Serena Williams won her third straight singles match at the Hopman Cup on Thursday and appears to be finding form at just the right time as she targets more major glory at Melbourne Park.
Williams kept the United States alive in its tie against Great Britain, beating Katie Boulter 6-1 7-6(2) after Frances Tiafoe fell to Cameron Norrie.
The United States cannot, however, reach the final.
Serena’s victory over Boulter followed a straight-sets win over Maria Sakkari and an absorbing three-set triumph over former top-10 star Belinda Bencic.
Williams had not played a competitive match for months following her loss in the US Open final to Naomi Osaka.
But she impressed in an exhibition outing against sister Venus at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship and has gone up a level in Perth, particularly against Switzerland’s Bencic in what was an intense, physical, high-quality battle.
During the ensuing mixed doubles rubber – in which Serena came face-to-face with Roger Federer on the match court for the first time – Williams was seen to be frequently massaging her upper right arm and shoulder.
There were a few signs of that soreness again on Thursday as she stretched out the limb early on, yet she still closed out Boulter in a brisk 78 minutes.
Serena and Angie are looking win-seven-matches good.
— Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) January 3, 2019
It is unfolding as the perfect tune-up for the 23-time Grand Slam champion, who is targeting a record-equalling 24th major title at Melbourne Park.
“It was perfect; it’s just like this in Melbourne. It’s the exact same sun and it gives me so many problems. After you serve, you are blind for the next two points,” she said.
“It was good to play three matches here, singles, not to mention the mixed doubles.”
The Australian Open is arguably her most successful Grand Slam venue; she has won seven titles in her past 10 visits to the tournament.
Should she triumph again, she would become the oldest female Grand Slam champion in professional tennis history. You have to go back to the amateur days of 1926 to find someone older; that year Molla Mallory won the US Open at age 42.
9 January 2018
As the first Grand Slam of the season fast approaches, top-10 players are leading the char... More
1 June 2016
Comparing tennis today to the game of the past is like comparing a boxer and fencer. There... More
11 May 2017
When we look at Rafa Nadal on clay, there are a few key points that make him better than e... More