19 January - 1 February 2015
Put yourself on court with ReturnServe. From analysing returns on the court to measuring social sentiment. Data is a game changer. IBM.
Put yourself on court with ReturnServe. From analysing returns on the court to measuring social sentiment. Data is a game changer. IBM.


If you see Serena Williams holding a blanket this week, watch out.

It seems that Melbourne's unseasonable cool weather for much of the past week has put the five-time Australian Open champion into a bit of a funk, and not the good kind with dancing and music.

"It's been putting me in a really bad mood," stated an unusually subdued Williams on Saturday. "But then it got really, really hot. I was very sad that I complained, so I don't complain any more about the weather,"

"I travel with a blanket. If I go out to eat, I just always take my blanket with me."

Luckily for 17-year-old Australian Ashleigh Barty, Williams’ designated first-round opponent, the temperature is tipped to be 33 degrees on Monday and 40 on Tuesday, so with a bit of luck Serena will be in a good mood when the two play.

The bad news is that good mood or not, Williams will be there primarily to bring about the talented teenager's downfall.

"Under any other circumstances, I'd probably be rooting for her as well," said Williams, who admitted to taking the opportunity in Brisbane to take a look at Barty, who upset Daniela Hantuchova in the first round.

It's a dangerous opening to the tournament for Williams, who is shooting for her sixth title in Melbourne. Pull it off and she'll find herself on equal footing with tennis legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who each won 18 majors during storied careers.

For Williams, joining these two icons of the game would be an honour.

"I still have a lot of work to do,” she said.

"I obviously want to be able to reach that level, but I'm not there yet.  Hopefully I'll get there."

Williams was in scorching-hot form in Melbourne before injury struck in 2013 – an ankle sprain in the opening round came before her back locked up during her quarterfinal loss to countrywoman Sloane Stephens.

In the preceding four rounds, she had dropped just eight games. And despite not winning the tournament, her form in the first few rounds of the tournament would turn out to be a pointer to the 78-4 season that was to come.

Williams said on Saturday that she’s hoping to put those Melbourne misfortunes behind her, earlier describing her 2013 tournament here as being “a little difficult”, her tongue firmly planted inside her cheek.

“I just wasn't able to stay on two feet, literally … This year I've been doing a lot of exercises for my ankles and trying to make sure that they're pretty stabilised.

“Right now I feel pretty good.  Felt pretty good the last at least year.  So I'll see how it goes.”

And should Williams stay on two feet and the weather remains warm, the top seed will be happy, but very difficult to beat.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015
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