her - that she would only be ranked around 700th in the men's game - then Mouratoglou was also aggrieved. "Serena was upset, which I'm sure wasn't John's goal. But it was very negative. What's the point of saying that women aren't as good as men? Of course, if you look at the 100 meters, women aren't running as fast as men, but does that mean that the women's 100 meters is not interesting? No, it doesn't," Mouratoglou said.