The Australian Open has historically proved the most successful Grand Slam for Serena Williams and her chances of a sixth success in Melbourne have been bolstered by the likely withdrawal of her sister Venus from the field.
Venus has been troubled by health and injury problems for much of the last two years, firstly overcoming knee and hip complaints before being struck down with Sjogren’s syndrome.
The autoimmune disease meant that she participated in only four tournaments last season and as a result slipped out of the top 100 in the women’s world rankings.
However, there were signs of late that she was getting to grips with the condition as she bid to reach a first Grand Slam final since Wimbledon in 2009 and she even defeated her sister in one of the exhibition matches in which they faced off.
But the run of games appear to have taken their toll and Venus has now pulled out of the ASB Classic in Auckland, which is the final tune up event ahead of the Australian Open.
Therefore, her appearance in Melbourne is also in doubt.
Despite, her lowly ranking, Venus remains one of realistically only a handful of players who can topple her sister and now Serena must have an even greater chance of success.
Serena missed the Australian Open last year, but triumphed in Melbourne in three of the four renewals prior to that.
She is 9/4 in the Australian Open odds to win a seventh title and the good news for her is that the favourite has triumphed in the last three instalments of the Grand Slam.
Furthermore, she should have little trouble performing on the hard courts of Melbourne, having reached the final of the US Open last season when still feeling her way back towards top form.