Will Serena Williams' reign end?

Since the beginning of the 2012 clay-court season, Williams has played in 27 tournaments and won 19, including four majors, an Olympic gold medal and two year-end WTA championships. Her record in that span is a fabulous 130-6. That works out to a winning percentage of .956, well ahead of the best two men over the past two seasons, Rafael Nadal (122-13, .904) and Novak Djokovic (149-21, .876).

"I see more of the same," said three-time Grand Slam singles champion Lindsay Davenport from her California home. "Serena finally understands what she can achieve. Everything is up to her. Motivation won't be a problem, but health is everything.

"Strength for strength, she's head and shoulders above everyone else."

Justin Gimelstob, who will be working his seventh Australian Open for Tennis Channel, agrees.

"I fully expect her to continue the momentum and dominance of last year," he said. "As long as she stays healthy, she's physically superior to the competition. She has the biggest weapons.

"Her belief system in the big moments -- and this X factor is impossible to quantify -- she believes in herself, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy."

Williams has been dominant in the majors. Including her first Grand Slam title at the 1999 US Open, she has collected 17 singles championships -- while 16 other women have combined to win the remaining 40. Williams has won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open five times each. Her work in Melbourne is unparalleled in the Open era; if she reaches the fourth round this year, she'll surpass Margaret Court's Australian Open win total of 60, the Open era standard.

It is a reasonable assumption that Williams will win at least one Grand Slam title this year, which would tie her with Evert and Martina Navratilova. If she takes two -- something she's achieved in four of the past five years -- she'll be alone in third place in the Open era, behind Court (24) and Steffi Graf (22).

That would set the table for some historic drama over the next few years.

"To be compared with Chrissie and Martina -- not yet, because I'm still not quite there," Williams said after the US Open. "I can't necessarily compare myself to them because, numbers-wise, they're still greater."

For at least a few more weeks.

With her win last week in Brisbane, Serena is working on a 22-match winning streak. She defeated the two women closest to her in the WTA rankings -- Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova -- in the final and semifinal. In straight sets.

Williams enters the Australian Open as the top seed for the third time and is 14-0 in those previous events, winning the title in 2003 and 2010. This year, she clearly has the failure of last year's tournament fresh in her mind. Williams lost in the quarterfinals to then-19-year-old American Sloane Stephens.

"Always motivated to do really well in Australia," Williams said in Brisbane. "I love coming to Melbourne. Hopefully I can last a little longer."

A not-so-sweet 17

Serena Williams was already a precocious 17-year-old when she arrived at Indian Wells in March 1999. A few weeks earlier, she had beaten Amelie Mauresmo in the Open Gaz de France final, but in the pristine desert air of southern California, she was a revelation.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...