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No great expectations for Serena
Richard Eaton
06:19 AEST Tue Feb 12 2013

Serena Williams' downbeat attitude to her recovery from injuries has raised doubts about her ability to regain the world No.1 one ranking after a two-and-a-half year interval during the Qatar Open this week.

Williams needs only three wins to regain the top spot - possibly all against players who have never beaten her - and yet she downplayed her hopes with a mixture of glumness and brevity.

"I don't know, I had a great chance to be number one and I wanted it lot, but I didn't get there," she said, referring to her shock quarter-final loss to Sloane Stephens at the Australian Open last month.

"It would be great. I obviously want it, but it's not the only thing I want, you know, so if it happens, great. If not, I won't miss anything, I don't think," she added surprisingly.

Her words gave the impression that concerns about health were more important than the top spot.

A bad back, often one of the most persistent ailments a tennis player can have, may still be troublesome, and it may be that there has not been enough time fully to recover from a badly twisted ankle.

Images of this, swollen grotesquely almost to the size of a beach ball, were posted on the internet after the Australian Open. "That picture was a nightmare. Imagine that - ugh!" she commented.

Neither injury is hurting now, Williams said, still without painting a hopeful picture of her recovery.

"I'm feeling a little better. You know, just taking it one day at a time, basically. So I will see how I feel after my first match."

Williams' pessimism may be because she is spooked by the possibility of a repetition of her misfortunes of 2012 and 2011 when a sequence of injuries dumped her out of the top 100 and threatened her career.

At the same time her form in the second half of 2012 was so exceptional, with the capture of two Grand Slams and two other major titles, that the prospects of her continuing the momentum into this year still seem vivid.

Williams starts Tuesday with a match against Dara Gavrilova, who is based at the Paris academy of Patrick Mouratoglou, rumoured to be Williams' boyfriend.

The Russian opened with a 4-6 6-3 6-3 win over Anabel Medina Garrigues, the world No.58 from Spain.