Serena Williams has vowed to make life difficult for top seed Angelique Kerber and a host of dangerous players out to derail her at the Australian Open, warning she is in Melbourne to win.
The American gets her quest for an Open-era record 23rd Grand Slam title underway in a difficult first-round clash against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic in forecast sweltering heat on Tuesday.
It will be one the few matches she has played after a four-month lay-off.But the 35-year-old, seeded two, is in fighting mood despite being bundled out in the second round of her only warm-up tournament, the Auckland Classic.
“I didn’t come here to lose in the first round, or the second round, or at all,” she said on Saturday. “If I can play the way I’ve been practising, it will be fine.
“I’ve been spending so much time on the court. It feels really good to be back, just hitting on Rod Laver (Arena), hitting on all the stadiums, it’s a good feeling. I love it here.”
If she gets past Bencic, Williams could then encounter either in-form Briton Johanna Konta, who won this week’s Sydney International, or sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter-finals. And then there’s Germany’s Kerber, who is scheduled to meet her in the final as the newly-engaged Williams looks to better Steffi Graf’s 22 Grand Slam singles titles by winning her seventh Australian crown.
Kerber stunned the tennis great at Melbourne Park last year, upsetting her in the decider for her first major title before later replacing her as the world number one. Kerber gets her campaign started against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko on a Monday evening.