September 18, 2008

Serena and Common in Vancouver

Serena Williams practices at Vancouver Lawn and Tennis Club while boyfriend Common plays Malkin Bowl
by: Marc Weber, The Province

Vancouver Lawn Tennis and Badminton Club members got a Grand Slam-sized surprise Wednesday. World No. 1 women's tennis player Serena Williams - whose rumoured boyfriend, hip-hop artist Common, performed at Malkin Bowl last night - showed up at the club for a two-hour practice. Word spread Tuesday night, and by 9 a.m. Wednesday members began to gather for an up-close look at the U.S. Open champion.

Williams eventually arrived at 12:45 p.m. and about 75 people watched indoors as the nine-time Grand Slam winner went through hitting and agility drills, interspersed with text-message sessions.

Afterwards, Williams - who proved that if you're good enough, you can violate a club's dress code - said she was enjoying her first trip to Vancouver. "I like it, it's such a beautiful day today," said Williams, who pulled out of this week's Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo with an ankle injury. "Venus [her sister] told me that Vancouver was a really pretty city. I got to see the water and everyone was great at the [club]."

She played coy when asked if she was in town to see Common - "maybe, maybe not," she said, laughing. For club member Pamela Steen, soaking up some Serena was a dream come true. "The funny thing is that I often dream about tennis when I've had a lesson, and I had a lesson Tuesday and I had her in my dream that night," said Steen. "Then I showed up and there she was. I didn't believe it. "It was amazing. She hits hard balls and her movement - she's just really beautiful out there."

Williams signed Steen's tennis bag and spent a few gracious minutes with members. One girl who snuck in a few words was Jenny Gjine of Sentinel Secondary. The 14-year-old, up-and-coming player skipped a class for the rare chance to see the world's best player in person. "What an amazing chance," Gjine said.

"On TV, it seems not real. When you get to see someone in real life like that, it just inspires you to play. It makes me want to get out there and hit and get as good as her. "I said, 'Congratulations for winning the U.S. Open,' and she said, 'I hope you do well in your tennis.' "

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