Serena Williams will be heading into her fourth decade as a professional player aiming to finally equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
It could be a difficult target, however, as Williams will need to end the longest title drought of her career to achieve the feat.
The Australian Open was the location of Williams’ last Grand Slam title when she famously won the tournament whilst being roughly eight to nine weeks pregnant. The 38-year-old will be hoping to add to the seven Grand Slam titles she has already won Down Under.
Williams admitted in a pre-match interview that being a devoted full-time mother to daughter Alexis Olympia, Court’s record is still a huge goal for her.
"It's meant a lot to me for a while and now it is just about getting over that one hump," Williams told journalists in Auckland, where she will begin her year.
"I'm almost there, and I'm confident that I'll get there."
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Williams came agonisingly close to drawing level with Court’s record at the US Open final last year where she lost to 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu.
"It was tough for me," she said.
"I really felt like I was close but I didn't really show up in those matches, and so I have to figure out a better way to compete in those."
Teaming up with Wozniacki
Williams has been preparing for the first Grand Slam competition of the season by joining up with her friend Caroline Wozniacki at the Auckland Classic.
The pair won their first-round match in New Zealand against Japanese pair Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya 6-2 6-4.
Williams has never played women's singles with anyone other than her sister Venus before this tournament but the pair started their partnership with an impressive win.
''It was so much fun, I really enjoyed that,'' Wozniacki said. ''I've been around for a long time and to get to play with Serena was amazing.
''It wouldn't be the same if I didn't at least once get to play with her on the same side. She's beaten me a lot of times on the other side so it's actually nice that we can win together for once.''
Wozniacki announced her intention to retire from tennis following this year's Australian Open in December and Williams described how happy she was to finally get the chance to play with the Dane.
''It's cool. I can't let the rest of both of our amazing careers go without playing with her. With her doing so well as a Grand Slam champion and a long-time No. 1, of course, I want to share the court with her.''
Meanwhile, in the Auckland Classic singles competition, 15-year-old Coco Gauff continued to impress progressing to the second round.
The youngest player in the competition breezed through her first-round match beating last year's semi-finalist Viktoria Kuzmova 6-3 6-1 in just over an hour.
"Playing in the wind was a little bit tough, but I'm glad I got through it," Gauff said afterwards. "The energy out here is great.
"I was a little bit nervous about spending New Year's here - this is my first without my brothers - but I've felt really welcomed here."News Now - Sport News