MELBOURNE – Rafa Nadal, who has come here as the man to beat, says he likes this city (even though he hasn’t won the title here in four tries). “It is big but calm. Very clean,” he says. It is.

Venus Williams says she likes to drive all over town. Even on the left side of the road, which doesn’t faze her. Gets lost all the time, but works her way back to familiar territory. However, Serena says, “They” – presumably her mother – “won’t let me drive here. I had a bad experience that I won’t talk about.”

Venus did have an accident here, however – a second round collision with a new Spanish model named Carla Suarez Navarro. Even though Venus had a match point, Carla ran through that stop sign to win, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5. This kid is one to watch, particularly on clay – but the blue pavement here didn’t faze her.


Sister Serena almost had an accident, too, trailing a threatening Victoria Azarenka, 3-6, 4-2 – until the virus within the pigtailed Belarus blonde kicked in and kicked her out. Too ill to continue. That meant a default win-into-the quarters for Little Sister, whose unmannerly vocal outburst, chastising her own disobedient serve with pungent language, also earned her a warning from the umpire and a fine of $1,000. Presumably she won’t have to borrow from Venus to pay it. Or will she?

Together they’re on solid ground in doubles. Too too good for anybody else these days. Wouldn’t it be great to see them against Pam Shriver and Martina Navratilova at prime? We’ll have to wait until we’re all together in the Great Beyond.

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