Serena Williams says she will not be distracted by the thought of moving ahead of Steffi Graf’s Grand Slam record at the Australian Open.
The American world number two, 36, needs one major triumph to go clear of the German’s 22 Open-era titles.
The six-time champion played down the attention on the record, saying she was “just here to play and win”.
She faces unseeded 19-year-old Swiss Belinda Bencic in the first round in Melbourne on Tuesday.
The all-time Grand Slam record is held by Australian Margaret Court, whose 24 titles spanned the amateur and Open era.
Williams’ only major victory in 2016 was at Wimbledon. She won the first three Slams in 2015 before a shock US Open semi-final exit to unseeded Roberta Vinci as she tried to emulate Graf’s 1988 ‘calendar slam’
She said it is difficult to deal with the level of expectation on her.
“It’s never easy for me. All I can do is do my best,” she said.
“I didn’t come here to lose in the first round or the second round, or at all.”
Bencic, 19, said she was “super-pumped” to face Williams.
“My first reaction was actually really happy. So I think I’m excited I get to play on the big court, I guess,” said Bencic.
“Everyone is like, ‘Oh, bad luck with the draw’. Me, I’m pretty happy and excited about it.”
The British challenge
British number one Johanna Konta, 25, has had the perfect preparation for the first Grand Slam of 2017, winning her second WTA title in Sydney on Friday.
The Australia-born world number 10, who will move up to number nine on Monday, did not drop a set all week as she marched through a high-class field, eventually beating Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4 6-2 in the final.
She faces Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the first round as she looks to better her 2016 Australian Open performance where she reached the semi-finals.
British number two Heather Watson, 24, faces Australian Sam Stosur, who has never gone beyond the fourth round in front of her home fans.
“I look forward to playing Sam. She’s a great player with an all-round game,” said Watson.
“All the talk will be about her playing in front of her home crowd but I just want to focus on myself and play my game as best as I can.
“I’m feeling healthy, fit and ready to go now.”
Fellow Briton Naomi Broady also faces an Australian opponent in Daria Gavrilova, ranked 25th in the world.
Can Kerber regain her form?
Defending champion and world number one Angelique Kerber returns to Melbourne in shaky form, having lost in the second round at the Sydney International last week.
The German faces Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, ranked 61st, in the first match of Monday’s night session.
Tsurenko took Kerber to three sets in their only previous meeting.
If both players progress, Kerber could face French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals.
Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Madison Keys are all notable absentees from this year’s tournament, providing an open and unpredictable draw.
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/38621409