MELBOURNE Jan 17 Even multi-millionaire athletes are not immune to the global financial crisis, with Serena Williams admitting she was cutting back her spending on designer handbags and glitzy jewellery.
"The bag I'm carrying now is worth $12," a laughing Williams told reporters at a news conference ahead of the Australian Open on Saturday. "I have really cut back.
"It's low tide for me. I'm not out there buying crazy things," added the 27-year-old, who has earned almost $22 million in career prize money and reportedly makes close to $10 million a year in endorsements.
Not that the second seed for the year's first grand slam is totally cutting off her discretionary spending on luxuries -- she downloads digital music, television shows and movies to her computer to help relax during tournaments.
"I love to watch to TV," she said. "I'm terrible for the whole music and movie industry because I download movies and television shows.
"I'm obsessed with 'Desperate Housewives' and can't wait for Monday to download the next episode."
GRAND SLAM FOCUS
Williams, who was looking fitter than she has for a number of years at Melbourne Park, begins her campaign for her fourth Australian Open title against China's Meng Yuan and said the grand slam tournaments would continue to be her focus this year.
"I'm definitely aiming myself at grand slams. I want to play my best tennis in the majors.
"The tour kind of restructured itself with so many big tournaments like in Madrid and the Asia/Pacific area. So with the new exciting tennis, I think I would want to play well at those tournaments too."
Williams said she felt the standard of the women's game had improved in the six years since she dominated it, winning the 'Serena Slam' in 2002-03 when she simultaneously held all four grand slam titles.
"I think everyone is playing better.
"A lot of the girls now, especially when they play against me, and probably Venus too, they went to beat the best players and say that I was able to beat them, or me," she said.
"I feel like sometimes, when people play me they play extremely hard, which actually makes me a better player.
"I would hope I have improved after five years." (Editing by Martin Petty)