There was a sign in the crowd this afternoon in Istanbul that simply read: ‘Serena, the best since Steffi.’
Indeed, although Serena Williams is unlikely to overcome Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slams before her career is out, if she keeps up the form that saw her crowned double Grand Slam and Olympic champion this summer she will have no problem picking up the WTA Championship title this week.
The American played emphatically to beat Angelique Kerber 6-4 6-1 in her first game of the WTA Championships and has Victoria Azanreka and Li Na now firmly in her sights.
Kerber was certainly no pushover on Tuesday but was nevertheless powerless to prevent Serena take an important victory in the Red Group of the round-robin stage.
The German matched the 15-time Grand Slam champion shot for shot in the first set yet could not produce enough to overcome Serena, who took the opener 6-4.
Maybe this blow took the wind out of Kerber’s sails and although she offered tough resilience in the second, there was simply no stopping Serena – who was playing in her first tournament since lifting the New York crown almost two months ago.
Kerber had her moments, but she was too often late on the ball after heavy Serena returns and the 24-year-old struggled to reply to her opponent’s round-court brilliance.
Serena, it appears, has all the power and touch needed to canter through the early stage of these Championships and provide a real threat to whoever she meets in the semis. She saved a break point in her final game – screaming “come on!” at the top of her voice – and served out the match with an ace and a Kerber wide to cruise to victory.
Serena faces Li in Istanbul tomorrow and if she maintains her superiority into the match the Chinese world number eight will have a real tough time out there.