Djokovic is the man to beat at Australian Open

Serena Williams lifts the Australian Open trophy in 2017. Now she is back looking for a record-equalling 24th Slam

Serena Williams lifts the Australian Open trophy in 2017. Now she is back looking for a record-equalling 24th Slam

"Serena is the greatest player to have played the game". The manner in which she claimed her maiden Slam was far from ideal - with Serena's furious tirade against the umpire overshadowing Osaka's breakthrough moment.

That loss left Williams, who also lost in the Wimbledon final previous year, short of matching Margaret Court's marker of 24 grand slam titles, a record the American has another chance of equalling in Melbourne over the next fortnight.

And Evert, an 18-time slam victor who will be part of ESPN's coverage of the tournament, believes that ultimately Williams' hefty list of accomplishments will outweigh the few contentious moments in her glittering career.

"I think that her record, the way she was raised and the journey, the path, the route she took to be number one, the family, the whole story is so overwhelming". Wozniacki proved she can still compete by winning in Beijing in October but whether she can cope with the gruelling two-week slog of a Grand Slam remains to be seen, and she was bundled out of the Auckland Classic last week in round two. These courts are suited for me.

Williams reached the finals at Wimbledon and in NY on what was her comeback year on the WTA Tour in 2018 following the birth of her first child. While she is the leading light for the next generation, the world number four´s status as second favourite points to a lack of serious rivals for Williams among the more established players.

"Champions are greedy in the sense they want to keep racking up the grand slams".

She has looked sharp at the Hopman Cup and maintained her 100% singles record even though Germany lost to Federer's Switzerland in the final.

"I think she's fresh that's one thing, but everyone else is fresh too", said Evert.

"I noticed she seems fitter, which is a scary thought".

"Osaka shines" The 21-year-old Osaka backed up her US Open win by riding a wave of fanatical home support to reach the final of the Pan-Pacific Open in Tokyo without dropping a set.

Williams also drew censure from tennis officials for her clothing in 2018.

"It's yet another chapter in the incredible story of Serena Williams", ESPN tennis analyst and former professional Patrick McEnroe said about Williams' US Open episode.

Caroline Wozniacki is also looking to defend her title after winning her first career major at this event previous year. Yet she appears to have put the emotional turmoil experienced in NY behind her and is revelling in her status as standard bearer for the next generation of women's players.

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