Serena Williams practices ahead of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
Serena Williams practices ahead of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park.

There’s reality and then there’s Serena reality

There's reality. And then there's "Serena Reality".

Such is the power of the 23-time grand slam winner, whose summer included training with former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and French house DJ Bob Sinclar in the south of France, karaoke sessions, and beachside cocktails with two-time premiership and Norm Smith medal-winning Tiger Dustin Martin.

Oh, and a congratulatory tweet from the Prez himself, Donald Trump.

 

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It's a veritable who's who - but such is this reality in the world of a player who is arguably - or not, depending who you ask - the "GOAT".

"She trusts me, I trust her," Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou said in a documentary released by Eurosport this week.

"That's why our collaboration has been successful. She has such a huge, strong personality. She knows exactly what she wants.

"And I like to say that there is the reality and there is Serena reality. Serena is able to change the reality to fit what she wants to achieve to herself."

Much like the likes of Cher, Bono and her new mate 'Dusty', it's first-name-only required for the American superstar around Melbourne Park.

This week turns to more serious matters - winning a record 24th grand slam title.

But it is the foundation set by a new approach to the pre-season - implemented by Mouratoglou - that he believes bred not only a new level of fitness, but inspiration.

 

Serena Williams practices ahead of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
Serena Williams practices ahead of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park.

 

Williams smashed boxing bags with Tyson, who said he "don't want to get in the ring" with the American champion, who he said "has some power", and reportedly smashed out some Destiny's Child on the microphone in one of her favourite pastimes, karaoke, at the training camp which also included emerging star Coco Gauff.

When asked by the Herald Sun this week, 18-time grand slam winner Chrissie Evert said it is indicative of the "many personalities" of Serena, which only serves to position her with the world at her size 10.5 feet.

"She has a lot of sides to her," the now-ESPN commentator said.

"She's a well-rounded person. You can't stick her in a box. She's also creative. She's got a fashion line.

"She's a mom, she's a wife. She's a leader in many causes. She's a great tennis player. You know, I think that the world is her oyster at this point, and she's pretty good at everything she tries to do."

Melbourne-based tennis coach Mark Hlawaty knows the many sides to the star better than most, having served as Williams' hitting partner in Australia for almost a decade.

She claimed five Australian Opens during that time, Hlawaty and her fellow team members having to sit in the same seat in the player box and maintain routine.

 

Williams has a passion for karaoke singing.
Williams has a passion for karaoke singing.

 

Hlawaty - who had been working with the likes of Monica Seles and Martina Hingis - caught Team Williams' eye at the 2003 Hopman Cup, prompting an exclusive arrangement that proved fruitful at the year's first grand slam.

His ability to mimic the style of Williams' upcoming opponent - and challenge her - were assets that the power hitter had liked, and goes to show what Hlawaty describes as an "extraordinary" commitment to success.

"To do something extraordinary, you've got to be extraordinary," he told the Herald Sun.

"And you've got to be able to run your life in an extraordinary manner and do those things - sometimes the simple things - extraordinarily well. And that's what she's been able to do.

"To win in Auckland and span it over four decades, that's unbelievable. I think she's really appreciating the wins now, because of the place that she's in her career - it's so different to the middle and the beginning.

"Is it something that can be matched in years to come, who knows? But to be able to have that kind of longevity speaks volumes of the person and the team that she's got around her and that intrinsic drive to be the best and to create history."

 

Williams speaks with coach Patrick Mouratogloua as she prepares to chase down another the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
Williams speaks with coach Patrick Mouratogloua as she prepares to chase down another the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

 

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But despite there being nothing "normal" about what Williams has achieved, he said the woman he worked so closely with for the best part of 10 summers remains just that.

"Behind closed doors, she's been great to me and my fiancée," Hlawaty said.

"She's been open and caring and a normal human. Now as a mum. Last year, I bumped into her in the gym and she was stretching and I was asking her about being a mum and it was just like every other friend of ours that has gone through the same thing.

"It's very much as normal a situation and normal a person that you can get, thrust into this environment which is probably a bit of a circus in itself. She's been caring, thoughtful and really open."

Mouratoglou, who has worked alongside Williams since 2012, agrees with Evert that Williams is "more than tennis".

But he concedes there have been countless moments of true honesty between the pair.

It began in one of their first few meetings, he recalled.

He thought her to be an underachiever - and didn't hesitate to tell her, gloves off.

"I think from the start, she liked what I said," Mouratoglou said.

 

Samantha Stosur with Williams after the Australian beat her in the 2011 US Open final. Picture: Getty Images
Samantha Stosur with Williams after the Australian beat her in the 2011 US Open final. Picture: Getty Images

 

"When we sat down at the start of our collaboration and she said 'OK, what do you see in my game, what do you see for the future', I told her what I thought. I said 'you have 13 grand slams, it's great, but I think you're an underachiever, because I think you should have won many more'."

Since that day, she has added another 10 grand slam victories to her bulging trophy cabinet, and remains firmly in the hunt for more.

Her needs have varied in that time - still do.

"You have to enter into the mind of your player," Mouratoglou said of his philosophy that is without a "recipe".

"I have one method per player, and it's different for everyone.

"When I work with Serena, I work completely differently, because everybody's different. You have to understand how to talk to Serena at every different moment.

"Some moments she needs to be pushed, some moments she needs encouragement. Some moments she needs to be put down."

Australian Sam Stosur, three years Williams' junior at 35, is a card-carrying member of an exclusive group on the WTA Tour - players who have defeated the champion in a grand slam final.

There's not many in the crew - only 7 other than the Queenslander, who took down Williams in her own backyard at the 2011 US Open.

"That night before once I knew I was in the final, I just had in my head that I was winning that next day. I knew what I wanted to do," Stosur said.

"She's arguably the best female player of all time. She's got a presence out there. She's an incredible athlete, and Venus as well.

 

If Williams wins at Melbourne Park this month, don’t be surprised if she pops up on a Melbourne nightclub dancefloor.
If Williams wins at Melbourne Park this month, don’t be surprised if she pops up on a Melbourne nightclub dancefloor.

 

"Her and Venus have grown the sport like no tomorrow over their longevity and everything that they've been able to achieve. It's pretty cool to have played in the same era as them and I wish a couple of those Wimbledon doubles finals, I wasn't playing against them because it would have been nice to get one of those."

If she does lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in 12 days' time - a campaign which begins on Monday against Russian Anastasia Potapova - Williams would equal the record set by Australian Margaret Court, though Stosur does not believe the American's legacy will be defined by the number.

"If she does or she doesn't, I don't think it matters," she said.

"We all know what she's done and her career is not going to be any less if she doesn't get it, in my opinion anyway."

Should she salute, Hlawaty said Melbourne's dancefloors might have to watch out.

"You've got to celebrate the victories, and that's something that she did with her team," he recalled.

"The years that she won, we definitely had some big nights and big feeds and headed out to have a bit of a dance and celebrate, which was great.

"It's great to see because sometimes you think these players are a bit robotic, but you take away the racquet and they're human. For them to win and to experience that and put so much time and effort into a tournament like this in a slam and you're able to win that prize, that's a massive physical, emotional, mental commitment to do that."

 

 

 

Williams tunes up for the real music.
Williams tunes up for the real music.

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