The Australian Open has begun, and Serena Williams is a heavy favorite after her impressive 2012 season. She won at Wimbledon, took the gold medals in women's singles and doubles at the Olympics in London and finished off the summer with a U.S. Open title.
So what kind of season can Williams have in 2013? That is one of the questions ESPN analyst and Tennis Hall of Famer Chris Evert answered recently.
Can Serena win the calendar year Grand Slam in 2013?
"Yes, it is absolutely possible. She's got the motivation, there's no doubt about it. She is a very driven young woman who wants to win every time she steps out on the court. Serena has come to Australia ready for the season to begin and clearly in good health, which has been an issue for her over the past few years."
You spoke of Serena's fitness. Is she healthy and focused enough to win?
"To stay healthy these days ... I think is more difficult, especially for someone like Serena who is such a physical player and has a tendency to get injured. When she's on, she can't lose; she's dominant and unbeatable. But you have to remember that we're talking Grand Slams in the same sentence, and they're two-week tournaments, and the unexpected sometimes happens. So the big question is for those two-week periods, can she keep the high level of focus and fitness for 14 days in a row? Make no mistake about it. There are no easy matches anymore. She lost here in Melbourne last year and then at the French as well. ... So can she win a calendar Grand Slam, yes, but she needs to be at 90 to 100 percent all year long, and that is the real test."
Is the heat a big factor?
Evert » "Some players went skiing [in the offseason]. Some players really did take time off and are kind of working their way into the beginning of the year. Some already have worked hard and are very fit. I think conditioning and fitness is definitely going to be a factor with the heat. So the fittest players will be rewarded in this kind of weather."
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.