Subdued Serena set for sixth title at Melbourne Park

Tue Jan 8, 2013 3:02am EST
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A belated discovery that tranquility makes a useful ally in the pursuit of glory has Serena Williams in the box seat to win a third consecutive grand slam title at the Australian Open next week.

The Williams of explosive on-court tantrums and off-court drama has largely been banished, and a calmer, more mature prototype arrives at Melbourne Park with her game rivaling the peak of her brilliant career.

Pundits are already talking up the chances of a sequel to the "Serena Slam" - the non-calendar grand slam that the 31-year-old American completed during the 2002-03 seasons - and Williams herself believes the best is yet to come.

"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 after winning the Brisbane International at the weekend.

"I feel like I want to do better and play better still, and I've always felt like I could play better."

William's smooth preparations for the year's first grand slam lie in stark contrast to her troubled lead-in to the 2012 tournament, when she arrived in Melbourne with a foot injury after a season blighted by illness and injury.

Having played two matches in five months, Williams strained ligaments in her ankle at the warm-up tournament in Brisbane, and lasted four rounds at Melbourne Park before being dumped by Russia's Ekaterina Makarova.

A sensational first-round loss at the French Open sparked another round of career obituaries by sports writers.   Continued...

Serena Williams of the U.S. poses with her Brisbane International tennis tournament trophy in Brisbane January 6, 2013. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz