2017 Australian Open player profile: Serena Williams

2017 Australian Open player profile: Serena Williams

Six-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams is still searching for an Open Era record breaking 23rd Grand Slam singles title, and the world number two will be looking to get the job done in Melbourne.

tevon-king
Tevon King

Former world number one Serena Williams will be looking to re-assert her dominance in the women's game in 2017, after only winning two singles titles in 2016 which were in Rome, and most importantly Wimbledon. The 22-time Grand Slam singles champion did, however, reach two more Grand Slam finals losing to Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open last year and to Garbiñe Muguruza at the French Open.

Once again, Williams suffered more heartbreak at the US Open falling at the semifinals stage to Karolina Pliskova in straight sets, and the American felt short of overtaking Steffi Graf's record at 186 consecutive weeks as the world number one. Furthermore, the American decided to shut down her season early, missing the WTA Finals in Singapore for the second consecutive year, in order to heal her niggling injuries and return for the 2017 season fully fit.

Notable results to date

The 35-year-old returned to competitive tennis at the ASB Classic in Auckland, and in her first match in almost four months, the American clearly showed rustiness but came through her match with Pauline Parmentier in straight sets, however, in the second round, Williams committed 80 unforced errors in her loss to compatriot Madison Brengle in three sets.

Best hard court results leading up to the Australian Open

Williams is usually in the winner's circle, when it comes down to playing in hardcourt tennis events, however, for the first time since 2006, the six-time Australian Open champion did not have a women's title to her name, moreover, the American hardly competed at hard court events in 2016 due to playing a lighter schedule. The world number two did reach the final in Melbourne last year losing to Kerber in three sets, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka got the better off her in the final at Indian Wells, and the following week, two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova ended her defence as the three-time defending champion in Miami in the fourth round. Elina Svitolina defeated her in the third round of the Rio Olympics, ending her reign as the defending Olympic gold medalist, and in her last hard court match in 2016, Karolina Pliskova defeated her in straight sets in the semifinals at Flushing Meadows.

Best Australian Open result

Aforementioned, Williams is a six-time Australian Open champion claiming titles in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2015, which is an Open Era record, only 24-time Grand Slam singles champion Margaret Court has won more in total with 11 overall. Despite winning the title on six occasions, Williams was a runner-up for the first time in her career, when Kerber ended her flawless record in finals at the Australian Open last year.

The American's first title in 2003 was a significant one as Williams was the top seed, and she was gunning for her fourth consecutive Grand Slam singles title to complete the "Serena Slam" which is to hold all four Grand Slams simultaneously and she defeated her sister Venus in the final in three sets in their fourth consecutive Grand Slam final meeting. It was a remarkable achievement as Williams was virtually out of this tournament, saving two match points against Kim Clijsters in the semifinals at 1-5 down in the final set but remarkably turned it around, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. At the age of 21, Williams completed her Career Grand Slam.

Williams posing with her first Australian Open title in 2003, completing the Career Grand Slam in the process (Source: Pinterest)
Williams posing with her first Australian Open title in 2003, completing the Career Grand Slam in the process (Source: Pinterest)

 In 2005, Williams entered the tournament seeded seventh, easing past the first three rounds without dropping a set, however, Nadia Petrova posed to be a tougher test for Williams in the fourth round, defeating the Russian, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. In the quarterfinals, the American cruised past Amelie Mauresmo, 6-2, 6-2 but in the following round, arguably Williams' best comeback at a Grand Slam to date was in the semifinals against fourth seed and rival Maria Sharapova, she had to come back from a set down and three match points in the semifinals to prevail, 2-6, 7-5, 8-6. In the final, Williams edged past her compatriot and world number one Lindsay Davenport in three sets to claim her second Australian Open title and first Grand Slam since Wimbledon in 2003.

A second Australian Open title for Williams, produced more remarkable comebacks (Photo by Sean Garnsworthy / Getty Images)
A second Australian Open title for Williams, produced more remarkable comebacks (Photo by Sean Garnsworthy / Getty Images)

At the 2007 Australian Open, Williams was unseeded and ranked 81 in the world, and hadn't won a Grand Slam singles title since her triumph in Melbourne, two years prior. The American recorded straight sets victories in her opening two rounds, and in the third round, Williams defeated Petrova once again to advance to the next round. The two-time champion at this point, defeated 11th seed Jelena Jankovic, 6-3, 6-2, in the fourth round and in the quarterfinals, Williams came through a marathon match with Shahar Peer, 3-6, 6-2, 8-6. Williams went on to reach her first Grand Slam final in two years by defeating 10th seeded Czech Nicole Vaidisova, 7-6, 6-4. In the final, Williams claimed her eighth Grand Slam singles title by thrashing top seed and rival Maria Sharapova, 6-1, 6-2.

