Tennis

After ending her losing streak in finals, is Serena Williams on course to win the Australian Open?

Follow @cnnsport For Williams that would mean winning a record-tying 24th grand slam title, which has so far proved elusive despite getting close four times since returning to the tour after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia. Her preparation for the year's first major couldn't have gone much better, suggesting the mini grand slam drought for arguably tennis' greatest ever player is about to cease. Williams let rip into a punching bag in December — drawing a compliment from former heavyweight boxing champion Tyson, whose daughter happens to be a budding tennis star — and then won a buildup tournament in Auckland last week to incredibly land a title in a fourth straight decade. She also mingled with one of tennis' youngest sensations, Coco Gauff, as part of the training camp in Florida organized by her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. Williams overcame singles opponents with differing styles, reached the doubles final with one of her best friends — the soon-to-be retired Caroline Wozniacki — and most crucially, ended a five-match losing streak in finals with her daughter and husband Alexis Ohanian looking on. No wonder the 38-year-old said following her straight-set victory over fellow American Jessica Pegula: "It's pretty satisfying just to get a win in the final. That was really important for me. And I just want to build on it," added Williams, who donated her prize money check of $43,000 to bush fire relief efforts in Australia. "It's just a step towards the next goal."READ: Can Rafael Nadal match Roger Federer's all-time grand slam record?READ: Player brands Australian Open email a 'slap in the face'

Eyes on bigger prize

Yes, as nice as it was to be holding the winners' trophy in Auckland — where Williams once hit 88 unforced errors in a loss to Madison Brengle — she didn't make the long trip to simply prosper in New Zealand. The much bigger prize is the Australian Open, where Williams triumphed while in the early stages of pregnancy in 2017. If Williams makes the final in Melbourne — and she might have to defeat the likes of twice grand slam winner Naomi Osaka and current world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty along the way — she will probably have to then defeat someone with a heftier reputation than the 66th-ranked Pegula. Helping Williams, however, is that one of the main contenders, Bianca Andreescu, isn't in Melbourne because of another injury, this time to a knee. But winning any final — after losses in grand slam finals to Osaka, Andreescu, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep and retiring against Andreescu in the Rogers Cup finale last August — could potentially be turning point as Williams attempts to draw level with the grand slam haul of Australia's Margaret Court. "Serena, she certainly looks hungry, and I think she's got a little momentum going into the Australian Open," Chris Evert, the 18-time grand slam champion, told reporters in an ESPN conference call last week. "And it would probably be the least pressure, this grand slam, to win for her. "I think every other tournament, the French Open, the clay isn't her best surface. Wimbledon is a lot of pressure, US Open is a lot of pressure. "This one, the first one of the year, it's a 'Happy Slam,'" referring to the Australian Open's nickname. "I think if she just takes a little bit of pressure off herself and she can just play her brand of tennis, I think she's got a good shot at winning it."She's better at grand slams than any other player when you look at the last two years."The way Wozniacki put it, Williams has a "big chance" to match Court. Other high-profile players, such as Halep and former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova — who Read More – Source

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