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28 May 2023

Squeamish tennis players reveal pet hates

Serena Williams of the US speaks to the media in Melbourne on January 12. (AFP)


First it was insects bugging Serena Williams and now it's spiders, snakes and sharks as players at the Australian Open lift the lid on what keeps them awake at night.

In a land famed for its fearsome creepy-crawlies, five-time champion Williams was forced to battle crickets swirling around Rod Laver Arena in her late-night first round clash earlier this week.

On Thursday, former world number one Ana Ivanovic said it's not insects that make her squirm but snakes and sharks instead, recounting a terrifying incident her father had in the Australian city of Perth.

"Luckily, growing up in Serbia we don't have too many (snakes). Not the dangerous ones. Although my dad found a really poisonous snake on a golf course when he was playing, the black one. I don't know the name."

"He was actually quite scared," she added.

And the Serbian world number 22, who won through to the third round in Melbourne on Thursday, admitted she was also afraid to venture too far into the water for fear of sharks.

"Did you ever see me swim? I swim in the water back and forth. I need to have someone further than me, then I feel safe," she said.

Fourth seed Maria Sharapova, who admitted to a dislike for creepy-crawlies, said she felt pretty safe while on court after her second round win.

"I mean, I don't like spiders and all that stuff. But I think they're staying away from centre court, so I think I'll be OK."

The revelations follow squeamish Serena's outburst after her first round clash during which she revealed: "Bugs fell on my back twice."

"I hate bugs more than you can imagine. I hate bugs. Like, they kept jumping on me. Yuck!" she said.

The insects descend on Melbourne Park in the evenings, attracted by the stadium lights, with players constantly flicking them off the court or batting them away with their racquets.