Plagued by a dodgy achilles tendon and growing older by the day, Serena Williams will go into the French Open determined to take another crack at equalling Margaret Court’s 24 grand slam singles titles.
Williams addressed the media at Roland Garros on Saturday, the day she turned 39, with Court’s mark appearing to slide ever so slightly further out of reach with every passing slam.
“I honestly never thought I would be playing at my age,” Williams said.
“I mean, I don’t quite look 39. I don’t know when it’s going to stop for me. I just have fun. When I feel it’s over, it’s over.
“But I could have guaranteed and pretty much bet my life that I would not have been playing at 39. This is why I don’t bet.”
It is not just age that seems to be conspiring against Williams.
Clay has never been the American’s most comfortable surface and her match against fellow countrywoman Kristie Ahn in round one on Sunday will be her first on the red stuff for more than a year.
An achilles injury she suffered during her semi-final loss to Victoria Azarenka at the recent US Open prompted her to pull out of the Italian Open in Rome last week and put her participation in Paris in doubt.
Williams, who has not been beyond the fourth round at Roland Garros since 2016, flew to Europe following her New York exit and has been based at coach Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy, where she has been practising and resting her achilles.
“I wouldn’t be playing if I didn’t think I could perform,” she said. I’m not at 100 per cent physically. But I don’t know any athlete that ever plays physically when they’re feeling perfect.”
Former world No.1 Mats Wilander thinks the odds are against Williams equalling Court’s record.
The Swede, who is working for TV station Eurosport throughout the tournament, said: “She spent such a long time not really being challenged in at least 50 per cent of the matches. Now every set is a grind and I’m not sure I see her being good enough at this stage to be able to do that.”
– with AAP