Sun, Jan 03, 2016 - Page 19 News List

Serena faces tough task to dominate 2016 as last year

AP, BRISBANE, Australia

Serena Williams of the US smiles after winning the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year trophy in New York on Dec. 15.

Photo: AFP

There might be no tougher act to follow in any sport this year than Serena Williams’ attempt to match her nearly perfect tennis season last year.

Williams, who won the first three majors last year and lost in the US Open semi-finals — 26 consecutive wins in majors, just missing a calendar-year Grand Slam — is to begin that attempt when she teams with Jack Sock for the US team at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Western Australia.

The Americans are to play their first match tomorrow against Ukraine.

The tournament is part of the Australian Open Series that includes the Brisbane International, which begins today and includes defending champions Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, and next week’s Sydney International and Hobart International, culminating in the start of the Australian Open on Jan. 18 at Melbourne Park.

In between, Auckland, New Zealand is to host separate women’s and men’s tournaments over the next two weeks. This week, Shenzen, China hosts a WTA tournament, while Doha and Chennai, India hold ATP events.

Last year, Williams began her 53-3, five-title season with a win over Sharapova in the Australian Open final. She followed that with a win on clay in the French Open and on grass at Wimbledon before losing in a shocking upset to Roberta Vinci in the US Open semi-finals.

Williams and playing partner John Isner lost in the Hopman Cup final last year.

Her singles opponent in Perth on Monday, Elina Svitolina, is winless in three matches against Williams. The Ukrainian, who is teamed with Alexandr Dolgopolov, says it is always best to try to get to Williams early in a match.

“Sometimes she starts slowly,” Svitolina said. “It makes it really tough, because you never know if she’s going to serve an ace or a double fault, or it’s going to be a normal point.”

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