Serena Williams lands in Auckland ahead of the ASB Classic


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Serena Williams lands in Auckland ahead of the ASB Classic

The 23-time Major singles champion Serena Williams will kick off the new season at the ASB Classic, returning to Auckland for the first time in three years. More than 20 years after making a debut on the WTA Tour, Serena Williams is still capable of delivering impressive tennis and finishing in the top-10 at the age of 38.

Despite competing at only eight tournaments in 2019, Williams reached two Major finals at Wimbledon and the US Open, losing those to Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu but still feeling hungry to chase that elusive 24th Major crown that has been running away from her in the last couple of years.

After staying away from tennis since the US Open 2018, Serena kicked off the previous season at the Australian Open, losing to Karolina Pliskova in three close sets and missing all the action in February before returning to the court at Indian Wells and Miami, struggling with injuries and scoring just two wins combined.

Williams took more time for rest and hit the court again on clay in Rome, withdrawing before the clash against her sister Venus and losing in the third round at Roland Garros to the young compatriot Sofia Kenin. Still, the best was yet to come for one of the greatest players of all time at her beloved Wimbledon, advancing into the final just like in 2018 and failing to lift the trophy after a one-sided 6-2, 6-2 loss to Simona Halep who proved to be too strong on that day.

Williams played on a high level in Toronto as well, beating Naomi Osaka and reaching the title clash against Bianca Andreescu that she had to give away after four games, retiring and skipping Cincinnati to start a recovery process before the home Major in New York.

There, Serena was back at her best, advancing into the third straight final on the Tour and finishing runner-up following a 6-3, 7-5 loss to Bianca Andreescu. After the withdrawal of the young Canadian, Williams will be the top seed in Auckland ahead of Petra Martic, Amanda Anisimova and Julia Goerges.

"She was upbeat, really positive, looking forward to being here," said ASB Classic tournament director Karl Budge. "There's that steely look in her eye. There's been a good training block from everything I've heard; it's a pretty motivated Serena Williams, ready to go and chase history and we are pretty lucky that we get to play a small part in that."