Williams within six wins of Court’s grand slam record

Margaret Court's once unassailable grand slam record remains Serena Williams' primary Australian Open motivation as the American embarks on a historic Melbourne Park conquest.

Williams would equal Court's grand slam singles tally of 24 - a mark which has stood since 1973 - with an eighth Australian Open triumph.

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The 2003, '05, '07, '09, 2010, '15 and '17 Melbourne Park champion, Williams edged to within six wins of Court's longstanding benchmark with a 6-0 6-3 first-round victory over Russian Anastasia Potapova.

Without a major title since becoming a mother three years ago, Williams is desperate to emulate Court's tally.

"I think it's factored a lot into my game, and now it's just more or less about doing the best that Serena Williams can do," she said.

"Margaret Court was a wonderful, great champion. And now how great is Serena Williams?

"That's it. That's kind of what I have been thinking about the last couple of weeks and months. It definitely helps me relax a lot."

 

Williams, 38, would join a select grand slam club of mothers to win majors if she succeeds in lifting the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup once more.

Court claimed the Australian, French and US Open crowns in 1973 after giving birth while Evonne Goolagong landed the 1977 Australian Open and the 1980 Wimbledon titles.

Kim Clijsters emulated the pair with 2009-10 US Open and '11 Australian Open success.

Williams has lost four major finals since returning to the tour in 2018.

The right-hander said victory in Auckland was a "monkey off my back, kind of."

"It was very important for me to get a win in the final," she said.

"It felt like a relief. Yeah, like I could move forward now."

Williams steamrolled Potapova with a familiar barrage of power and precision to take the first set in 19 minutes.

The second set was more of a contest, but the outcome was always inevitable.

"Yeah, it was good," Williams said.

"I felt like I started out really well. Played really strong in the first set, and just building on that."

 

Serena Williams and Anastasia Potapova were all smiles at the end of the match. Picture: AP
Serena Williams and Anastasia Potapova were all smiles at the end of the match. Picture: AP

 

OSAKA FEELING AUS OPEN VIBE

Self-confessed "hermit" Naomi Osaka might be the one defending the Australian Open title but the Japanese star is adamant she is not feeling the heat.

Osaka, 22, had her parents in tow at Melbourne Park for the first time, with her father Leonard having previously avoided her player box at the year's first grand slam due to "superstition" until Monday's 6-2 6-4 win over Marie Bouzkova.

Her mother Tamaki has not travelled to Melbourne previously, though Osaka isn't guaranteeing much sightseeing beyond the tournament grounds.

"To be honest, I don't really go out much, I just go out to get food and then go back in my room, like a hermit," she grinned.

 

 

 

"I think (we'll be) just coming on-site and the vibe is so different. I mean, everyone is, like, bustling around, but it's more, like, upbeat.

"I think that's one of the main reasons why I like it here."

Osaka said she had entered last year's US Open amid a "whirlwindy" vibe, but had learned to shrug off the title of defending champion to be much more relaxed.

"I think I was too, like, into, like, the idea that I was the defending champion," she said.

"Like, I didn't take into account that, like, it's a new tournament, so there's, no, like, reward for being a defending champion and you just have to go into it with the mindset that everyone wants to beat you and it's going to probably be tougher the second time around.

"I don't really have this mentality of, I'm, like, defending now. It's really weird.

"But I'm very thankful for it, because I think if I did go into the match with that, I would have been, like, tense."


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