Serena relishes brutal 'blessing'
By Phillip Henderson
January 11, 2007
FOR a former world No.1 and seven-time grand slam winner, a quarter-final exit at a tier four WTA event in Hobart would hardly seem the perfect preparation for the Australian Open.
But Serena Williams was looking at nothing but positives after crashing out of the Hobart International, to Austria's little known Sybille Bammer, in her comeback tournament from knee surgery.
"This is the best match practice possible," said Williams after losing 3-6 7-5 6-3 to Bammer in a brutal, 2hr 20min quarter-final. "These are the toughest matches I've played in my whole career, especially in a tournament of this calibre, so it was really a blessing to be able to play such tough matches.
"These are the types of matches you look forward to playing in grand slams."
Having dominated women's tennis with sister Venus only three years ago, Serena has slumped to 94 in the world rankings after a horror stretch of knee and ankle injuries.
The last of her 26 WTA titles came two years ago, at the 2005 Australian Open.
Asked after her loss to world No.53 Bammer did she think she could climb back to the top of women's game this year, Williams said: "I hope so. It's just a matter of time
." In Hobart, the 25-year-old showed she still has the power game to perhaps launch a rankings assault. Her biggest obstacles, though, will be consistency and match fitness.
Armed with her own power game, Bammer never let up against Williams in claiming her biggest scalp since turning professional in 1997.
Having played another monster three-set match the previous day, Williams looked a spent force in the final set - although she later claimed to be "just sore" and not tired.
"She played the match of her life," Williams said of Bammer. "Everyone plays their best against me and I have to go out there and be my best every time. She obviously played unbelievable."
The loss completed a disappointing few hours for the Williams family, with Venus pulling out of the Australian Open with a left wrist injury.
The first Serena heard of the withdrawal was at her post-match press-conference.
"I didn't know," she said, before adding: "I guess I'm just glad I don't have to play her."