Williams: I want to win Australian Open
Venus Williams is determined to claim her first Australian Open title in Melbourne.
Williams’ best showing here came in 2003 when she reached the final before losing to her younger sibling, who is missing the event as she continues to battle back after surgery on a foot injury sustained after she claimed the Wimbledon crown last year.
But having reached the last eight or better on seven of her 11 visits to the opening major of the season, Williams is hoping this could be her year.
She said: “I am extremely motivated seeing that I have come so close before to winning this title but not quite so it’s a little extra challenge for me coming here to make it happen.”
Williams, who warmed up for Melbourne by playing in a series of exhibition matches in Hong Kong, added: “Leading up I have just played a couple of matches, just really quiet, of course working as hard as I can to get ready for the year, you know, same old, same old.”
Williams refused to be drawn on who she feels will be her main challengers over the next fortnight.
Caroline Wozniacki may be world number one and top seed while Vera Zvonareva, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin are backed to reach the latter stages but Williams believes the strength in depth in the women’s game currently makes it impossible to predict the likely winner.
She said: “People come out and play so well and sometimes you’ve never even heard their name and they can play. So for me it’s all about playing the ball and doing whatever it takes to get to that next round until it’s all over.”
Williams opens her campaign against Italy’s Sara Errani and should progress smoothly through to a potential fourth-round meeting with Maria Sharapova while the emerging Victoria Azarenka is her scheduled opponent in the semi-finals.
While much of the focus will be on Williams, no-one is under greater pressure to perform than Wozniacki.
Much has been made of her rise to the top of the rankings without winning a major – her best result at a grand slam being a run to the final of the 2009 US Open – and without Serena Williams in the draw, she is unlikely to have a better chance of breaking her duck.
The draw could certainly have been kinder, though.
A first-round clash with Gisela Dulko is unlikely to present too many headaches but a fourth-round meeting with either Yanina Wickmayer or Marion Bartoli will test her before a likely quarter-final against seven-time major winner Justine Henin.
Belgian Henin starts with a qualifier before a likely meeting with Britain’s Elena Baltacha.
Baltacha’s build-up has been affected by a bug which laid her low over Christmas before forcing her out of an event in Auckland.
She returned in Hobart but suffered a second-round defeat to Roberta Vinci in a match which took two days to complete due to the weather. She also faces a qualifier first up.
Second seed Zvonareva, who has reached the last two grand slam finals, opens against Sybille Bammer of Austria while number three Clijsters faces a much tougher prospect in the shape of former world number one Dinara Safina.
Safina, now down at 65 in the rankings, has suffered a spectacular fall from grace with injury and poor form seeing her slide down the ladder after a miserable 2010.
The new year continued in the same vein as she suffered a 6-0 6-1 thrashing by Bartoli in Hobart but it might be the possibility of an upset on what is sure to be a show court could see her recapture her best form.
While Baltacha is the only Briton guaranteed a place in the main draw, she could be joined by Heather Watson, Anne Keothavong and Katie O’Brien.
All three are in qualifying but continue to be frustrated by the rain which has pelted Melbourne over the past two days.
Tournament director Wayne McKewen said matches would not be moved indoors, meaning they may be held over until early next week should the backlog of matches not be cleared.
Source: Latest Sports News and Results
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