LONDON, United Kingdom -- Defending Wimbledon champion Serena Williams has challenged her rivals to match her astonishing run of form as she targets a sixth All England Club title and 17th major.
The American, fresh from her second French Open triumph, is on a 31-match winning run, the best of a career which is already comfortably into its third decade.
She is now just two Grand Slam titles behind the 18 won by Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova and four back from the 22 racked up by Steffi Graf, but believes her best years may still be ahead of her.
"I'm really relaxed. I really enjoy every moment that I'm out there. I always said that I felt like I have never played my best tennis," said 31-year-old Williams, who became the oldest Roland Garros winner in the Open era when she beat Maria Sharapova in the final earlier this month.
"I feel like I can always do better and play better and I have always wanted to reach that level. Maybe I'm just trying to get there."
Age just a number
"I really believe age is a number at this point, because I have never felt so fit. I feel great. I look great."
The statistics back up Williams' confidence concerning her future prospects.
Since her shock first round defeat to Virginie Razzano in Paris last year, she has won 74 of 77 matches on tour with further titles in 2012 at Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open.
In 2013, she has won 43 out of 45 matches, sweeping to victory in Brisbane, Miami, Charleston, Madrid, Rome and then in Paris.
Williams' confidence is bad news for Russian world number three Sharapova, who is seeking a second Wimbledon title, nine years after her first.
Sharapova's defeat in Paris was her 14th in 16 meetings with the American with her last win coming back on 2004.
The other contenders
Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka is seeded second and the Belarusian will be looking to go further than the semi-finals she reached in the last two years at Wimbledon.
Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, who took a set off Williams in last year's final, is seeded four but her grasscourt campaign got off to a terrible start on Tuesday when she was dumped out of the Eastbourne warm-up tournament in the first round by US qualifier Jamie Hampton.
"I've loved Wimbledon since I was young and won the junior tournament there in 2005," Radwanska wrote on ESPNW.
"Wimbledon is the focal point of the summer for most of us pros. My sister and I rent a lovely house just across from the practice courts and we walk everywhere -- to the courts, the shops and the restaurants. It's a luxury we don't have at most tournaments. And the interaction with fans there is great."
Another contender with something to prove is the 2011 champion Petra Kvitova.
The Czech was dumped out in the quarter-finals by Williams last year and has yet to get past a Grand Slam fourth round since.
Seeded eighth, the left-hander has won just one singles tournament -- Dubai -- since August last year and entered Eastbourne to get some competitive practice in on grass.
However, her challenge there ended early as she was knocked out by Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium in the second round on Wednesday.
Sixth seed Li Na leads the Asian challenge.
Li's Wimbledon best was reaching the 2006 and 2010 quarter-finals, though the 2011 French Open winner tumbled in the second round on her last two All England Club outings.
Li said it was tough to switch from the Paris clay.
"You play grass, you have to use your legs a lot so at least I have strong legs," she said.
Five-time champion Venus Williams will be missing from this year's tournament due to an ongoing lower back injury.
Svetlana Kuznetsova, a former French Open and US Open champion, also withdrew with a stomach strain. - Rappler.com