Best day ever: Des­ta­nee hits with Ser­ena, her in­spi­ra­tion

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - SPORTS - By John Pye

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

Next week, the 16-yearold Aus­tralian will be the first player born in the 2000s to play in the main draw at a Grand Slam tour­na­ment, thanks to a wild­card 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 5 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-year-old Wil­liams did a pro­mo­tional ap­pear­ance for her racket spon­sor on Mar­garet Court Arena, in­clud­ing a hit 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 ten­nis com­pany.

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