Subdued Serena set for sixth title at Melbourne Park
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...