Don't underestimate me, warns Serena
January 14, 2006 - 4:08PM
Defending Australian Open champion Serena Williams has warned opponents to underestimate her fitness at their peril, declaring herself in ideal condition to retain her title.
Williams, whose ranking has slipped to No.13, largely because of knee and ankle problems which ruined the last half of her 2005 season, has been the subject of suggestions her shape and conditioning slipped away with it.
But Williams repeatedly proclaimed herself "absolutely" fit at a press conference today ahead of the Open, which starts Monday, and said she was happy for other players to doubt her.
"I like that, it would be like 'oh, she's not fit,' that's cool with me," Williams said.
"That's fine, because then people will be like 'okay, well she won't be able to run,' that's a great position to be in."
Asked how she rated her chances of successfully defending her Australian crown, Williams was just as emphatic.
"If I didn't like my chances of winning, I wouldn't be here," she said.
Williams said she did not read newspaper articles about herself, so had not been aware of the public speculation about her weight and fitness level.
But she did admit to checking out photographs of herself, including one recent unflattering shot, taken from behind while she was jogging.
"I saw one of me running. I was like 'wow, my hamstring muscle is that big?' I had no idea my muscle was like that, but that's about it," she said.
Williams said she had not studied her first round opponent, China's Li Na.
"I'm not sure. I think I might have played her, but it might not have been her," Williams said.
In fact, Williams and Na have never played each other.
Sister Venus Williams also declared herself fully fit, after also having had the last half of her 2005 season sabotaged by injury and illness, particularly a left knee injury, to leave her sitting at No.10 in the world.
"I just feel pretty confident that I'll improve on that number, for sure," she said
Venus said the Australian Open singles title was a prime remaining goal for her, as she chased the bold career ambition of winning every grand slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles title at least once.
She already has eight of those 12 trophies, with the Australian and French singles and Wimbledon and US Open mixed doubles titles missing from her resume.
"Obviously I have to win the singles here to kind of get it down to three titles (remaining)," she said.
World No.1 Lindsay Davenport, who lost to Serena Williams in last year's final, said she was excited by the depth of talent in this year's field, with all of the top 20 women players present and a large number of them genuine contenders.
"This is a great first step to really getting women's tennis back, getting everybody playing is the first step to really getting it back to a premier sport," she said.
"We've had a tough last couple years (with injuries), hopefully everyone can stay healthy now for all four slams."
No Australian men or women made it through the qualifying tournament, with the last hope Robert Smeets ousted by Frenchman Jean-Christophe Faurel 6-0 3-6 6-3 in the final round today.
It means there will be 13 Australians contesting singles, seven men and six women.