Players used to dread facing Serena Williams, especially at Wimbledon. Nowadays, they seem to be eager to play her—not because they think they can beat Williams, but for the memories.
So when Italy’s Giulia Gatto-Monticone made her Wimbledon debut, she was thrilled to meet Williams. So what if she fell behind 5-0 in 17 minutes and wound up losing 6-2, 7-5?
“Incredibly happy to play her,” Gatto-Monticone says. “Serena is Serena.” The whole day was, “a dream come true,” filled with smiles, tears, and goose bumps. Did Gatto-Monticone think she had a chance against the 23-time Grand Slam winner? “No,” she says, “I never thought that.”
“She told me I’m an amazing player. I don’t know if she really thought so, but she was so nice. I told her she’s the queen of this tournament. I thanked her.”
Then Gatto-Monticone asked Williams for a selfie together. “She was sweet, because I was panicking and I couldn’t find my phone,” Gatto-Monticone recounts. “She said, ‘That’s fine. Don’t worry. I’ll take it with mine and post it on Instagram.’”
Williams faces 18-year-old Kaja Juvan of Slovenia today. Juvan was born more than a year after Williams won the 1999 U.S. Open.
Like Gatto-Monticone, Juvan looks forward to meeting Williams. “I’m glad I got the chance to still play with her,” Juvan says.
Williams’ coach says the pain is gone from Williams’ left knee. “I can actually use my legs now. It’s been a while,” says Williams, who pounded serves at up to 122 mph during the match against Gatto-Monticone. “Now that I can actually use my legs, it just all feels better.”
If the knee holds, Williams and three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray will play for the first time as a mixed doubles team. That event begins today. Watch for tennis fireworks: The Williams-Murray match-up is as high-profile as a team could be.