Serena Williams returns to the court on Monday evening at Roland Garros, capping off the Philippe Chatrier schedule. In her quest to match Margaret Court’s 24, she opens against Vitalia Diatchenko in what will be just her fifth match in the past four months.
The knee injury that forced her withdrawal from Miami continues to hinder Serena, as she withdrew from Rome after winning 1 match against Rebecca Peterson. She has been continuing to do rehab on that knee but it has to be a concern that she will be entering the tournament with little match practice. “I actually haven’t been able to train or practice a lot. I was out much longer than I expected. But I did everything I could to stay fit and to keep my cardio up. I knew that I love the clay season and I wanted to be a part of it. I literally did everything that I could, and I’m here.” she said while in Rome. Clay has not been a natural home for Serena but given the surface nullifies her strengths less than others, she has still been dominant for periods of her career and does have three French Open titles.
Diatchenko’s scheduling has seen her play few WTA matches this year, preferring to shore up her rankings in ITF tournaments where she is often the top seed. It’s a strategy that has worked wonders for her with 5 titles this year but she was found wanting when she moved onto the clay, going 1-2 at ITF level and losing her only WTA match in Nurnberg last week.
It is going to be difficult to tell if Serena is ready for a full fortnight early on but another withdrawal later in the tournament may not be surprising if she is still struggling with her knee. Otherwise, a trio of dangerous opponents in Bianca Andreescu, Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka are amongst those looking to have a crack as the tournament gets deeper.
Prediction – Serena Williams in straight sets