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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Chris Evert Serena Williams

Serena Williams isn't yet at her best, but should still be good enough to win the Australian Open and match Margaret Court's all-time record says ESPN's Chrissie Evert.

Photo credit: US Open Facebook

Serena Williams will realize a major milestone at the Happy Slam.

The 38-year-old Williams isn't yet at her best, but should still be good enough to capture her 24th career Grand Slam crown at the Australian Open and match Margaret Court's all-time record says ESPN's Chrissie Evert.

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In a conference call with the media to promote ESPN's first ball to last ball Australian Open coverage starting Sunday, January 19th at 7 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN2, Evert told Tennis Now she believes Serena is poised for a record run in Melbourne. 

Eighteen-time Grand Slam champion Evert asserts Williams will be empowered by her run to the Auckland title last weekend and snap her four-match losing streak in Grand Slam finals and equal the sport's supreme record:

"It was really good she played that tournament [Auckland]," Evert told Tennis Now. "Because a lot of times she comes into Grand Slams not really prepared and she figures she can play her way into a tournament. It was very smart of her to play that warm-up tournament and she looked good.

"She still doesn't look 100 percent, but she doesn't need to be 100 percent to win. As long as that serve is working and she's moving well—those are two things that have to be working for Serena to win."

In straight-sets Grand Slam final losses to Simona Halep at Wimbledon and Bianca Andreescu at the US Open, Williams sometimes looked a half-step slow in running rallies. Can she get off the mark quickly against explosive Top 10 players including reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka and 2018 semifinalist Karolina Pliskova, who toppled a hobbled Serena in Melbourne last year?

Confidence and match play from winning her first title as a mom in Auckland will fuel Williams in Melbourne where the seven-time Australian Open champion should feel less stress than at Wimbledon and New York, Evert said.

"I think Serena certainly looks hungry," Evert told Tennis Now. "She's got a little momentum into the Australian Open. And going it would probably be the least pressure, this Grand Slam, for Serena to win. I think the French Open, the clay, isn't her best surface. Wimbledon, there's a lot of pressure. US Open there's a lot of pressure.

"And this one, the first one of the year, it's the Happy Slam, I think if she can take a little bit pressure off herself, if she can just relax and play her brand of tennis, then I think she's got a good shot of winning it."

Oddsmakers concur with the Hall of Famer.

Oddschecker lists Williams as the Australian Open favorite at 17 to 4 followed by world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and Osaka, who are both 8 to 1. Former Australian Open finalist Halep is 10 to 1 and Pliskova stands as an 11 to 1 shot to hoist her first Grand Slam trophy.

"Barty has certainly come on strong," Evert said. "Pliskova, I still scratch my head as to why she hasn't won a Grand Slam. I think this could be the year she'll win one.

"Naomi has looked great too, she's looked sharp. It's a shame Andreescu is not playing because I think she would have been right up there with everybody else."


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