Serena Williams bracing herself for the Melbourne heat at Australian Open
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serena Williams' goals for the Australian Open are simple: Stay on her feet and stop complaining about the weather. Temperatures in Melbourne have been unseasonably cool in the week leading up to the tournament but they're expected to climb into the 90s when she takes the court on Monday for her first-round match against Australia's own Ashleigh Barty.
"[The cool weather has] been putting me in a really bad mood," Williams told reporters in her pre-tournament press conference. "But then it got really, really hot. I was very sad that I complained, so I don't complain any more about the weather."
It's been so chilly that Williams admitted she's been bringing a blanket with her to dinner to stay warm. Told about the forecast for next week, where temperatures are forecast to hit triple-digits, she smiled. "I should have kept my mouth quiet and dealt with the cold weather."
The fact that she focused her preseason training in Florida should help her adjust quickly. "I've been training my whole life in the heat," she said. "I think I'm pretty used to it. I mean, obviously the heat in Melbourne is just completely different than any other heat."
The top seed in the women's draw, Williams comes into Melbourne as the favorite to capture her sixth Australian Open title and 18th overall, which would tie her with Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. Her No. 1 ranking isn't under threat at the tournament but a win would also mean she would be the current holder of three of the four Slams after winning the French Open and U.S. Open last year. Her last two trips to Melbourne have ended in disaster, as ankle injuries left her limping in losses to Ekaterina Makarova in 2012 and Sloane Stephens last year.
"I just wasn't able to stay on two feet, literally," she said when asked about her disappointing results the last two years. "So I just think that just this year I've been doing a lot of exercises for my ankles and trying to make sure that they're pretty stabilized to get used to this."
Against the 17-year-old Barty, Serena is already preparing for a hostile crowd who want to see a good performance from their underdog. "Obviously, they'll want Ashleigh to win, her to do well," she said. "Under any other circumstances, I'd probably be rooting for her, as well. I'll just have to be ready for that."