Still seeking that record equaling 24th grand slam, Serena Williams begins her Australian Open on Monday afternoon, facing the young Russian Anastasia Potapova in round one. The 38 year-old is an eight-time winner in Melbourne but is seeking to end her run of slams without a title, the last coming here in 2017.
Potapova was one of a number of young Russians who popped up in recent years but she has yet to produce much that suggests she can go beyond that of a solid top 100 player for now. She failed to qualify for either Brisbane or Adelaide although the former saw her face Yulia Putintseva in an extremely tough final round.
Serena won a rare international title to begin her year, dropping just one set on her way to the Auckland title. It could well be a big step for her mentally to be holding a trophy at the end of the week, even if her opponents in New Zealand were several levels below that of a grand slam finalist. “You have to be your biggest cheerleader, especially if you’re feeling you’re not doing everything right – or even if you are doing everything right, but things aren’t working out for you,” she said after that win, reinforcing the positive mindset she needs to continue to hold to be find that success.
Serena will be fairly happy with her draw even if she never admits as such publicly. There should be very little to trouble her early on with the first seed she can play being an opponent that she beat 6-1 6-0 in their last meeting – Qiang Wang. It has been questioned as to whether these kind of draws have been beneficial for her in recent events with perhaps a little fight needed in earlier rounds to help push her to the next level.
Prediction – Serena Williams in straight sets