|Peerless Serena primed for another title
A pumped-up Serena Williams is gunning for a sixth Australian Open crown as she kicks off her bid for the first calendar year Grand Slam since the 1980s.
Few will be betting against the formidable and newly focused American, 31, in Melbourne, Australia, after she claimed her 47th career title in Brisbane this month and admitted she was targeting all four majors this year.
No woman has won the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open in the same year since Steffi Graf in 1988, and Rod Laver is the only man to achieve tennis's holy grail in the professional era, AFP reports.
Williams, who won Wimbledon, the US Open and Olympic gold last year, is also halfway to holding all the major titles at once for the second time, after first completing the non-calendar year Serena Slam in 2002-2003.
The 15-time Grand Slam winner sits behind defending champion Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova in the current world rankings, but when it comes to the opening major of the season, she is peerless in the modern game.
She has played 12 Australian Opens, winning in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010, and her intensity remains. She also heads into the tournament in a rich vein of form that has seen her win her past 16 matches.
Williams goes into the tournament as firm favorite after her blistering performances in the second half of 2012, when she picked up her titles at Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open, as well as the WTA Championships.
She said she was probably in the form of her career.
“I was looking at a lot of old matches on YouTube and I feel like right now I'm playing some of my best tennis,'' she said. “I feel like I want to do better and play better still, and I've always felt like I could play better.’’
Another Australian tournament win would return Williams to world number one, and put her just two major titles short of the greats Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who both own 18 Grand Slam singles crowns.