Serena Williams will play her first Grand Slam match in over a year, having won her last title at any level at the Australian Open 2017 last January. However, her first encounter in Paris won’t be a walk in the park as she will face off against the big-serving Czech Kristyna Pliskova, who has built up her form on clay over the past few weeks.
Serena’s year so far
The 36-year-old American was originally hoping to take part in this year’s first Grand Slam, in Melbourne. Unfortunately, she decided to withdraw due to her dissatisfaction with her tennis level and postpone her return. She played her first match of the year against the current French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi, where she lost in three sets in a very physically testing match. It was then in March that she made her WTA return at Indian Wells. She impressively beat Diyas and Bertens in straight sets, before losing to her older sister Venus in the third round. One week later in Miami, she was convincingly beaten by an on-form Naomi Osaka. Since then, she was scheduled to compete in Rome before once again pulling out, and finally confirmed her attendance at the French Open.
Serena’s route to the title
Her opponent has had a very successful clay season so far, which immediately gives her an advantage over Williams, who is yet to play a match on the dirt. Pliskova has had an impressive 9-4 win to loss rate so far on the surface and has recorded some big wins over fellow Czech Petra Kvitova and Goerges in Nuremberg. It will surely be a difficult match for the American who may make a slow start to proceedings.
If Serena can pull through the first round match, things won’t get much easier for her. She would most likely face the very crafty Australian Barty, who is always a dangerous player. Despite not having the best season so far, Barty has the variation to really test Williams and make things uncomfortable for her. If she can find her form to win that match, things will get even harder for her as she will most likely face Goerges, who has been on the form of her life since the end of last year. If all goes well, she would face Pliskova in the fourth round, Muguruza in the quarter finals, Halep in the semi finals and Wozniacki in the final, as long as the seeds achieve their projections.
Serena and her older sister, Venus, have also accepted a wild card into the doubles draw. The pair have won the French Open twice together and have won 14 Grand Slam titles in total. She has played just one doubles match so far this year (and lost) but will still benefit her. Both siblings have not played many matches so far this year, therefore playing doubles will surely help them get some more time on court, which would help both of them so much.
Serena Williams has had a reasonably successful return from pregnancy. She has improved with every match she has played and can only get better throughout the year. It is quite unlikely that she will win the tournament, or even have a deep run, but win or lose she has a good opportunity to play top players and earn some vital match experience for the rest of the year.
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