BRISBANE (Reuters) - Serena Williams' inconsistent displays are usually accompanied by angry self-chastisement, but the greater fear of her ankles not surviving through January saw the world number one in phlegmatic mood despite her far-from-perfect first WTA outing of the season.
In 2012, Williams' left ankle forced her to pull out of the Brisbane International and led to an early departure from the Australian Open when she was beaten by American compatriot Sloane Stephens.
After the loss, Williams sent a picture on Twitter of her grotesquely swollen right ankle.
"I always tape (the ankles) pretty high, but I put extra wraps on them today," Williams said after her 6-4 6-4 victory over Andrea Petkovic in Brisbane on Tuesday.
"I told my physio, let's do some extra ones. I don't want anything to happen. Please.
"I have it down to a science, so (it takes) just 15, 20 minutes.
"I think it is (mental). But at the same time, it definitely wasn't mental when I took those falls ... I just don't want that anymore."
Misfiring efforts prompted calm practice shots on Tuesday. A rueful smile followed an embarrassing air swing at the net and her celebrations after big points, though involving the standard fist pumps, were quieter than usual.
While her serve and ground strokes both need improving in the next fortnight, Williams is happy with where her physical condition is as she aims for a sixth tournament victory at Melbourne Park.
"My fitness is definitely where it should be," Williams said. "I felt great out there. Never actually felt winded."
Indeed, her only gripe post-match was with her earrings, a Christmas present from sister Venus, which fell out during the first set.
"I'm going to complain to Venus and make her buy me something new." (Editing by Patrick Johnston)