Friday, 18 January, 2019

Serena handed tough draw in quest for record 24th Slam

Australian Open women to watch Australian Open women to watch
Kristopher Love | 10 January, 2019, 18:54

On the women's side, Serena Williams has her sights set on a record-tying 24th career Grand Slam. Williams missed the chance to equal the record in both the Wimbledon and US Open finals last season and says she is now avoiding focusing on the numbers. While she grabbed an easy opener against unseeded German Tatjana Maria, it'll get tricky in the later stages with potential matchups against No. 1 seeded Simona Halep in the fourth round and Osaka, the 2018 US Open champion, in the semi-finals.

The 23 times Grand Slam title victor had last won the Australian Open title in 2017 when she was eight weeks pregnant. Combined with the pressure of becoming the first Japanese player to win a major, and the fanatical support that brings, there were fears she could wilt under the spotlight. "It's something that I clearly want but I have to be able to get there and beat a lot of good players to get it", the American said.

Will Serena Williams make a triumphant return to the scene of her last Grand Slam win, can Caroline Wozniacki defend her crown or is Naomi Osaka capable of back-to-back majors?

Williams reached the finals at Wimbledon and in NY on what was her comeback year on the WTA Tour in 2018 following the birth of her first child. "I never feel pressure to perform".

Wozniacki also has a question mark over her fitness after the 28-year-old Dane revealed her battle with rheumatoid arthritis last October, but has since claimed that she has learnt to live with it. "I'm trying to change it more, and I think I have". Wozniacki proved she can still compete by winning in Beijing in October but whether she can cope with the gruelling two-week slog of a Grand Slam remains to be seen, and she was bundled out of the Auckland Classic last week in round two.

But she fell foul of officials with the spandex compression garment outfit criticised by the French Tennis Federation president and subsequently banned at Roland Garros.

The 21-year-old Zverev appears the most likely of the younger generation hoping to end the world's top three's domination of grand slams, having beaten Federer and Djokovic at the ATP Tour Finals in London last November.

The pairs for the opening round in men's singles of this year's first Grand Slam tennis tournament have been decided during the draw in Melbourne on Thursday.