Monday, July 2, 2007

The Story of Dani and Serena

Daniela Hantuchova and Serena Williams never played with each other on the playground when they were kids. It wasn't that the two of them didn't get along, it's just that they had other friends, other interests, other ways to entertain themselves.

But on Monday, the two met on tennis' ultimate playground: Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Serena treated her new-found friend Daniela well for the first ten games, letting her win three while taking a 6-2, 1-1 lead.

"You're fun to play with, Dani!" Serena shouted, skipping across the baseline twirling her big hoop earrings underneath a new haircut.

Dani smiled, she wasn't quite sure what to say back to that; she's always been the shy one on the playground, quiet and reserved.

When the rains came, the two polite girls scurried inside for snacks and a nap.

"I love snack time!" Serena screamed, passing Dani at the water fountain.

Dani eyed the food inside the cafeteria. "I think I'll just go to the quiet area and take a nap," she said timidly. "I'm not very hungry."

Being forced from the playground isn't something any kid likes - especially Dani and Serena. Serena's mom played with her hair while Dad talked about 'playground tactics'.

Serena's eyes glazed over.

"I just love to play, Daddy!"

And soon enough, she was playing again. But when the two returned to the playground, Dani's nap-time proved more fruitful than Serena's snacking.

Soon, Serena's bouncy and cheery disposition turned a cool gray.

"She stole my pencil!" Serena said, stamping her foot in front of Kader Nouni, the playground monitor.

Dani's a sensitive girl and Serena's accusations hurt her feelings. Soon her 5-2 lead disappeared as fast as her cart of chocolate milk does on Tuesdays; it was 5-5.

Then Dani served not one, but two serves into the ground, the ball barely making its way to the net.

Serena thought this to be very funny. "Oh Dani!" She yelled. "You should stick to tether ball!"

Just then, with Serena's body shaking with laughter, she seemed to laugh too hard and her leg began hurting very, very bad.

"Bring her the ice pack!" Kader yelled.

"I hate getting hurt on the playground," Serena squeaked through the tears, getting her pretty white dress covered in dirt and grass.

All Dani could do was watch. She always looks so unsure on the playground.

Just then it began raining again, as if Serena's tears were falling from the sky.

Serena hobbled to the nurse's office with her ice pack. She wanted to call her mom to take her home.

Dani looked blankly up at the sky. She still seemed confused.

And a couple hours later, when the two returned again to the playground, Serena was wearing band-aids on both legs. She couldn't walk very well.

"Are you okay Serena?" Dani asked.

But Serena didn't respond. She didn't seem like she was in a playful mood. She looked scared.

And so Dani did all she could to help Serena feel better. She hit the yellow ball right to her some times, other times she hit it softly. Sometimes Dani would feel so bad she couldn't even hit it in the playground, so she hit it out instead.

Dani's parents glared at her from over the fence: they thought their daughter was better than this with her peers.

Meanwhile, Richard, Serena's tall dad was jumping up and down, waving his arms. He seemed to think Dani was a great friend to Serena - he gave her thumbs up.

Soon, with Serena up 3-2, she asked for the bathroom pass from Kader. "No, Serena, it's Dani's turn to serve."

"But I really have to go," Serena squirmed, crossing her legs and dancing the I-have-to-go-to-the-bathroom dance.

"Keep playing," Kader said.

But Dani didn't understand. Why can't Serena have the bathroom pass when she wanted it? And so she did her best to help hurry Serena to the bathroom. Hitting more soft shots. More out shots. More shank shots.

"You can use the bathroom now, Serena," Kader cooed at 4-2.

"I don't have to go anymore!" Serena chirped. She skipped around the playground, waving to her big sister Venus who was on the jungle gym.

"I love this playground Venus!" Serena yelled at the top of her lungs.

"Careful Serena," Dani called, looking concerned. "Your band-aids are about to fall off your boo-boos!"

Serena looked blankly at Dani and started giggling.

"Oh, Dani," she whispered to herself.

And then, the recess bell rang, and it was all over. Serena waved more to her family, obviously excited about the lollipop awaiting her in the nurse's office.

Dani looked her in the eyes as they walked off the playground.

"But I thought we were friends, Serena," she said.

"We've never been friends Dani," Serena replied. "And anyway, this is Wimbledon."

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