Serena Williams Should Like her Roland Garros Chances

Serena Williams in action during one of the five best women's Grand Slam finals of the 2000s

Serena Williams’ results at Roland Garros haven’t been her best since returning to the tour after the birth of her daughter Olympia over two years ago–withdrawing ahead of a fourth round clash against Maria Sharapova in 2018 and losing to Sofia Kenin in the third round last year. Without much to go off in recent years, it’s difficult to tell how Williams will fare on the red clay of Paris this year. If her recent results at the US Open are anything to go by, though, this may be her best shot at a fourth French Open crown in a long while.

While Williams has played just seven full singles matches on the clay since returning to the tour in 2018, two of her three tournaments have ended in a withdrawal and there is no telling what she may have achieved if she hadn’t been forced to hand her opponents a walkover. Williams also had some impressive wins within those matches, including a second round victory over Ash Barty at the 2018 French Open, a year before the Aussie went on to win the Slam.

However, it’s Williams’ results on the American hard courts of Lexington and New York over the previous weeks that can give her a boost heading into this year’s final Grand Slam in Paris and set her up with her best opportunity in recent years to win Roland Garros again.

Positive signs from the U.S. swing

All of Williams’ first five matches after the resumption of the tour went the distance, including a win over sister Venus in Lexington and difficult loss to Maria Sakkari at the Western & Southern Open, after which Williams likened her recent amount of unnecessary three set matches to “dating a guy you know sucks”. While these matches raised doubts about her US Open chances, Williams was quick to disprove these by winning her first two matches in straight sets.

As well as proving she could win matches in two sets, Williams also came through multiple three set matches against tricky opponents, including 2017 champion Sloane Stephens and her “Cincinnati” conquerer Sakkari, avenging the loss from the week before. Facing such difficult opposition and managing to compose herself in key moments silenced anyone who had been doubting her prior to the US Open, and Williams proved to herself that she can remain calm and collected to win when matches go the distance.

Although she just fell short of the final, losing to Victoria Azarenka in the semis after racing through the first set 6-1, there is a lot more to take from Williams’ 2020 US Open results than from her runs to her four Grand Slam finals post-pregnancy. The level of competition Williams has faced in the most recent Slam is arguably a lot higher than that of Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 and 2019, where she made those four finals. A lack of a proper test during her first six matches are definitely part of the reason she has been unable to make a statement in those finals and lost them in straight sets, but this year in New York she proved she has what it takes to outlast some of the best, and there’s no telling what she would have been able to do if she had made the final.

Something to prove?

Williams arrived at the US Open with something to prove after looking shaky in her first five matches back and managed to do exactly that. By losing a round early, she was unable to test her impressive form in the final to see if her recent challenging matches would help her in finally winning a 24th Grand Slam. Now she can do just that at the French Open, with something new to prove.

The unnecessary three setters of Lexington and “Cincinnati” may have raised questions about Williams’ form at the resumption of the tour, but if anything she has shown the ability to use these as matches to learn from and put new solutions into place when things get difficult during a Major.

The final is the only place Williams is yet to prove that these matches have helped her be better for the Slams, and she will be fighting to secure her spot in the final match of the women’s tournament at Roland Garros to put this theory to the test.

In a recent Instagram Stories Q&A, she also acknowledged that she “panicked” in the three set matches she lost, including against Azarenka in the semifinal, but confirmed she was feeling calm now just in time for the French Open

It’s never a bad thing to have extra matches under your belt coming into a Grand Slam too. Whilst she hasn’t gotten any match play in on the clay courts, the change in the French Open’s spot in the 2020 calendar could boost Williams’ chances even more with the time frame to build on her impressive New York form.

Main Photo from Getty.