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Serena chases elusive dream

Melbourne: She has already got a name for it — the ‘Serena Slam’ — and says she wants to go the entire year unbeaten.

But she also says tennis is not so important, and that she is an aspiring actress, attending readings and looking at scripts. She is a devotee of the fashion industry who sets tongues wagging with her outfits and sports a diamond as big as a peach stone in her belly button.

Serena Williams is many, many things. Often contradictory, often over-confident and almost always larger than life.

She is not, however, the possessor of an Australian Open singles crown.

Beneath the celebrity behaviour, behind all the hyperbole and all the tall tales, it is the Australian title she now covets most.

“My main dream now is the Australian Open,” she smiles when pushed about her goals for the year. “I have never been able to win here, but I would like to try. Let’s just see what happens.”

Serena led the US to a crushing Hopman Cup victory over hosts Australia last weekend and did not lose a set all week. One of her victims was world No. 4 Kim Clijsters who managed to win eight games in a one-sided beating.

Still, though, Serena insists: “I’m far from my best right now. I haven’t begun to play my best at all so I have a long way to go. I’m sure everyone is excited to hear that.”

If the claim is kidology, she need hardly bother. If it is true then organisers could almost hand her the trophy before the tournament starts next Monday. She missed the opening Grand Slam of the year in 2002 with an ankle injury sustained in Sydney. This year she has shunned that event to practise with elder sister and world No. 2 Venus in Melbourne.

“There is much I need to improve this year, my groundstrokes, my serve, my return, my coming to the net. Lots of stuff,” she explains.

Those words must be enough to fill the rest of the WTA Tour with dread. The younger of the Williams phenomenon holds the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles, having beaten Venus in the final of all three.

She won eight of the 13 tournaments she played last year and is still not content.

“I am insatiable,” she laughs, when asked if her goals are achievable. “I am never where I want to be, never satisfied.”

Victory in Melbourne would be sure to put a smile on her face, though. It would give her the oft-mentioned “Serena Slam”.

It would give her a title at a tournament in which she has so far never progressed beyond the quarter finals, an atypically poor record that is clearly beginning to rankle.

It would also make Serena the first player to win four consecutive Grand Slam titles since Steffi Graf won her fourth on the trot at Melbourne in 1994 having won the 1993 French, Wimbledon and US titles.

In short, it would write the Serena Williams legend even larger in the tennis record books.

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