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- Updated: January 30, 2017
My nine-year-old brother’s sporadic interest in sports is in stark contrast to others in the family. He enjoys his keyboard lessons, feels proud after creating beautifully crafted pots at an art class and like most others his age, spends more time on the iPad than he should.
The women’s final in the Australian Open presented us with an opportunity to watch two siblings battle it out. I gave it a build-up that I knew would appeal to him.
Every few minutes, he would ask me about certain rules in the game. The most heartening thing was that for the first time in ages, his Clash Royale kingdom had ceased to be his priority, at least momentarily.
As Serena waltzed past the older Venus in straight sets, he nudged me and said, “Wouldn’t it have been very weird for them to play against each other? What do you think they talked about before the match?”
It got me thinking about how the duo’s dinner conversation might’ve unfolded the night before this match-up…
At around 8 pm on Friday, Serena, after fending off a few journalists and exchanging pleasantries with Rafael Nadal following his triumph over Grigor Dimitrov, walked towards her sister’s room.
They would always order in ahead of the final of a Grand Slam. For this one meal, all rules on calories were ignored.
Venus, as the older sister, would offer Serena advice on how to could get the better of her adversary, while also discussing aspects where she should look to tighten up her own game.
Only this time, the first in seven years, Serena realized that her opponent would be sitting in front of her.
“You’re so late,” Venus said on opening her room. “Mamma’s running a bit of a fever, so I think she’s just going to take a rain check.”
“Did you watch Rafa play today?” Serena forced a visibly uncomfortable smile. “He was on fire!”
Venus, using her mobile to scroll through restaurants in the locality, nodded in agreement. “It’s going to be quite a match on Sunday, isn’t it?” she said.
“Chinese good for you? I heard these guys make some delicious sweet and sour pork. We can order some wontons and rice to go with it.” There was no way Serena was going to say no to that.
After placing the order, she made her way to the couch, where Serena had, as always, already made herself comfortable.
“Tomorrow won’t be that bad a match either, you know,” Venus said, knowing that it was a conversation that was waiting to be broached. Serena grinned.
“You remember what I told you when you went professional? I told you that you were going to be the best tennis player the world has ever seen,” Venus said.
“You have already proved it to most. Now, you’re just one more Grand Slam away from making it a statistical truth as well.”
The sense of jealousy, often rife when you’re present with someone else from your profession, was missing in Venus’s voice. There was a calmness to it that sank well in the atmosphere.
Serena was listening intently, her eyes fixed on the words about to pop out from her sister’s mouth. There was no way she was going to halt what was apparently a rehearsed speech.
“I’ve seen your game develop over the years. In fact, I think I have helped you out at times when you didn’t think there was a way out. I’m your elder sister, I will always continue to do that,” she said.
Making her way towards the mini-bar in the room, Venus took out a bottle of some energy drink. “You want one?”
“Na, I’m good. Can I have water, please?” Serena said, her voice a little hoarse with emotion. For all the media glory that she would attain after this win, she also knew that it was the first time Venus was playing in a Grand Slam final since 2009 in Wimbledon.
That day too, Serena was in her way. Venus ended the tournament with a smaller trophy, but an equally big smile.
Venus flung a bottle of water towards her sister, who cupped it with both hands. Serena opened the nozzle, took a sip, and placed the bottle next to her. She saw her sister make her way back towards the beige-coloured couch.
“That you will eventually win another Grand Slam is something the world expects, if not knows already.
“Tomorrow, I want you to give it your all. Don’t think about who is on the other side of the court. Hold nothing back. I want to see you play your best game. I want you to make me sweat for each point, to pant after every rally.
“I want you to show everyone what a champion you are.
“But, expect no favors from your elder sister.”