Escape artist Serena will struggle to match 2015 feats: Evert

Wed Jan 13, 2016 9:56am EST
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Serena Williams must stop giving opponents head starts if she is to come anywhere near emulating last season's feat of winning three of the year's four grand slams, according to former world number one Chris Evert.

Williams, 34, has hardly struck a ball in anger since a shock semi-final defeat by Italian Roberta Vinci at last year's U.S. Open dashed hopes of a rare calendar year grand slam.

The American will begin as favorite for next week's Australian Open, despite slight concerns over a niggling knee injury, but Evert believes she cannot afford the slow starts to matches that were a feature of 2015.

Despite compiling a 53-3 win-loss record last year, she often found herself behind in matches.

At the French Open she fought back from losing the opening set four times on her way to the title while at Wimbledon, where she went on to claim her 21st grand slam crown, she flirted with a fourth-round defeat by Briton Heather Watson.

"There's so many matches in the first set she played like listless tennis, lethargic, like she was going through the motions with no energy," Evert, who will be commentating for U.S. broadcaster ESPN at the Australian Open, said in a conference call.

"She'd get it when she got mad in the second set. She would finally pull these matches out. I would like to see her start out from the first point and play some motivational tennis, then I think she won't put herself in those dangerous positions.

"She can't have another year like she had last year. She narrowly escaped so many matches, down a set, down a set and a break. It can't happen again like that. That would be like immortal for that to happen," Evert added.   Continued...

Manila Mavericks player Serena Williams of the United States returns the ball against the Legendari Japan Warriors player Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Germany  during their women's singles match in the International Premier Tennis League in Pasay City, Philippines, on December 7, 2015.  REUTERS/Czar Dancel