Serena Williams seeking to win Australian Open for sixth time
Her last victory in Melbourne grand slam came in 2010
World No. 1 will begin her new season against Andrea Petkovic
Caroline Wozniacki pulls out of Brisbane event due to injury
She cuts an imposing figure on the tennis court, but Serena Williams has been stepping gingerly as she prepares to back up her stellar 2013 season.
The world No. 1 has arrived in Brisbane to begin her preparations for next month’s Australian Open, and she is wary of repeating the successive ankle injuries which have marred her last two campaigns Down Under.
The first struck in the Queensland warm-up event two years ago, and then again last January in the opening match in Melbourne – a factor which contributed to the American’s shock fourth-round defeat by then teenager Sloane Stephens.
“I thought about it (at home in Florida during the off season) because I have steps in my room,” Williams told reporters on Sunday.
“I thought, ‘Gosh, I’m going to tip over these steps. I’m going to tape my ankles extra tight for the next four weeks.’
“If I can get a year without twisting my ankle I think I’ll be good to go.”
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Williams overcame both injuries to end 2012 and 2013 as the dominant force in women’s tennis, taking her grand slam haul to 17 titles – five short of Steffi Graf’s record.
Williams’ first opponent in Brisbane will be former world No. 9 Andrea Petkovic, who defeated American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4 7-5 in Sunday’s opening round.
Only four players beat Williams in 82 matches last season, and the German lost their only previous encounter.
The Brisbane event will also feature world No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, who beat Williams in an exhibition in Thailand on Saturday, and Maria Sharapova – making her WTA Tour comeback from a shoulder injury that has sidelined the Russian since August.
Caroline Wozniack, another former world No. 1 who is now working with Sharapova’s ex-coach Thomas Hogstedt, has been forced to pull out due to her own shoulder problem but expects to be fit for the following tournament in Sydney.
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“Everyone, when they play me, they play pretty much amazing, really unbelievable,” Williams said.
“I always have to be ready. I can’t stop. I love competing. So for me, it’s just about motivating myself and trying to reach new goals.”
One of those was relaunching her clothes brand Aneres during her postseason break.
“I was interviewing so many people. Corporate Serena was taking over. I’m happy to be here right now,” Williams said.
“Now I can do what I do best.”