Tennis: Serena targets Grand Slam sweep
It was a big call, coming so soon after Serena Williams had recovered from surgery, but the former world No 1 believes she can complete a seasonal sweep of Grand Slams for the first time in her career.
Williams began her warm-up before the Australian Open in technically the opening event of next year's season, even though it is still in the dying embers of a successful 2012 for the American, who won the Olympics, the US Open and Wimbledon.
And after convincingly beating the world No 21 Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 6-1 in the first round of the Brisbane International, she revealed the two targets on her list: to finish 2012 on a high and to start 2013 in meaningful fashion. Williams, who has 15 Grand Slam titles to her name, has held all four majors once in her career, when she won the 2003 Australian Open having triumphed in the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open the previous year. But she wants more.
She wants to win the Australian Open, which starts in two weeks, and do what no woman has done since Steffi Graf in 1988 – hold every Grand Slam title in a calendar year.
"I think for me, absolutely," she replied when asked whether the Slam was possible for her for 2013. "I think maybe whoever wins the Australian Open will have that same thought."
On her match against Lepchenko, Williams added that she wanted to preserve her 2012 record of losing just four of her 62 matches. "Technically, I still had my 2012 rep on the line," she said. "I really needed to win today so I could finish the year with still just the four losses."
Williams moved freely throughout her match against Lepchenko, easing any fear that she might be hampered by the toe surgery she had undergone earlier this month. She was forced to pull out of an exhibition match in Thailand on Saturday, but revealed she was in no discomfort in Brisbane.
"I was a little nervous, but I was completely fine," she said.
Eight of the top 10 women are taking part in the Brisbane International, with Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova receiving byes in the first round.