Serena Williams: 'I love playing in Australia, I have great memories here'

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Serena Williams: 'I love playing in Australia, I have great memories here'

The 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams has finished inside the top-20 despite playing a small number of tournaments in 2018, reaching the final at Wimbledon and the US Open and looking to play more events in 2019 and fight for the big title again.

Serena missed the rest of the season after that controversial match against Naomi Osaka in the final of the US Open and she made a return in Abu Dhabi last week, losing in the match tie break to her sister Venus and struggling a little bit with ankle pain.

On Monday, Serena kicked off her Hopman Cup campaign with a 7-6 6-2 win over Maria Sakkari from Greece before losing the mixed doubles match with Frances Tiafoe and missing a chance to open the tournament with the win. Serena needed an hour and 44 minutes to halt the challenge from the upcoming Greek, trailing 5-3 in the opening set and needing her left ankle to be re-strapped after she won it in the tie break.

Serena fired 13 aces and she kept things under control in her games after that break she suffered, saving four out of five break points to keep the pressure on Maria who couldn't deal with it once she lost her lead. The Greek had to play against 10 break points and she got broken three times to end the match on the losing side.

Williams saved a break point in the opening game but she hit a forehand long in game three to give Sakkari the break and the lead. Serena saved another break point in game five and that proved to be a turning point, breaking back in the very last moment in game 10 when Sakkari served for the set.

Serena saved a break point in the following game with a service winner and she won the tie break 7-3 after more than an hour of a great fight. From 2-1 down in set number two, Serena won five games in a row to bring the match home in style, earning a break at 2-2 and another one in game seven with a forehand winner before closing the match with a good serve in the following game.

"It's great to be back out in match day, and it's great to be back out here," Williams said. "I love playing in Australia. Some of my best memories are here. It was my first match back today, she played unbelievable.

Maria is super young and such a good player. I was making a lot of errors. I was like, 'It's ok, it's your first match and you'll get better'. I just kept trying to think that."