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Serena feeling the heat

Serena Williams vowed never to complain about the weather again after getting more than she bargained for.

After arriving in Melbourne a week ago ahead of the Australian Open, the world number one tweeted: "Cold weather puts me in the worst of moods. I mean THE WORST... And right now it's freezing in Melbourne....."

The cool conditions did not last, however, and temperatures during the first week of the tournament are predicted to reach 43 degrees Celsius.

Asked if she was looking forward to that, Williams said: "No, no, I'm not.

"I was very sad that I complained, so I don't complain any more about the weather.

"I should have kept my mouth quiet and dealt with the cold weather.

"I've been training my whole life in the heat. I think I'm pretty used to it. But obviously the heat in Melbourne is just completely different than any other heat.

"But it's okay. I've just got to be ready to play under any circumstances."

The Australian Open has an extreme heat policy that means the roofs are shut on Rod Laver and Hisense Arena and play on other courts is suspended if conditions get too bad.

Williams should not have any problems with the heat during her first-round match against Australia's Ashleigh Barty on Monday given she is playing in the second night match on Laver.

Barty, 17, is not ranked highly enough to be a direct entrant so was given a wild card, but she began the season in fine form by qualifying and reaching the second round of the WTA Tour event in Brisbane, which was won by Williams.

The American was impressed, saying: "She's extremely talented. She moves well. She plays well. She serves well. She has good returns.

"I saw her play a little bit at Brisbane. I was actually super impressed with her game. I thought she was a really, really great player. Under any other circumstances, I'd probably be rooting for her."

Barty has so far had more success in doubles, reaching two grand slam finals alongside fellow Australian Casey Dellacqua.

The teenager cannot wait for her big moment, saying: "Not every week do you get to go out and play against one of the greatest champions of all time. I'm really excited for the challenge."

Not surprisingly, Williams is a big favourite to win an 18th grand slam title after picking up 11 trophies in a dominant 2013 season.

The Australian Open was one that got away, though, with Williams losing to compatriot Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals.

She was hampered by a twisted ankle, while it was a similar story the previous year when she lost to Russia's Ekaterina Makarova.

"I just wasn't able to stay on two feet, literally," said the five-time champion of her recent Melbourne disappointments.

"So this year I've been doing a lot of exercises for my ankles and trying to make sure that they're pretty stabilised to get used to this."

Two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka is seeded second at the year's opening grand slam, with Maria Sharapova in third.

The Russian is back on the tour after missing the last part of 2013, including the US Open, with a shoulder problem.

A serious shoulder injury disrupted Sharapova's career in 2008 and 2009 and it took her a long time to get back to the top of the game.

She said of her latest spell on the sidelines: "It was not as hard as the one I had a few years back. That was pretty tough, considering I had surgery. This is far from being that serious.

"This was a matter of time, which in tennis it's not great when you come to a doctor's office and they say, 'Time, time, just wait, wait'.

"We don't have much patience because we always have a schedule set, tournaments to play. That's tough to accept because you don't quite know when the inflammation is going to go down, when you're going to be able to play overhead shots, things like that."

The 26-year-old began her season in encouraging fashion by reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane, losing to Williams, but she has a tough first-round draw against American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Sharapova said: "You obviously have to lower your expectations a little bit and be a bit realistic about maybe the first few matches. You have to grind, work through them, hope to get better as the tournament goes on."