Serena Williams is “very confident” she will not be troubled by a shoulder injury when she begins her Australian Open campaign next week, although she acknowledges she will have to carefully manage her condition during the tournament.
- Williams has been receiving treatment for a right shoulder injury
- She expects the injury will need management during the tournament
- Sofia Kenin says she needs to improve her mental preparation ahead of the tournament
Williams withdrew from Saturday’s Yarra Valley Classic semi-final against Australia’s world number one Ash Barty at Melbourne Park because of a right shoulder injury.
She was joined on the sidelines by world number three Naomi Osaka and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who pulled out of the Gippsland Trophy and Grampians Trophy events respectively due to injury on Saturday.
Williams, a seven-time Australian Open singles champion, said her withdrawal from the clash with Barty was a precautionary measure.
“I feel pretty good,” Williams told a media conference at Melbourne Park.
“I’ve gotten a lot of treatment already on my shoulder … I’m feeling very confident and getting ready for hopefully the next two weeks.”
But the 39-year-old Williams, no stranger to dealing with injury during her career, said she would continue to receive treatment during her Australian Open tilt.
“It’s definitely something that I’m going to have to deal with for the fortnight,” she said.
“Kind of knowing that going into a tournament definitely helps.”
Williams, who won her first major at the 1999 US Open as a 17-year-old, said her physical conditioning had become a higher priority the longer her career had progressed.
“I think at my age, [in] my career, I really just try to go on how I’m feeling physically and not put myself in a bad position in general for my health,” she said.
Williams sits on 23 major singles championship victories, her most recent being her 2017 Australian Open triumph.
She is one short of the record held by Margaret Court and anticipation that she may equal the Australian’s mark in Melbourne is much the same as it has been at each of her appearances at the majors since her win four years ago.
Williams, though, said she was not feeling any pressure about the prospect of drawing level with Court.
“I think [Court’s record is] good to be on my mind,” said Williams, who plays Germany’s Laura Siegemund in the first round.
“I think it’s a different burden, I should say, on my shoulders because I’m used to it now. It’s more relaxing, I would like to say.”
Kenin returns to her ‘special tournament’
While Williams is accustomed to handling pressure, fellow American Sofia Kenin is learning to deal with the experience of entering the Australian Open for the first time as defending champion.
Kenin lifted the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup last year following a stellar run at Melbourne Park, which included an upset victory over Barty in the semi-finals.
She has previously admitted she was adjusting to the expectation that comes with being a major winner, but said it felt “good” to be defending her title.
“It’s obviously a special tournament for me,” she said.
Last year, Kenin defeated Garbine Muguruza in the final, but the Spaniard turned the tables with a convincing 6-2, 6-2 victory over the world number four in their Yarra Valley Classic quarter-final on Friday.
Kenin was hampered by leg soreness in the pre-Australian Open tournament and was visibly upset during the loss to Muguruza.
She said she did not handle her emotions as well as she could have during the straight-sets loss.
“[Muguruza] played very well, all credit to her,” Kenin said.
“She obviously came out, I guess, hungry for blood, I guess to win. But I obviously did not mentally prepare so well.”
Muguruza will play Barty in Sunday’s Yarra Valley Classic final after thrashing Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-0 in the semi-finals.
Kenin will meet local wildcard Maddison Inglis in the first round of the Australian Open.