(Reuters) - World number one Serena Williams backed the searing Perth conditions as perfect preparation for her Australian Open title bid but the weather proved too hot for Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, who was thrashed in Sunday’s Hopman Cup opener.
Williams will pair up with John Isner for the United States in the mixed-team event in Western Australia this week as the 18-times grand slam singles champion bids for a sixth title at the Melbourne showpiece later this month.
Temperatures in Perth are expected to reach 41 degrees Celsius and Williams, who won the last of her Australian Open titles in 2010, said she was looking forward to the warm feeling in Monday’s opener against Italy after a cool winter at home.
“If anything it’s going to help me for Melbourne,” Williams told reporters on Sunday.
”Perth is one of the most hottest places I’ve ever played, so it will be really good for the preparation in Melbourne, which is always super hot.
“I haven’t won in Australia for several years, but there’s also a lot of other people who want too. I’ll just have to do my best.”
With Flavia Pennetta, Czech Lucie Safarova and Bouchard as opponents in the round robin matches at the Hopman Cup, Williams will have no dearth of quality opposition.
”The women’s field is excellent here. It’s going to be great,“ the 33-year-old said. ”More than anything it’s a great time to get match play and not get stressed out too much.
“Usually I‘m really stressed (in knockout tournaments), so this will be really good for me.”
The 27-year-old Safarova showed she had adjusted quickest to the conditions in Perth as she breezed past world number seven Bouchard 6-0 6-4.
“It’s the best way I could imagine and I started really strong and was pressuring her from the first point,” said the world number 16.
“I had a really hard and good off season in Florida and another week at home in Czech and I came here, it’s the fifth day here, so I’ve had time to adjust to the hot conditions.”
Safarova later teamed up with Adam Pavlasek, who lost his singles match to Vasek Pospisil, to win the mixed doubles and lead Czech Republic to a win over Canada.
World number six Agnieszka Radwanska also made a winning start in her preparation for Melbourne, where she reached the semi-finals last year.
The 2012 Wimbledon finalist did not have to break too much sweat as she defeated Casey Dellacqua 6-2 6-3 in an evening match to give Poland a 1-0 lead against Australia.
Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Patrick Johnston and Pritha Sarkar