Serena feeling ‘a little off’

The 33-year-old American faces Alison Van Uytvanck ??? the world No 106 from Belgium ??? in the opening round as she aims to claim a sixth Melbourne crown and first since 2010.

Williams is also hoping to add to her 18 Grand Slam singles titles as she chases down Steffi Graf???s total of 22.

She is currently tied with Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert but six adrift of Margaret Court who leads the way with 24.

Williams said: “Last year I felt really good here, was playing well. I was feeling amazing on the court (only to lose to Ana Ivanovic).

“This year I feel a little off. But I feel off in every Grand Slam, except for last year. That didn’t work out for me, so maybe this is different.

“I still want to improve some things. I feel like I should be doing some things better but every day I can see something coming through, so there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

“My preparation is okay. I’m not very happy with it but I’m never really happy about my practice or preparation so maybe that’s a good sign.???

And then there is Heather Watson who enters the event on the back of a WTA Tour title in Hobart on Saturday that will see the Brit rise up from her current world ranking of 49 to an expected No 38.

Her first round opponent is Tsvetana Pironkova, the world No 67 from Bulgaria who reached the semi-finals in Sydney this week, losing to eventual champion Petra Kvitova, the reigning Wimbledon champion.

As for her hopes in Melbourne, she claims being part of the British Hopman Cup team with Andy Murray recently has helped her: ???It was a great week in Perth. I really enjoyed it.

???Being there as Andy’s team-mate definitely gave me a boost of confidence. All my work that I did in the off-season and last year has just come together.

???I feel like I’m using everything to play good, positive tennis and I’m coming out with good results.???

Selected First Round ties:

1-Serena Williams (USA) v Alison Van Uytvanck (Bel)

11-Dominika Cibulkova (Svk) v Kirsten Flipkens (Bel)

Tsvetana Pironkova (Bul) v Heather Watson (Gbr)

Sloane Stephens (USA) v Victoria Azarenka (Blr)

Taylor Townsend (USA) v 8-Caroline Wozniacki (Den)

4-Petra Kvitova (Cze) v Richel Hogenkamp (Q) (Ned)

20-Samantha Stosur (Aus) v Monica Niculescu (Rom)

Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor (Esp) v 18-Venus Williams (USA)

Kurumi Nara (Jpn) v 6-Agnieszka Radwanska (Pol)

5-Ana Ivanovic (Srb) v Lucie Hradecka (Q) (Cze)

An-Sophie Mestach (Bel) v 10-Ekaterina Makarova (Rus)

14-Sara Errani (Ita) v Grace Min (USA)

28-Sabine Lisicki (Ger) v Kristina Mladenovic (Fra)

Karin Knapp (Ita) v 3-Simona Halep (Rom)

7-Eugenie Bouchard (Can) v Anna-Lena Friedsam (Ger)

Caroline Garcia (Fra) v 27-Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus)

Irina-Camelia Begu (Rom) v 9-Angelique Kerber (Ger)

16-Lucie Safarova (Cze) v Yaroslava Shvedova (Kaz)

Petra Martic (Q) (Cro) v 2-Maria Sharapova (Rus)