Serena Williams came up short in her bid to win a sixth Australian Open title in 2014, but the defending French Open champion should still be considered the favorite ahead of the season's second Slam at Roland Garros.
For the third straight year, Williams suffered a gut-wrenching defeat in Melbourne, losing to Ana Ivanovic, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, in the fourth round.
Down goes Serena! Ana Ivanovic rallies after losing the first set to take down World No. 1 Serena Williams in the Australian Open!
However, despite the disappointment, the world No. 1 has proven time and again that no one bounces back better. And given that she had won four of the past six Grand Slams coming into Australia, she and her team will move forward with plenty of confidence, per BBC Sport on Twitter:
Serena Williams can become the first woman since 1988 to win four Grand Slams in the same year, her coach believes. http://t.co/A484Y8nbxd— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 9, 2014
In 2012, Williams failed to reach the quarterfinals at both the Aussie Open and French Open but recovered to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open that season. Just last year, the 32-year-old rebounded from an upset loss to Sloane Stephens in Australia to win her first French Open crown since 2002.
Plus, given Williams' unrivaled level of experience and supreme focus, it would be foolish to count her out, especially following her brilliant clay-court run in 2013.
In addition to winning a Slam in Paris, Williams won clay-court tournaments in Charleston, S.C., Madrid and Rome. Williams beat Maria Sharapova in straight sets in the final in Madrid and knocked off Victoria Azarenka in straight sets one week later in the Rome final.
Until results prove otherwise, Williams has the edge over women's tennis' elite on clay.
And despite her age, Williams looks stronger, faster and healthier than ever. After winning her 17th career Grand Slam title at the 2013 U.S. Open, the superstar said that she felt better than she had in "years," per WTATennis.com:
I've never felt better. I feel great. I feel really fit. I can play a tournament like this, singles, doubles, with tough, tough schedules. For the most part, I felt really good. I haven't felt like this in a number of years. I'm excited about the possibilities. I just want to keep playing and do the best that I can.
Although it's been a few months, Williams' early-season dominance in Brisbane confirmed suspicions that she's every bit as fit and motivated as she was in 2013.
While the 2014 French Open is still months away, you can bet this loss in Australia will serve as motivation for the upcoming clay-court season, and Williams will enter Roland Garros with every intention of successfully defending her crown.
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