Des­ta­nee calls as gen­er­a­tions col­lide

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By ASSOCIATED PRESS in Melbourne, Aus­tralia

Last week, Des­ta­nee Ai­ava be­came the first player born this mil­len­nium to win a main­draw match at a WTA event.

Next week, the 16-year-old Aus­tralian will be the first player born in the 2000s to play in the main draw at a Grand Slam tour­na­ment, thanks to a wild-card en­try to the Aus­tralian Open.

This week, the high­light has been hit­ting with Ser­ena Williams, the 22-time Grand Slam cham­pion and the in­spi­ra­tion for Ai­ava’s ca­reer.

Ai­ava was five years old when she watched one of the Williams’ matches on TV, and told her par­ents that ten­nis was go­ing to be her ca­reer.

Her par­ents took her se­ri­ously, and her mother be­came her learn-as-she-goes coach.

On Thurs­day, the 35-yearold Williams did a pro­mo­tional ap­pear­ance for her racket spon­sor on Mar­garet Court Arena, in­clud­ing a hit- Draw for Chi­nese women’s play­ers up against the Melbourne school­girl.

Asked what it was like to hit with the six-time Aus­tralian Open win­ner, Ai­ava paused for a while be­fore Williams chimed in with an an­swer for her: “Great.”

Ai­ava laughed, ad­mit­ting she was more ner­vous meet­ing Williams than she had been play­ing in an ex­hi­bi­tion tour­na­ment ear­lier in the day.

“It’s ac­tu­ally one of the best days of my life,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of fun to­day, get­ting to hit with Ser­ena. Hope­fully there’ ll be more op­por­tu­ni­ties like this in fu­ture.”

Williams is seeded No 2 at Melbourne Park, where she lost the fi­nal last year to An­gelique Ker­ber. She lost the French Open fi­nal to Gar­bine Mugu­ruza be­fore win­ning Wim­ble­don to equal St­effi Graf ’s Open-era record of 22 ma­jor ti­tles.

Ai­ava, who was born on May 10, 2000, and was No 386 at the start of the sea­son, has al­ready met the long-re­tired Graf, her prize for win­ning the Longines Fu­ture Ten­nis Aces tour­na­ment in Paris in 2012.

Af­ter her first-round win in Bris­bane last week, she lost to two-time Grand Slam win­ner Svet­lana Kuznetsova. So she’s get­ting more com­fort­able in elite com­pany.

The arena where she hit with Williams car­ries the name of the wo­man who holds the record for most Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tles — Mar­garet Court won 24 from 1960 to 1973 in a ca­reer that spanned the ama­teur and Open eras.

Williams is aim­ing for 23 when the Aussie Open starts on Mon­day and, with her com­pet­i­tive spirit, there’s lit­tle doubt there’s an­other tar­get for her in the fu­ture.

For now, though, she’s not pre­pared to men­tion those mile­stones.

“I’m not talk­ing about that,” Williams said on Thurs­day, de­spite some ex­tra urg­ing. “I said I’m not talk­ing about that, move on.”

Williams drew a chal­leng­ing first-round op­po­nent in Belinda Ben­cic and also had No 9 Jo­hanna Konta, No 17 Caro­line Woz­ni­acki and No 6 Do­minika Cibulkova in her quar­ter.

Top-ranked An­gelique Ker­ber, who beat Ser­ena in last year’s fi­nal and also won the US Open to fin­ish the year at No 1, will open against Le­sia Tsurenko.

Peng Shuai (CHN) vs Daria Kasatk­ina (RUS x23)

Zhang Shuai (CHN x20) vs Qual­i­fier

Duan Yingy­ing (CHN) vs Qual­i­fier

Zheng Sai­sai (CHN) vs Danka Kovinic (MNE)

Wang Qiang (CHN) vs Mir­jana Lu­cic-Ba­roni (CRO)

Hsieh Su-wei (TPE) vs Karin Knapp (ITA)

Han Xinyun (CHN) vs Irina Fal­coni (USA)

JOHN MINCHILLO/ AP

South­ern Methodist Univer­sity’s Ben Moore (left), Cincin­nati Bearcats’ Troy Cau­pain (sec­ond from left), Ster­ling Brown, Semi Ojel­eye (33) and SMU’s Ja­cob Evans (1) scram­ble for pos­ses­sion in the fi­nal sec­ond of their NCAA col­lege game, on Thurs­day, in Cincin­nati. Cincin­nati won 66-64.

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