MELBOURNE • The two biggest draws in women's tennis have declared themselves fit for next week's Australian Open.
Serena Williams insists she is ready for a tilt at a seventh Australian Open title, playing down a knee injury that forced her out of the Hopman Cup, while 2008 champion Maria Sharapova is healthy again following a forearm injury.
World No. 1 Williams retired due to soreness in her left knee during a singles match on Jan 6 at the mixed-team tournament in Perth, casting doubt over her ability to defend her title at the opening Grand Slam of the season. But the 34-year-old told the Melbourne Herald Sun she was "ready for it".
"My body is feeling great now," said the 21-time Major winner. "Obviously I had a hiccup but right now it is doing much better. I've had a few days of training so it's looking good."
The American, who battled knee problems in the latter half of last year and has barely played since October, trained at Melbourne Park on Monday.
"I know what I need to do on and off the court to win big tournaments," she added to the newspaper. "That is what I like to do."
Sharapova has also arrived in Melbourne Park early to practise rather than seek matches at one of the other warm-up tournaments taking place this week.
And the signs are positive for the world No. 5 despite being forced to withdraw from the Brisbane International last week.
"The injury was a bit of a roadblock but the great thing is that I've been healthy the three days and everyone's been away playing so I've had a lot of court time which has been really beneficial," last year's runner-up here told the Australian Associated Press yesterday.
The 28-year-old Russian, who missed the US Open last year because of a leg injury, and Williams were among a quartet of top players who were a doubt for Melbourne because of nagging ailments.
Romanian Simona Halep (Achilles) and Spaniard Garbine Muguruza (foot) also pulled out of matches last week. But Sharapova said it was understandable for players to be wary ahead of a Major.
"Everyone sees the bigger picture and that's one of the things that I thought about - you want to do what you can to be healthy and be a part of the Grand Slam so sometimes that's a decision you have to make," she explained.
World No. 2 Halep, however, is actually playing through the pain barrier at the Sydney International.
The Romanian booked a semi-final berth with a gritty 6-4, 7-5 win over Karolina Pliskova yesterday.
Following her second-round victory over Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia on Tuesday, Halep admitted she was not 100 per cent fit.
"It's tough to play with the pain, because I got a little scared," she said. "When you have pain, you always get scared because you don't know what is going to happen."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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