The 39-year-old has been in ominous form but needed to overcome a mid-match wobble to oust fellow American Danielle Collins 6-2, 4-6, 10-6 in 96 minutes at the Yarra Valley Classic.
Williams has looked sharp having worked her way back from an Achilles injury suffered at last year’s US Open, which then led to a withdrawal from the French Open before the second round.
Asked whether she was still the best in the world when on top form, Williams was unequivocal.
“I absolutely wouldn’t be playing if I didn’t think that,” said the American, who is aiming for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.
Her unwavering belief further fuels a mouth-watering contest Saturday against home favourite Barty, who will be attempting to break her country’s 43-year curse in singles at the first Grand Slam of the year.
Williams has won both their contests but they haven’t met since the 2018 French Open one year before Barty’s breakthrough Roland Garros title en route to the top ranking.
“I think it’s definitely a good opportunity to see where I’m going against the current number one,” Williams said. “I think that’s really important for me.
“Obviously I think for her, as well, to see where she’s going against my game.
“I think I’m a pretty big player just on all surfaces. I think all around it’s a really good opportunity for us both.”
Barty has yet to rediscover her best, having dropped sets to Marie Bouzkova and Shelby Rogers, in her first tournament in 11 months. AFP
“I always love testing myself against Serena. Looking forward to it tomorrow,” she said.
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