Published: Fri, January 11, 2019
Sports | By Juana Wells

History beckons as Serena shoots for Grand Slam history

History beckons as Serena shoots for Grand Slam history

The American, seeded 16, is gunning to match Margaret Court's record of singles majors and claim an eighth Australian Open crown.

Defending champion and third-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, who claimed her first major title a year ago by beating Halep in the final of the Australian Open, will start the defense of her title against Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium.

"I think that there will be a side note that Serena has a lot of passion and has at times lost her cool on the court, I don't for one minute think it will tarnish her whole reputation or her record".

She has looked sharp at the Hopman Cup and maintained her 100% singles record even though Germany lost to Federer's Switzerland in the final.

Schuttler will add more "daring" to the 2016 Australian Open champion's game, said the German Tennis Association's Barbara Rittner, who helped develop Kerber as a teenager.

Bookmakers in Australia have installed Williams as a short-priced favorite for the title with her US Open conqueror Osaka - the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam - next in the betting.

He retired in the quarter-finals against Marin Cilic previous year in Melbourne and suffered yet another knee injury that forced him out of the US Open semi-finals before ankle surgery in November.

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.

"I feel like if there's one thing I should be able to do it's draw a tennis ball", the Olympic gold medalist, 37, explained. By winning here past year, Federer joined Laver and Ken Rosewall at the top of the list for most Grand Slam titles won after turning 30.

While she is the leading light for the next generation, the world No. 4's status as second favourite points to a lack of serious rivals for Williams among the more established players.

A second Australian Open title will be a flawless birthday gift for world number two Angelique Kerber, who turns 31 in the first week of the tournament.

Wozniacki also has a question mark over her fitness after the 28-year-old Dane revealed her battle with rheumatoid arthritis last October, but has since claimed that she has learnt to live with it.

Halep, who is without a coach since Australian Darren Cahill left for family reasons, will expect her back to hold up after a herniated disk curtailed her 2018 season. The draw paired other Russian tennis players for the opening round of the 2019 Australian Open in the following order: Daniil Medvedev (seeded 15th) will face a qualifier; Evgeny Donskoy will play against Serbia's Laslo Djere; Andrey Rublev will clash with Mackenzie McDonald of the United States.

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