Australian Open: Serena shoots for Slam history

Serena Williams of the United States stretches during her match against Britain's Katie Boulter of the Hopman Cup

Serena Williams of the United States stretches during her match against Britain’s Katie Boulter of the Hopman Cup

"I was really impressed with Naomi, how she won the US Open and then went into Asia and made the Tokyo final", she said.

Former US Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe, brother of the legendary John and who will also be part of ESPN's Australian Open coverage, echoed Evert's sentiments.

Caroline Wozniacki is also looking to defend her title after winning her first career major at this event past year.

Wozniacki, 28, says the debilitating auto-immune condition is so bad that on some days "I wake up and can't lift my hands over my head". "I've learned to cope after matches".

Halep, however, may be reluctant to look beyond the first round, having drawn her U.S. Open nemesis Kaia Kanepi.

In an interview to The Guardian, the world No. 1 Simona Halep recalled the tough times she went through after losing a three-set Australian Open final to Caroline Wozniacki previous year.

"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.

"But being number one is something you should embrace and be proud of".

And Evert, an 18-time slam victor who will be part of ESPN's coverage of the tournament, believes that ultimately Williams' hefty list of accomplishments will outweigh the few contentious moments in her glittering career.

She warmed up for Melbourne by making the semi-finals of the Brisbane International last week, where she blamed a poor attitude for losing to Lesia Tsurenko. At the hotel I started shaking and they got me to hospital.

She needs just one more Grand Slam title to sit tied with Margaret Court for the all-time lead at 24.

"I feel like a year ago I did a lot of that", she said. "I enjoy Grand Slams the most", she said. But I won't put pressure on myself.

The Australian Open will be telecast live and exclusive on SONY SIX and SONY TEN 2 from January 14, 2019, 5:30 a.m. onwards.

Despite being ranked outside the top 10, few would be fearless enough to count Williams out of the equation as she aims to equal Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

In an interview with TIME's Sean Gregory, the 21-year-old said she wouldn't change anything that happened in her win against Serena Williams last September, when the Japanese-born player earned her first Grand Slam title under a wave of boos from the crowd in Flushing Meadows.

She has already been installed as a short-priced favourite, with the odds-makers confident she won't repeat her infamous US Open final meltdown where she called umpire Carlos Ramos "a thief" and was given three code violations to lose a game and derail her challenge.

The world No. 1 suffered a shocking straight-sets loss to the experienced Kanepi in the opening round of the U.S. Open in August.

"I noticed she seems fitter, which is a scary thought".

"I always have insane big goals but I like to keep them to myself. Again, I'm not trying to look too far ahead", the tournament's official website quoted the 37-year-old Swiss player as saying.

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