UPDATE 10pm: Brisbane International champion Serena Williams admits she’s in career-best form and getting better in an ominous warning the Australian Open is shaping as her `Sweet 16th’.
Williams warmed up perfectly for a crack at a 16th Grand Slam crown by claiming the Evonne Goolagong Cawley Trophy with a ruthless 6-2, 6-1 final victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Saturday night.
The American world No.3 took just 50 minutes to wipe the Russian off Pat Rafter Arena with her awesome power and control.
Pavlyuchenkova, ranked 36th in the world, was so clueless how to counter Williams she told her: “I almost feel like I don’t know how to play tennis when I play against you.”
While fellow drawcards Maria Sharapova (collarbone) and world No.1 Victoria Azarenka (toe) withdrew from the year-opening tournament with minor injuries to safeguard their Australian Open chances, Williams flexed her muscles.
She didn’t lose a set in four matches, not including the semi-final walkover against Azarenka, and conceded just 17 games in total.
It gives her 16 straight wins on tour and 35 from 36 matches since a shock first round loss at the French Open, which shook her into action.
Williams felt she produced something close to her best tennis ever as flat-hitting Pavlyuchenkova challenged her early – conceding just one point in her first two service games.
“I don’t know if I was in `the’ zone today (but) I was definitely heading in that direction,” she said.
However the five-time Australian Open champion admitted her form since May was the best of her career as she’s collected six titles, including Wimbledon, the Olympics, US Open and WTA Championships.
“I was looking at a lot of old matches on YouTube, and I feel like right now I’m playing some of my best tennis,” she said.
“I feel like I want to do better and play better still, and I’ve always felt like I could play better.”
Williams’ sometime-karaoke partner Pavlyuchenkova was on song early, reeling off an array of forehand winners to be 2-2.
But the 31-year-old pounced after a double fault in the sixth game and Pavlyuchenkova won just three more points for the set, and only one more game for the match.
The 21-year-old’s cumbersome movement around the court was exposed by Williams’ powerful and precise groundstrokes.
Williams fired down nine aces, and again pushed 200km/h on serve, in front of an appreciative 5000-strong crowd which also urged the Russian on with every game, but to no avail.
“When she’s on fire there’s not much I can do,” Pavlyuchenkova said.
“You have to play your best tennis every point, which is quite tough.”