Grand Slam clock ticking for weary, yet positive Serena - GulfToday

Grand Slam clock ticking for weary, yet positive Serena

Serena-williams

American star Serena Williams won her most recent major at the Australian Open in 2017 while pregnant. Agence France-Presse

With her 38th birthday fast approaching, the clock is ticking for Serena Williams and on her pursuit of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros.

The American star won her most recent major at the Australian Open in 2017 while pregnant.

However, the all-time record of 24 majors set by Australia’s Margaret Court between 1960 and 1973 has proved frustratingly out of reach.

Williams returned to Grand Slam tennis, after giving birth to her daughter, at Roland Garros in 2018, making the last 16 where she had been set to resume her bitter rivalry with Maria Sharapova.

An arm injury torpedoed that meeting and stalled her assault on a fourth title in Paris after 2002, 2013 and 2015. She still made headlines in Paris by wearing an all-black bodysuit which has now been banned by Roland Garros officials.

Defeat in the 2018 Wimbledon final and US Open championship match, where her now-infamous meltdown overshadowed Naomi Osaka’s title triumph, followed her Paris heartbreak.

Her Australian Open campaign in January ended in a quarter-final loss to Karolina Pliskova despite having led 5-1 in the final set and holding four match points.

“It’s definitely not easy for me. From day one, I expect to go out and, quite frankly, to win. That hasn’t happened,” said Williams in the aftermath of her Melbourne defeat.

“But I do like my attitude. I like that I don’t want to go out here and say, ‘I expect to lose because I had a year off, I’ve been playing for 10 months. I’m not supposed to win.’ “I don’t have that attitude. I have the attitude of, ‘I’ve only been playing 10 months, but I expect to win, and if I don’t, it’s disappointing.’”

Since Melbourne, Williams has been unable to finish the three tournaments she has entered -- she retired to Garbine Muguruza in the third round of Indian Wells, withdrew after winning a round in Miami, and withdrew after winning a round in Rome last week due to a right knee injury.

In total, her 2019 activity reads just nine matches played -- only one on clay, a straightforward win over Swedish qualifier Rebecca Peterson in Rome.

However, nobody is yet writing off a player who also battled life-threatening blood clots as she gave birth. Williams opens her Paris campaign against Russia’s Vitalia Diatchenko and could then face Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu, the promising Canadian who hasn’t played since Miami due to a shoulder injury.

Australia’s Ashleigh Barty is a possible last-16 opponent and should she keep winning, Williams could meet world number one Osaka in the quarter-finals. Also, world number five Alexander Zverev warmed up for the French Open by reaching only his second final of the season at the ATP event in Geneva with victory over Federico Delbonis on Friday. The 22-year-old German came through a close match 7-5, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3 in two hours and 40 minutes to set up a Saturday final against Chile’s Nicolas Jarry.

Meanwhile, Benoit Paire offered some home encouragement as he brushed aside Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-3 in the final of the Lyon clay-court event.

The 30-year-old will climb to 38th in the ATP rankings on Monday, when he also takes on Romania’s Marius Copil in the Roland Garros first-round.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva secured her first ever WTA singles title in Nuremberg on Saturday with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek. First seed Putintseva, 24, came back from a set down to win on the Nuremberg clay.

Victory gives the world number 39 a WTA title at the third attempt. She had lost both her previous finals, in St. Petersburg in 2017 and Guangzhou in 2018.

Putintseva is set to face Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in the first round of the French Open next week.

Agence France-Presse