James Lawton: Serena Williams tempted by battle of the sexes as latest challenger reduced to a shrug

'Andy Murray is one of the top three people I don't want to play but maybe we can...' says world No 1


Caroline Garcia, a 19-year from Lyon, was playing the kind of tennis which persuaded Andy Murray that one day she will be the world's No 1.

Elegantly, she unfurled a series of shots which were laden with the clearest evidence of superior class. Her serve had bite and a velocity which consistently soared above the 100mph mark.

Then something quite brutal happened at the net that not only silenced the growing encouragement of the fans on Court One but also provoked a Gallic expression of despair worthy of the great mime artist Jacques Tati. It was easy enough to interpret because it asked the biggest question of all in women's tennis: how do you stop Serena Williams?

She came here in the deepest controversy, wrestling through disagreements with Maria Sharapova, issuing apologies, trying to hold her ground, but that seemed like old, extremely stale business. Garcia earned her respect – "she is a player of exceptional skill," said the winner of 16 Grand Slam titles – but the consequence was that piece of savage retaliation at the net. It was followed, immediately, by a screaming ace that registered 123mph.

She overwhelmed Garcia 6-3, 6-2 in barely an hour and came off court to be vastly entertained by the news that Murray was intrigued by the possibility of taking her on in one of those old-fashioned battles of the sexes in Las Vegas. This may have involved quite a lot of Scottish and American tongues in the cheek, but about one thing there could be no doubt.

At 31 Serena Williams is looking ever more the force of nature – and a strengthening favourite to pick up her 17th Grand Slam title a week tomorrow. She has her moods, her quite dramatic attitudes, but on the court her power and her genius for pushing aside all but the most essential business has rarely been so pronounced.

Garcia, a proud young lady, was at pains to explain her body language. She said: "It was not a gesture that said I could not find any solution to the problems of Serena. It just said it was so very, very hard. She is the greatest of players, of course.

"When Andy Murray said he thought I could be a No 1 it made me very proud, but it also reminded me of how much you have to do to get to the level of someone like Serena. Still, I agree it is a very good ambition."

Murray's interest in colliding with Williams on the court was most gently deflected. Williams said she remembered a little too vividly the defeats inflicted on her and her sister Venus by the gnarled old German pro Karsten Braasch at the Australian Open in 1998. The Williams girls started it, claiming that despite their tender ages – Venus was 17, Serena 16 – they could whip any man ranked lower than 200. Braasch responded with 6-2 and 6-1 wins over Venus and Serena respectively and then supplied another touch of topspin, saying: "I played like someone ranked 500 or so just to make it a bit more fun."

Serena plainly still feels somewhat chastened: "I don't know what would happen if I played Karsten today. I would probably still lose to Karsten. I was very young when I first played him and I'm a lot more experienced now. Andy is probably one of the top three people I don't want to play. But, yeah, maybe we can have a little bit of a showdown. That would be fine. I get the alleys and he doesn't get to serve. He gets no legs, either, he can't use his legs."

She was no doubt lifted by clear signs of progress in her latest Wimbledon crusade. "I'm still adjusting but I was pleased by my performance today. I have more work to do but I was encouraged because this was a player."

Murray was moved to predict a significant future for Garcia when he saw her take the first set off Sharapova in the French Open two years ago, then stroke her way to a 4-1 lead in the second. The Russian survived but not without obscuring the potential of a dangerous young talent.

A challenge of a quite different order faces Williams in the next round when she faces the Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm, who two years ago provided ferocious opposition for Venus. Even at 42, Kimiko has registered as a threat to Serena, who said: "Kimiko has great hand-eye coordination. She returns unbelievable shots. It doesn't matter how hard you hit it, she sees the ball and gets it back. She has great hands, has a wonderful volley, comes to the net a lot, which on grass can be tricky. She plays really flat, so the ball stays low.

"I did see that match she had with Venus. I think I lost four years of my life watching it. So I will definitely be talking to Venus and figuring out what I can do to do the best that I can."

She glows at recent praise from Boris Becker and Martina Navratilova, at the core of which is the belief that today's version would beat the Serena Williams of 10 years ago. "I think either way it would be a super tough match," she said, "but the big thing for me is that great champions are saying that I'm playing really well."

This is not to mention young Murray's idea of a girl who might just inherit her empire, the one who waved her arms at the heavens and said the woman across the net was just too strong.

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?