WIMBLEDON, England -- It's just after 1 p.m. local time. The typical dreary Wimbledon weather belies the buzz just two days before the biggest event of the year begins. I'm running a few errands, nothing pressing, just trying to absorb the atmosphere and take a few deep, relaxed breaths -- because soon enough the chaos will kick off. But in one lickety-split moment, my mundane voyage takes a sudden turn.
Yes, out of nowhere, Venus Williams emerges -- and right in front of me. The only words I mutter? "OMG, OMG, it's Venus Williams!" It's not every day you catch an out-of-the-blue first-hand glimpse of the five-time Wimbledon champ. And just like that my focus becomes steadfast in surreptitiously stalking one of the greatest-ever grass-court players.
Here are some things I observed from the few moments that I followed her:
She window shops, but never, ever goes inside
Venus has a penchant -- OK, a passion -- for shopping. We know this. But much to my surprise, she never set foot into one store. Did she max out her credit cards? Perhaps she didn't bring enough bags in which to lug any more swag home. Or maybe she already owns everything. Nonetheless, Venus never stopped for more than 20 seconds at any one store. Parenthetically, I'm wondering if she found it creepy that every time she stopped to look, 20 yards behind, so did I. Suppose that's what skillful stalkers do.
She walks slowly, maybe even sluggishly
Should we be concerned that there was no hop in Venus' step? She wasn't on a tennis court, but you'd think, considering her protracted time away after the Australian Open, she'd be walking with a purpose. Perhaps there is no correlation between a casual saunter on her own free time and on-court haste, but my acute detective work says otherwise. I think she's a bit taxed. Maybe she neglected to eat a hearty breakfast. Maybe she knows this is not her year to win. After all, she ominously lost to Daniela Hantuchova in Eastbourne this past week -- her lone Wimbledon preparation. Nonetheless, my prognosis for Venus after Saturday's stalking session: bad.
She wasn't with Serena
Gasp! Where was her younger sibling? Why was Venus skimming the town without the other half of this formidable duo? I know, I know. They don't do everything together, but this does, understandably, raise concerns. Does Venus have a new BFF? Was Serena out practicing while Venus window shopped 'til she dropped? We'll never know for sure, but something is up. I know this.
Grown men stop and scream like adolescent kids
Sometimes it's hard to contain male bravado. We try so hard to suppress our insecurities -- even inferiorities -- with a shallow-minded display of coolness. But the unmistakable sight of Venus walking among mere pedestrians was too much stimulation for even grown men to handle. Said one punch-drunk fellow, "Honey, look, it's Venus Williams! I can't believe it! She's the defending champ." News for you, sir: Serena actually won here last year. Get it straight. There were plenty of other jolly squawks as Venus made her way back to her flat. I listened to them all, amused that so many manly men could relegate themselves to cheerleading status, but fully recognizing that I was even more pathetic.
Matt Wilansky is the tennis editor for ESPN.com.