I'm playing even better than last year, says Williams

Serena Williams playing against Agnieszka Radwanska at the Australian Open on Jan 28.
Serena Williams playing against Agnieszka Radwanska at the Australian Open on Jan 28. PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE • Ahead of today's Australian Open final against Angelique Kerber, Serena Williams has warned that she is playing better tennis than when she won three Grand Slams last year.

The world No. 1 was in a different class in 2015 as she swept to the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles, losing just three matches out of 56 all season.

Despite being virtually untouchable, the 34-year-old believes her game is now on another level, with a near-flawless first set against Agnieszka Radwanska in the semi-finals providing ample evidence.

Williams hit 18 aces to just four unforced errors in the 6-0 slaughter that the fourth-seeded Pole declared was the best tennis she had ever faced.

"I would say this is probably the best Slam I've played in a year, and I've won a lot in a year," said the top seed. "Again, I haven't won. But even if I don't win, I really can take away that I've been really consistent and I want to continue that."

She dropped sets en route to all her Major titles in 2015 but she is yet to do so in Melbourne this term.

Having beaten Kerber five times, the American knows what levels she will have to reach to win today.

She is also mindful of the threat Kerber poses, having lost to the German in Cincinnati in 2012.

"She played unbelievable in that match. I just remember her being determined to win," she said.

"I think from then on out I've been really focused that she's someone that I really, you know, and everybody, has to take very seriously."

Williams was right. Kerber had one of her best years on Tour last season, winning four tournaments.

The German qualified for the elite eight-woman singles field at the year-end WTA Finals in Singapore, and she credited that experience after reaching her first Major final.

In her final group game at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, she needed to beat the lower-ranked Lucie Safarova to reach the semi-finals. But she fell in straight sets and vowed never to let her nerves get the better of her.

"The Safarova match changed a lot in myself because I was telling myself after that I will never let the pressure win against me again," said the 28-year-old.

"Yeah, I had a lot of challenges in this tournament where I was really nervous. I was thinking to try to take the experience from Singapore and change it. So that was the change also for my mentality."

Williams is keen to atone for a defeat too. Last season, she was on the verge of winning a historic calendar-year Grand Slam, before Italy's Roberta Vinci stunned her in the US Open semi-finals.

"I feel like I could have done better in New York. But that was a learning experience. So I'm going to hopefully take that to the court for not only this tournament but for the rest of these Slams (in 2016)."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'I'm playing even better than last year, says Williams'. Print Edition | Subscribe