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Sunday January 6, 2013

Serena races to victory in Brisbane

Down memory lane: (From left) Serena Williams, former Australian tennis legend Evonne Goolagong
Cawley and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova posing for the camera after the Brisbane International final
yesterday. — AFP Down memory lane: (From left) Serena Williams, former Australian tennis legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova posing for the camera after the Brisbane International final yesterday. — AFP

BRISBANE: Serena Williams confirmed her eagerness to get started at the Australian Open as she demolished Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-1 in just 50 minutes to win the Brisbane International yesterday.

Third-seeded Williams served notice that she will be the one to beat at the first Grand Slam of the year with a ruthless display against Pavlyuchenkova, the world number 36.

The 31-year-old said she felt “in the zone” at times during the final and said she couldn’t wait to get to Melbourne, where she will be aiming for her sixth Australian Open crown.

“That was really good – I think I just kind of zoned and I felt like I really wanted to do well,” Williams said.

“I really felt like I was playing a top player because she’d taken two top 10 players out, so I knew that I couldn’t give her a chance.

“It was a really good week for sure. I definitely worked hard for this week, and I’m going to do a little more work so I can be ready in eight days.”

Williams took control of the final at 2-2 in the first set when she went on a run of seven straight games and never looked like losing against an increasingly demoralised opponent, who had no answer to Williams’ power and aggression.

“She put so much pressure on from the start, so I felt like I had to go for winners or aces or these amazing serves,” Pavlyuchenkova said.

“When I slowed down a little she was there. She was returning, making winners, serving aces, so you cannot stop.

“You have to play your best level every point, which is quite tough to keep it up, so then at 3-2 I didn’t serve aces, I didn’t serve as well, and then she was there.”

Williams sent down nine aces and won 91% of her first serves, blasting 24 winners past Pavlyuchenkova, who looked shell-shocked at times with the pace of the American’s groundstrokes.

The 15-time Grand Slam winner has now won 47 titles on the WTA tour and lost only once since the French Open last year, winning 35 of her past 36 matches.

Although ranked third in the world, Williams is firm favourite for the Australian Open on the strength of her efforts in the second half of 2012, when she won Wimbledon, the US Open, the WTA Championship and the Olympics.

And in a blunt warning to her opponents, Williams said she was probably in the form of her career.

“I was looking at a lot of old matches on YouTube and I feel like right now I’m playing some of my best tennis,” she said.

“I feel like I want to do better and play better still, and I’ve always felt like I could play better.” — AFP

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