Serena Williams is ready to tackle the Australian Open in less than a week, with the world number one saying her knee problems are getting better by the day.
“My body is feeling great now,” the 34-year-old told Melbourne’s Herald Sun. “Obviously I had a hiccup but right now it is doing much better. I’ve had a few days of training so it’s looking good.”
The six-time Australian Open winner was forced to quit last week’s Hopman Cup in Perth after playing just one set due to inflammation caused by bone-on-bone contact. But Williams told the Herald Sun she was “ready for it”.
Williams went through training Monday before hothouse 35 Celsius temperatures kicked in at Melbourne Park.
“We (players) are all out there killing it. I just need to make sure I’m totally relaxed and at ease. It all comes natural after that.
“I know what I need to do on and off the court to win big tournaments. That is what I like to do.”
Germany’s Angelique Kerber overcame the loss of the first set on a day of extreme heat in Sydney as she maintained her build-up to next week’s Australian Open on Monday.
The fourth seed, one of the few members of the women’s world top 10 not to be hit by injury in the lead-up to the year’s first Grand Slam, came from a set down to oust Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 in Sydney International’s first round.
Kerber, who lost to Victoria Azarenka in Saturday’s Brisbane International final, is looking for more matches to hone her form leading into the Australian Open in Melbourne.
While defending champion Petra Kvitova and second seed Agnieszka Radwanska pulled out of the Sydney event citing injuries, Kerber powered on to get in some valuable match practice.
Kvitova and Radwanska’s withdrawals came after injury problems at other Australian tournaments for the world’s top-ranked stars including Serena Williams (knee), Simona Halep (Achilles), Garbine Muguruza (foot) and Maria Sharapova (forearm).
“I had a lot of matches last week, but that was actually also my plan to come to Australia, to have a lot of matches, and also to play a few more matches here,” Kerber said.
“I don’t know how far I can get. I’m healthy. I have no pain anywhere. I will just try to recover and see how I feel tomorrow. But my body feels good.”
Kerber struggled with the intense heat early in her match, dropping the opening set without winning a game, but she battled on.
“It’s good to have a match like this under my belt. It’s always hot in Australia. I think it was a good match to prepare for Melbourne,” she said.
With temperatures hitting 37 Celsius (99 Farenheit) the WTA’s extreme heat policy came into force, allowing Kerber and Svitolina to take a 10-minute break before the third and deciding set.
Australia’s Samantha Stosur fought back from a set and a service break down to overcome defeat Italy’s Roberta Vinci 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in two hours 30 minutes.
Among other first-round winners on Monday were Italy’s world number 19 Sara Errani, over Spanish seventh seed Carla Suarez 6-3, 6-3, and German Sabine Lisicki, who eased past Slovenia’s Polona Hercog 6-4, 6-3.
In the men’s draw, Italian fifth seed Andreas Seppi eliminated Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan in three sets, but Seppi’s compatriot Simone Bolelli went out to American qualifier Alexander Sarkissian 6-2, 7-6 (7/5).
In the evening match, experienced Spaniard Tommy Robredo was too strong for Australia’s John Millman 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.
Big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic became the first seed to fall at the Auckland Classic on Monday, losing in straight sets to Canada’s Vasek Pospisil.
With the tournament’s big names, including four-time champion David Ferrer, enjoying a first-round bye, the focus was on Karlovic as the only seeded player in action on day one of the Australian Open warm-up event.
But he failed to fire on centre court and Pospisil, ranked 16 places below the world number 23 ground out a 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 victory.
“It feels great. I played really well and I’m thrilled about that,” Pospisil said.
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