MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Serena Williams cleared her concerns about air quality at Melbourne Park when she headed into the second round of the Australian Open on Monday to stay on course and keep the 24th Grand Slam title at record levels.
Serena Williams from the USA celebrates the victory against the Russian Anastasia Potapova REUTERS / Kai Pfaffenbach
The 38-year-old American, who had secured her first WTA title as a mother in Auckland two weeks ago, kept her stay in the Rod Laver Arena with a 6: 0: 6: 3 against Anastasia Potapova to a minimum hour.
Air quality was officially rated good on Monday, but Williams hadn't forgotten the suffocating smoke from Australia's bushfires that greeted her when she arrived in Melbourne earlier this week.
"I was definitely worried and I am. I think it changes every day, ”the eighth seed told reporters.
“There are many factors how this can change. This is still a concern for pretty much everyone. Every day, all players and the tournament ensure that all players are informed of the game conditions.
"It's literally every day, we just wait every day for what the air quality would be like … It seemed normal today. Yes, it seemed pretty good … It definitely felt that way.
Williams said she was particularly concerned about the pulmonary embolism she had after the birth of her daughter Olympia in 2017.
"I'm like" oh no, I'm playing a little less than most people, "she added.
"But we'll see. You just have to focus on what's going to happen and we'll see what happens."
The good news for Williams is that the prospects for the rest of the tournament are promising. The rain that has whipped Australia in the past few days has helped stem the fires that killed 29 people and millions of animals.
The rain also stopped playing on the outdoor courts on Monday, meaning that Williams may have to wait another day to find out if she plays against Slovenian Tamara Zidansek or South Korean wildcard Han Na-lae in the second round.
Her win against Russian teenager Potapova at the start of her 19th season at Melbourne Park came as no big surprise as she has lost only once in 74 first-round games at Grand Slams.
"I felt like I started very well, played very well in the first set and just built on it," she said.
“So I have the feeling that I can still improve and improve during this tournament. This is a good stepping stone at the moment. "
An eighth title at Melbourne Park would equate Williams with Australian Margaret Court as the most productive Grand Slam single winner in the history of the game – a feat she had thought possible.
"I think it involved a lot in my game and now it's more or less about trying to do the best that Serena Williams can do," she said.
“Margaret Court was a wonderful, great champion. And how great is Serena Williams?
"That's it. I've been thinking about it for the past few weeks and months. It definitely helps me a lot to relax."
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editor of Peter Rutherford