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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Serena vows to step up a gear

Photo Titled Imperious Serena
Serena Williams in imperious form during her straight sets victory over Daniela Hantuchova.

If ever Serena was living up to her name - clear, tranquil, serene, calm – it is now. She’s relaxed, she’s in good humour and she’s playing great tennis with clarity and calmness. She has yet to drop a set in The Championships and was anxious to see how long she spent on court today against Daniela Hantuchova.

In fact, her match took just 56 minutes, although Serena knows she has to move up a gear or two, if she is to threaten for the title. She said: “I feel like I definitely need to step it up, play better, really start playing some great tennis, or go home. And I don't want to go home, so I'm just getting more serious.”

And she admitted that she does have plenty more in the tank for the quarter-finals and beyond, saying: “I feel like I can play better. I know I can. So the fact that I actually know I can get to a higher level is good for me.”

Part of that preparation is analysing the statistics after each match. Serena was analysing the stats sheet for unforced errors and first serve percentages – both of which she has direct control over. She said: “Mostly unforced errors, because that's not fun to hit a lot of errors.” She had 12 unforced errors, the same as in her previous match. But her first serve percentage was only 54%, down from a much more impressive 78% in her first round match.

She is sure to find something to work on, although Serena admitted that The Championships can really only be lost by her or her sister, given their form. They have won seven of the past nine singles titles here, the exceptions being Sharapova in 2004 and Mauresmo in 2006.

As to which sister it might be, she said: “I was hitting with her [Venus] the other day. She was beating me, so I was mad. I thought I was playing really well, so I was just frustrated.”

But before she gets ahead of herself, 27-year-old Serena must beat 19-year-old Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-final, and she doesn’t think her own hunger for victory is dimmed in the slightest. She said: “When you're playing the girls who are really young, they really want it, as bad as I still want it. It always makes for a good fight. I think I'm still in a great position 'cause I'm really young in life. I feel really young out there on the court still, so I'm excited.”

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