BRISBANE: After her scrappy and somewhat scratchy 6-4, 6-4 victory over Andrea Petkovic in her opening match of her 2014 campaign at the Brisbane International on Tuesday, Serena Williams has won 91 of her last 95 matches dating back to loss to Angelique Kerber at 2012 Cincinnati. In that stretch, she has been more dominant than two great males, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Clearly, she does not have a rival as good as those two do when considering how evenly matched the Spaniard and Serb are. But while the ATP’s Big 4 (which also includes Andy Murray and Roger Federer) is certainly more impressive and more accomplished than the WTA ‘s other top 3 players are, the women’s tour has far more depth, and it’s not like Williams can cruise to victory when she has to face top drawer competitors with hefty resumes like Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka own. Both are in the Brisbane field, as are players like Petkovic, a former top 10 player who when in good health is very fast, has hard and deep groundies and a bullet return,
But returning serve against the woman who clearly owns the hardest and most accurate serve of all time? That’s a big ask, especially in the clutch. Petkovic hung with her from the baseline at times, but Williams showed more variety there, whipping short angled groundstrokes to pull the German off the court and then powering balls down the line. Williams later said that this was the type of match at she wanted: a stern test a again a very good player when she knew she would have to play at a high level from the first ball. So she was quite satisfied with the win.
“It was an intense match, which was really good,” the 32-year-old said.
In the past two years in Australia, Williams has suffered ankle injuries that dashed her dream of winning a sixth Aussie Open crown. In 2012 she twisted her ankle in Brisbane and couldn’t move in an upset at the hands of Ekaterina Makarova in Melbourne. Last year, she ended Brisbane healthy and with a title but then hurt her ankle at the Australian Open and eventually went down to Sloane Stephens.
So on Tuesday afternoon on Pat Rafter Arena, Williams had her ankle strapped high and tight. She admitted that the potential of another injury is in her head.
“I put extra wraps on them today,” she said. “ I told my physio, Let’s do some extra ones. I don’t want anything to happen. Please. I think it is [mental]. But at the same time, definitely wasn’t mental when I took those falls and my ankle was like this big. I just don’t want that anymore.”
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