Serena Williams hopes her burning desire to win the Australian Open helps her banish four years of disappointment and claim a record sixth title in Melbourne.
Williams, 33, has endured mixed form in her lead in to the year’s opening grand slam, in the Hopman Cup in Perth and during her time on the practice court.
The top seed and world No. 1 could have a tough start at Melbourne Park, potentially facing a pair of former grand slam finalists in the opening four rounds.
She begins against Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium, although on Saturday she professed to not knowing who she had drawn nor anything about the player when informed of her name.
“It would be really special for me. I would be really happy. I want it I think more than anyone else here. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to get it, so I’ll have to fight hard to get it.”
The last of Williams’ five Australian Open wins was in 2010.
The fight Williams spoke about could ultimately be against Maria Sharapova, with the No.2 eying the opportunity to regain the top ranking should she win in Melbourne.
“Look, obviously No.1 is a ranking that every single player wants to grab and works so hard for,” Sharapova said.
“There’s a lot of players that have an opportunity to get there, and I’m one of them. I am, of course, determined to do that. But by doing that you need to win more matches than the person that’s in first place. So that’s the goal.”
Sharapova, who plays a qualifier in the first round, could face Eugenie Bouchard in the quarter-finals and Ana Ivanovic, whom she beat in the Brisbane International final last weekend, in the semis. She could then meet Williams in the final.
Williams’ immediate goal is to return to the form that allowed her to capture last year’s US Open crown – the 18th title of her glittering career.
She has blamed her struggles in recent weeks on fatigue but is expected to have her power game and touch in better condition come Tuesday.
“I definitely feel better now than I did a couple weeks ago. But I still want to improve some things. I feel like I should be doing some things better. But every day I can see something coming through, so there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel,” Williams said.
Victory in Melbourne would elevate Williams into outright second spot on the all-time Grand Slam winners list. She joined Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on 18 with her win at Flushing Meadows but remains four behind Steffi Graf’s 22. Williams said she was motivated to reach Graf’s mark.
“Yeah, of course. But 22 is so far away from 18. When you’re 18 years old, you look at someone that’s 21, you think they’re old,” she said.
“So it’s a really big distance to get to 22. I can’t think that far ahead. I just have to think about 2015 at the Australian Open in particular.”