Welcome to Melbourne Memories, where wtatennis.com will take a look back at some of the most noteworthy narratives from the Australian Open over the past 25 years. Next up: Serena Williams charged back from injuries and a ranking drop to end a two-year titleless streak by gritting through the 2007 edition.
More Melbourne Memories:
1999: Hingis completes the hat-trick
Serena Williams came into the 2007 Australian Open determined, if nothing else, to show off the resolve that had already won her seven Grand Slam titles.
"What do I expect?" Williams responded to media during the pre-tournament press conferences. "I just expect to go out there and most of all have fun. Mostly the things I'm expecting to do are based on just technical things. I think if I do that well, then I'll be fine."
After an extraordinary fortnight, she exceeded that goal, demonstrating her champion's reserve, which would power her through the rest of her glittering career and hoisting a Grand Slam trophy once more.
It had been two years since Williams had triumphed at the 2005 Australian Open, and the American had not won a title of any shape or size since. Ankle and knee injuries hindered her play during the rest of 2005 and the following season; in 2006, Williams contested only four tournaments and at one point saw her ranking fall out of the Top 100.
Ranked World No.81 and coming off of a loss to Sybille Bammer at the Hobart International before her trip to Melbourne, Williams had been out of the winner's circle for some time.
"When I did get injured and I did get surgery, I did things I would have never been able to do, i.e. spend time with my family, spend time with my sisters," Williams said. "I wouldn't give that up for anything.
"I welcome the challenge of being where I am. Right now, I just think mentally I'm in a different place."
As Williams would soon prove, mentally she was as much of a title favorite as anyone. The wins just had to follow.
Williams opened the fortnight with a quick victory over No.27 seed Mara Santangelo, then followed that up with another straight-set win over qualifier Anne Kremer. In the third round, though, things got tricky with a battle against No.5 seed Nadia Petrova.
The Russian powered her way to a 6-1, 5-3 lead in the affair. "I really had no other option than for my game to go up," said Williams, after the grueling match. "I was down 3-5 and on the verge of being out of the tournament, and I obviously didn't want that to happen.
"I told myself just to stay in there and do what I had been practicing and it'll come together sooner or later."
Williams rebounded to grit out a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 win and thus notched her first win over a Top 10 opponent since she beat three Top 5 players to win the 2005 Australian Open title a full two years before. "Has it been that long?" an incredulous Williams said. "That's a terrible stat."
The comeback rejuvenated Williams as she moved into the second week. "I felt like I still had some games to play," Williams stated. "I was ready to keep going. I wasn't tired at all. I'm still not tired. I feel like going to run a marathon."
A routine fourth-round victory over No.11 seed Jelena Jankovic followed, but in the quarterfinals, Williams was again pushed to the limit by a spirited seed. This time, it was No.16 seed Shahar Peer who was fighting to oust Williams and reach her first-ever Grand Slam semifinal, which would have been a record-setting major showing for any women's singles player from Israel.
After splitting the first two frames, Williams was in command at 4-1 in the third set, before Peer charged ahead and was two points away from victory at 6-5. Williams steeled herself to win the final three games and clinch a 3-6, 6-2, 8-6 victory, extending her tournament into the final four.
Following the win, a relieved Williams noted that she was "two points to Qantas Flight 17, yeah."
"I just become sangfroid in that situation," Williams said, about being so close to losing. "I get so calm. I'm floating. I feel so happy. It just relaxes me and releases. It's just a pity it doesn't happen when I was up 4-1."
Williams, defying her ranking and her recent injuries, was now back into a major semifinal for the first time in two years. "There's always different turns in scripts, you never know," said the American.
"I'm just happy to be playing again," Williams added. "Most of all I'm happy that I won't be ranked No.81 anymore. That's how this one ends. Whatever happens, I'm ready to compete for the rest of the year and years to come."
In the semifinals, Williams eliminated another seed, No.10 Nicole Vaidisova, which set up a clash with top seed and World No.2 Maria Sharapova for the championship. At that point, their head-to-head was just 3-2 in favor of Williams, with their last match being a 2005 Australian Open barnburner which the American barely eked out, 2-6, 7-5, 8-6.
This time around, it was a very different story. Under a closed roof due to passing showers, Williams soared past Sharapova, 6-1, 6-2, in just over an hour to claim her third Australian Open singles title and her eighth Grand Slam singles title overall.
"This [title] is right up there with the top," a delighted Williams said in her post-match press conference. The American, who became the third-lowest-ranked player to win a Grand Slam title at the time (after unranked Evonne Goolagong at the 1977 Australian Open and World No.111 Chris O'Neil at the 1978 Australian Open) saw her ranking skyrocket to World No.14 after her two-week adventure.
"You always think, 'I'm going to win, I'm going to win,'" said Williams. "When it really happens, I still can't believe the tournament's over. I feel like there's another match to be played or there's something else. You know, it's an awesome feeling.
"I have a unique style," Williams added. "I have a unique game. You know, tennis is what I think I was born to do."
The rest is history. Williams would collect 15 more Grand Slam singles titles to date -- a far cry from her two-year titleless streak between the 2005 and 2007 Australian Opens.
"There's always times out there where you think, you know, 'Am I ever going to be looking at another trophy?'" Williams said. "Especially since I hadn't won a tournament - let alone a Grand Slam - I hadn't won a tournament in a long time. You know, you're thinking about, 'Wow, will there be another time?'
"Since day one, my parents, my mom and my dad, have always been so positive," Williams continued. "They never stopped believing in me. That helps me believe in me. Venus, as well. I live with her, so I'm with her every day. We always believe in ourselves. You know, it works."