Courtesy of ITWA/Alex Willis

By Craig Gabriel

MELBOURNE, Australia: The Australian Open has reached the half-way mark and Serena Williams takes her focus into the home stretch in an effort to try and win a sixth championship, something no other woman has achieved in the Open-era (since 1968) of tennis.

Wearing a jacket by Nike in a smoky brown colour with orange trim, the left sleeve depicting a print of indigenous patterns that was created to highlight Black History Month, Serena was relaxed as she reviewed the match that put her into the last 16 of the Open for the tenth time in her career.

The world number three defeated Ayumi Morita of Japan 6-1, 6-3 coming back from 0-3 in the second set to set up a meeting with Russian Maria Kirilenko.

“I thought she played really well,” said Serena. “She played at a level higher than I expected so it took me off guard. She was just consistent, really consistent. I told her she did a good job, that’s about it, because I thought she did.  I thought it was a good match.”

Serena says she is feeling really good about herself and her match against Morita was a smart effort. She had a few longer points which is what she was looking for, except for one specific point which was over at a lightning speed – she hit another serve timed at 128mph and that certainly gave her quite a bit of joy.

She said: “I went for it, but I wasn’t going for it that hard.  Every time I go for it, to hit it really hard, it goes in the 190s.  When I hit the 207 (km per hour), I was like, Okay, the first one wasn’t luck, maybe I can hit a 207. So it was pretty cool. I hope I can keep this level up and go higher.”

However, as thrilling as a blistering serve might be, Serena exploded with excitement when the Co-President of the International Tennis Writers Association, Sebastien Fest presented Serena with the Ambassador of the Year Award as voted by the world’s tennis writers. Andy Murray was awarded the men’s one.

“This is so cool,” she said, her face beaming with genuine happiness. “I love it and this is very special.”