MELBOURNE, Australia -- Four months after Serena Williams lost in a controversial US Open final, her coach believes she has put that disappointment behind her and is better equipped to cope with difficult situations, should they arise.
"Anything can happen, but I think last year, she was not in a good space in terms of tennis and competition," Patrick Mouratoglou, who has been Williams' coach since 2012, told ESPN at the Australian Open. "It's difficult to understand how you feel when you're playing a Grand Slam final with history on the line. The level of stress is incredibly high, and it's much more difficult to handle a feeling of unfairness. So when your level of stress is incredibly high, it's 10 times more difficult to handle."
But according to Mouratoglou, Williams is fitter and mentally stronger than she was in 2018.
"She had to adapt to her new life, new things," Mouratoglou said. "She was feeling guilty for leaving her daughter for practice, to play matches, and she was not herself -- you could see it."
Ten months following the birth of her daughter, Olympia, Williams reached the Wimbledon final but fell short of the championship, missing out on tying Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 Grand Slam wins. Two months later, in the US Open final, Williams, amid a series of penalties, including one for receiving coaching from Mouratoglou, lost to Naomi Osaka.
"I think she's back [mentally]," Mouratoglou said. "Also, her daughter is older; she's more independent because now she's walking, so now Serena doesn't feel she has to be there every second.
"She's more relaxed, and I think this spirit she has is back."
The relationship between Williams and Mouratoglou, who have won 10 Grand Slams since joining forces over nearly eight years together, remains strong. The pair worked hard together in the offseason in Florida, with Mouratoglou quickly realizing Williams was as focused and determined as ever.
Mouratoglou also said Williams is steadfast in breaking Court's record.
"There's no point to just equal the record," Mouratoglou said. "I think it's very much in the head, and when you want it so bad, and you're Serena, you find a way. She's not going to stop until she's where she wants to be."
Although seeded 16th this year, Williams began the event as the odds-on favorite to win the Australian Open for a record eighth time.