Fit Ser­ena is back to best form – coach

Cape Argus - - SPORT -

SER­ENA Wil­liams is ready to win her first Grand Slam ti­tle as a mother, hav­ing ar­rived at the Aus­tralian Open in her best con­di­tion since com­ing back from ma­ter­nity leave, ac­cord­ing to her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.

French­man Mouratoglou, who has guided Wil­liams to the last 10 of her 23 Grand Slam ti­tles, felt the Amer­i­can great was in “de­cent shape” when she reached last year’s fi­nals at Wim­ble­don and the US Open.

How­ever, her fit­ness had since gone up a notch and Mar­garet Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tles may well be in peril at Mel­bourne Park, he said.

“First of all, last year she made an in­cred­i­ble ef­fort to come back in shape after hav­ing a baby and ac­tu­ally she came back in a de­cent shape quite fast,” Mouratoglou said.

“It was a big deal. She had a lot of med­i­cal is­sues after the de­liv­ery but she def­i­nitely was not 100%.

“She reached two Grand Slam fi­nals. She was fit.

“I have known her now for a few years, so I knew she could be much fit­ter, but it’s just a ques­tion of time.

“I think she’s fit­ter now. You can see it; it’s quite ob­vi­ous when you see her on the court, how she moves,” he added.

“I think she came back to a very, very high level of fit­ness.

“So she’s ready. She’s ready to com­pete and when Ser­ena’s ready to com­pete, she’s ready to win.”

While two months preg­nant, Wil­liams claimed a record sev­enth Aus­tralian Open ti­tle in the pro­fes­sional era in 2017, but she missed out on her ti­tle de­fence while on ma­ter­nity leave.

She re­turned to the tour at In­dian Wells last year and had a roller­coaster sea­son, forced to pull out of the French Open fourth round with a pec­toral mus­cle in­jury, and she was later beaten by An­gelique Ker­ber in the fi­nal at Wim­ble­don.

Wil­liams then re­vealed a per­sonal bat­tle with post­par­tum de­pres­sion be­fore clos­ing her sea­son in dis­ap­point­ment and ac­ri­mony, with a loss to Naomi Osaka in a US Open fi­nal marred by a huge row with the chair um­pire Car­los Ramos.

Seeded 16th in Mel­bourne, Wil­liams warmed up for the year’s first Grand Slam by win­ning all three of her sin­gles matches at the Hop­man Cup in Perth. She plays un­seeded Ger­man Tat­jana Maria in her first-round match to­mor­row.

Wil­liams has a tough road to an eighth ti­tle, with world No 1 and French Open cham­pion Si­mona Halep a po­ten­tial quar­ter-fi­nal op­po­nent, fol­lowed by Osaka in the semi-fi­nals if the seeds hold sway.

Mouratoglou said seed­ings and rank­ings would mean lit­tle if Ser­ena brought her best form.

“I feel when she’s play­ing at her best, she’s the best player in the world,” he said.

“Of course, she’s not No 1 in the world and I have a lot of re­spect for the No 1, but I still feel that if Ser­ena plays her ten­nis and she’s her­self 100%, I still think she’s the best. But she has to show it now. I think it might hap­pen,” Mouratoglou said of Wil­liams’ hopes for a 24th Grand Slam ti­tle. “We’ll do ev­ery­thing for it to hap­pen this year.”

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