If Serena Williams had any doubts about her game coming into 2013, they have since been erased.
The 31-year-old American had been on a tear at Melbourne Park—the site of the 2013 Australian Open, the year's first Grand Slam—before falling to a scorching Sloane Stephens in a hard-fought three-setter in the quarters.
Despite her early exit, Serena's performance through the first five rounds was very telling, and it suggests that she is in for another sensational year in 2013.
Williams' serve looks stronger than ever, and she is still playing with the sort of fire we witnessed back in 2002 and early 2003, when she won four consecutive Majors. Don't make too much of her latest loss. After all, she had won 20 straight singles matches prior to her defeat on Day 10.
Through the first four rounds in Australia, Williams won 87 percent of her first-serve points, proving just how great an asset that powerful serve can be against the world's best. Serves like this one in her third-round win over Ayumi Morita of Japan not only score her easy points, but they demoralize her opponents.
Here's a better look at Williams' renowned right-handed serve, which can come close to 130 mph on her best days.
But beyond her near-flawless delivery, Serena has built up her confidence. She has lost just two singles matches since the 2012 French Open.
The confidence that comes with a winning streak that impressive can't be manufactured. Yes, Williams can take one glance at her resume at any point and remind herself of where she stands among the game's greats. But she has opted to add to her legacy instead. Her performance at the 2013 Australian Open proves that.
That's why Williams' early success Down Under (though some will view her overall performance as a disappointment, credit to Sloane Stephens) is poised to translate to more success in 2013. She won't turn 32 until after the year's final Grand Slam, the U.S. Open, and she's playing with the chance to tie and perhaps pass both Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert to become the woman with the fourth-most Grand Slam titles.
Serena currently has 15 (only needs three to tie Navratilova and Evert) career Slams, but she'll have at least three more opportunities to add to the count in 2013. And if her early performance at this year's Australian Open is any indication, she will.
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