- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 7, 2011

When Serena Williams took the court to warm up before Thursday’s World TeamTennis match, it was 94 degrees outside and she was quick to acknowledge the heat. Serena said that she felt, “good, but hot” before facing the Boston Lobsters.

Williams was preparing for her first match on American soil since 2009, when she faced a different type of heat after losing to Kim Clijsters in the U.S. Open semifinals. After being penalized for a foot fault that gave Clijsters a match point, Williams erupted at the match official for making a rare call at such a crucial point in the match.

“I swear to God I’m [expletive] going to take this [expletive] ball and shove it down your [expletive] throat, you hear that? I swear to God,” Williams said.

The official gave Clijsters another point because of Williams unsportsmanlike conduct, ending the match and sending the Belgian to the championship. Williams was frustrated with the call but even more frustrated with the way that she exited the tournament.

“I used to have a real temper, and I’ve gotten a lot better,” Williams told the AP in her postmatch news conference. “So I know you don’t believe me, but I used to be worse.”

Over the past 18 months, Williams has continued to build her image as a role model. She took another step in that direction before Thursday’s match. Like her sister Venus did Tuesday, Serena participated in a pre-match youth clinic. She helped with forehand volleys and answered questions, which ranged from her career’s beginnings (“between 2 and 5”) and her solution to cramping (“put salt in your Gatorade”).

Between new business ventures and her performances on the court, Serena recognizes the importance of giving back.

“It’s really cool. You come out, you help the kids and watch them play. You never know what one kid or two kids or however many kids you can ultimately influence,” she explained. “It’s a beautiful thing.”

Williams said that she is especially excited to be back in Washington. She had glowing opinions of the city and the Kastles’ new stadium on the southeastern waterfront.

“I love playing for this city, and I love this city,” she said. “Now were right on the water, so it’s just an amazing place.”

Thursday marked her first competitive action since Wimbledon, where Williams was bounced in the fourth round by Marion Bartoli on June 27. She casually deflected questions about her performance at Wimbledon as well as sinking world ranking, which is now at its lowest point in 14 years (175).

“I’m just playing and doing what I can. I don’t think about it too much,” she said.

The same attitude holds true for all aspects of her tennis career. Regardless of world ranking and previous finishes, Williams remains confident in her abilities. She may be feeling the D.C. heat, but shes not sweating over her past - including the Clijsters incident in 2009.

“Oh yeah, I mean I don’t really remember that incident to be honest,” she said. “That was ages ago. It was so 2009.”

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