Williams' triumph in 2007 was her first Slam in two years (Photo by Mark Dadswell / Getty Images)
Williams' triumph in 2007 was her first Slam in two years (Photo by Mark Dadswell / Getty Images)

In 2009, Williams entered the Australian Open as the second seed, and the three-time champion sailed through her first three opponents to reach the fourth round. However, in the fourth round, the 13th seed and future two-time champion Victoria Azarenka posed a tough test for Williams, leading 6-3 but trailed 2-4 and retired due to heat stress. The American claimed her 10th Grand Slam singles title and returned to the world number one ranking for the first time since last October by defeating three seeded Russians back-to-back, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively and she thrashed Dinara Safina, 6-0, 6-3 in under an hour in the final.

Williams' tenth Grand Slam singles title was at the Australian Open in 2009 (Photo by Mark Dadswell / Getty Images)
Williams' tenth Grand Slam singles title was at the Australian Open in 2009 (Photo by Mark Dadswell / Getty Images)

In 2010, Williams was the top seed in Melbourne once again, and she didn't drop a set en route to the quarterfinals, defeating Urszula Radwanska, future two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, 32nd seed Carla Suarez Navarro and another future Grand Slam champion Sam Stosur. Once again, Williams had a battle with her future rival Victoria Azarenka, who posed more problems for the American by taking the first set, however, Williams roared back to reach the semifinals, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2. In the semifinals, Williams defeated another future Slam champion in Li Na, who won the title in Melbourne four years later and the French Open in 2011. In the final, the American retained her title in Melbourne for the first time in her career, defeating rival Justine Henin in the final, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

The American continued her dominance in Melbourne by hoisting the Daphne Akhurst title for the fifth time in 8 years (Photo by Clive Brunskil / Getty Images)
The American continued her dominance in Melbourne by hoisting the Daphne Akhurst title for the fifth time in 8 years (Photo by Clive Brunskil / Getty Images)

Williams would go on a barren run by not winning the Australian Open title for five years. The American didn't participate in 2011, and she suffered surprising losses in the fourth round to Ekaterina Makarova and to former world number one Ana Ivanovic in 2012 and 2014 respectively, and a quarterfinal exit at the hands of compatriot Sloane Stephens in 2013. However, a determined Williams was desperate to leave with the Daphne Akhurst trophy in 2015. The veteran defeated Alison Van Uytvanck and former world number two Vera Zvonareva in the first two rounds, however, Elina Svitolina and Garbiñe Muguruza, who are both hard-hitters gave the American a tough time in the third and fourth rounds respectively but Williams came through those tussles in three sets to reach the quarterfinals.

The 18-time Grand Slam singles champion defeated 2014 finalist Dominika Cibulkova, 6-2, 6-2, and in the semifinals she ousted compatriot Madison Keys, 7-6, 6-2, a little revenge for Williams as Keys defeated her sister Venus in the previous round. In a repeat of the 2007 final, Williams continued her dominance over rival Maria Sharapova by defeating the Russian in straight sets to claim her 19th Grand Slam singles title, and she eventually went on to win the French Open and Wimbledon to complete the "Serena Slam" for the second time in her career.

In addition to winning the singles title four times, Williams won the doubles title with her sister Venus in 2001, 2003, 2009 and 2010, and she was a finalist in the mixed doubles in 1999 pairing up with Max Miryni losing to South African pair Mariaan de Swardt and David Adams.

How Williams' game translates to the surface

The 35-year-old has shown year-after-year how motivated she is to break records, and do particularly well at the Grand Slams, which are the reason why she still plays competitive tennis. The American has had plenty of success on hard courts due to her serve, which she gets cheap points such as aces and it is one of the best serves in the history of women's tennis. Williams also is a good returner, and she puts pressure on her opponent's serve by standing inside the court and sending the serve right back at them.

Furthermore, Williams can be error-prone which allows her opponent's to get the upper hand, therefore, she shows frustration when she is not playing well, and it inspires her opponent's to make her even more annoyed. The Australian Open is one of Williams' most successful slams, where she has produced her most remarkable comebacks to date. The first Grand Slam title of the year will set the tone for the remainder of the season, and Williams will be desperate to create more history in Melbourne by lifting her seventh title in Melbourne, and that 23rd Grand Slam singles title.

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