Serena Williams admits Australian Open delay gave her time to recover from her Achilles injury
Serena Williams revealed she may not have been able to play the Australian Open had it not been delayed after making a winning start to her 2021 campaign.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion withdrew ahead of her second-round match at the French Open last October with an Achilles injury she suffered at the US Open, and the problem took longer than expected to heal.
The need for players to complete quarantine on arrival in Australia meant the year’s first grand slam was pushed back by three weeks and, after beating Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 6-4 at the Yarra Valley Classic, Williams said: “It was great for me because I needed the time, because I couldn’t practise because of my Achilles.
— wta (@WTA) February 1, 2021
“I don’t think I would have been here if it was during the regular season. I definitely took that time to recover and to just do the best that I can, and now it’s a lot better.
“Achilles are like the worst thing, honestly. Oh my goodness, I didn’t realise it would be this long. So I definitely was pushing the limits, but I’m here.”
Australian Gavrilova is a former top-20 player now ranked outside 400 because of injury problems and she pushed Williams in the second set.
“It was a good match for me,” said the fifth seed. “It wasn’t easy at all. It was lots of rallies and lots of movement, and she’s from here, so she obviously always plays hard. So it was really good and it felt good to clinch that in the end.”
Williams next faces a familiar foe in Tsvetana Pironkova, who upset ninth seed Donna Vekic 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Third seed Karolina Pliskova was a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Italy’s Elisabetta Cocciaretto while there were also victories for seeds Marketa Vondrousova, Petra Martic, Danielle Collins, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Nadia Podoroska.
All the Australian Open warm-up events are being played at Melbourne Park, and in the concurrent Gippsland Trophy third seed Elina Svitolina began her campaign by defeating Andrea Petkovic 6-1 6-4.
Coco Gauff had a real battle against Jil Teichmann but came through 6-3, 6-7 (6-7), 7-6 (7-5).
Tenth seed Wang Qiang, who knocked out Williams at the Australian Open last year, was beaten 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 by Italian Jasmine Paolini while there also wins for Jelena Ostapenko and eighth seed Karolina Muchova.
Emma Raducanu arrives back in the UK after winning the US Open
Raducanu was pictured outside her house after travelling back from New York.
Introducing Wilson’s Blade v8 racket Emma Raducanu could use at the Australian Open
Emma Raducanu is set to be wielding a new-look weapon when he plays at the Australian Open in January.
Shock defeat for Andy Murray as he is beaten in Rennes
The Russian is ranked 42 places below Murray.
John McEnroe speaks for the first time about comments over Emma Raducanu’s Wimbledon exit
John McEnroe has insisted he has no…
Stunning TV figures for US Open finals confirm appeal of Emma Raducanu
The TV viewing figures are in for this year’s US Open and they confirm that more tuned in to watch the women’s final than the men’s final.
Emma Raducanu thinking about a return to the court after US Open heroics
Raducanu has admitted to still being on “cloud nine” after her stunning US Open victory.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp gives a glowing reference to Emma Raducanu
Jurgen Klopp has given newly crowned US Open champion Emma Raducanu a glowing endorsement.
Boris Johnson talks with Emma Raducanu and discusses growth of grassroots tennis
Jurgen Klopp and Jessica Ennis-Hill joined in with the widespread praise of the teenager from Kent.
Jurgen Klopp inspired by ‘talent of the century’ Emma Raducanu’s US Open win
The Reds boss was glued to his television on Saturday night.
A look at each area of Emma Raducanu’s game as she looks to build on US Open win
Raducanu’s return of serve is arguably her strongest asset.