Key Biscayne: Serena Williams will certainly be in a comfort zone when she opens the defence of her Sony Open title this week.
Serena is a six-time winner of the Florida event, collecting more trophies than at any other tournament. That surpasses the five titles won at three of four Grand Slam events — the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open.
What’s more, the tournament is held not far from where the top-ranked player has lived since she was a preteen. While she also spends many weeks training in Paris, nearby Palm Beach County remains close to her heart.
“I’ve been waiting on this and it feels good to be back here,” Serena said Tuesday. “It is home. It feels home.”
Serena opens on Thursday against Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, who beat Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-4, 6-2.
She’s entering her fourth tournament of the year after winning the Brisbane title in January against Victoria Azarenka.
However, a bad back has taken its toll. She lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open to Ana Ivanovic, and in Dubai lost in the semi-finals to 23rd-ranked Alize Cornet. Serena had insisted the back was better, but she clearly had trouble reaching up for her serve against the Frenchwoman.
“The back is good,” she said, smiling. “It’s much better. It’s really good, actually. I’ve been doing tons of treatment to make sure it stays loose, so I don’t have any problems.”
The 32-year-old Serena, a winner of 58 career titles, is considered the best of her generation, if not of all time.
Her achievements tend to lead to the assumption that whenever she plays, she’s going to win. While it’s not a given, she doesn’t mind having that kind of burden.
“There is a tremendous amount of pressure when you step on the court,” Serena said. “It’s bigger news for me to lose than it is to win. It’s always big, front cover news if I lose.
“But I don’t look at it as pressure. Billie Jean King always told me, ‘pressure is a privilege’. The only time it becomes a little boring is the training part but I know there is a bigger picture. I must really love the competition because I keep going and I don’t see any end yet.
“I love my fans and love having the opportunity to play for them, it feels spectacular,” said Serena. “I feel really, really bad when I don’t play well. I think that is one of the reasons I tend to be a little hard on myself. I love to play tennis, I love to compete but ultimately the reason I compete is because of the fans.” (Agencies)