Serena Williams is heading to the French Open after playing just three matches on clay this season, two of which were losses. Her long-time coach Partrick Mouratoglou says that the 23-time major champion probably wasn’t ready for Parma after losing her Rome opener and although she still needs a lot of work to prepare for the Grand Slam in Paris, she can be ready.
After a first-round bye at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Williams lost to last year’s French Open semifinalist Nadia Podoroska in the second round. At the Emilia-Romagna Open, an inaugural WTA 250 tournament in Parma, Williams secured her first win of the clay season with a straight-set victory over Italian teen Lisa Pigato, but then fell to Katerina Siniakova in the second round.
Williams’ Roland Garros lead-up period
Commenting on Williams’ pre-French Open weeks, Mouratoglou said:
I don’t know, but maybe it wasn’t a good idea to go and play in Parma because her match in Rome showed many things that still needed to be worked on to compete at the highest level.
Work, work, work, and everything’s possible
The fact that Williams won just one match on clay this year is not discouraging the famous coach:
I think it’s always interesting to play matches because it gives you a clear vision of where you are, so that was good in that way because we know what she still needs to accomplish to be ready for Roland Garros. I’m not worried in general because if she does the job, she will be ready.
Other players don’t matter, it’s always Williams who is in charge of her results
Although Mouratoglou respects other players and believes that there is depth in women’s tennis, in Williams’ case, everything depends on her own mentality:
I’ve always said regarding Serena that it’s all about her, and it’s still all about her. The question is, is she able or not to start a major being in her top form and able to win? She was 100% ready in Australia, really prepared to win, but it didn’t happen. […] The last year she hasn’t been able to play her best in the latter stages.
Williams gets extra motivated when people write her off
The 39-year-old has that special trait to get into higher gear when odds are against her. With that in mind, Mouratoglou calls out Petra Martic’s new coach Francesca Schiavone:
First of all, when people tell her ‘she can’t,’ it gives her extra motivation, so please tell Francesca Schiavone to say it louder so I can make sure Serena can hear it! Secondly, she’s been able to do things in her career that were in theory not possible because she has this belief that she can achieve anything, and that’s such great strength.
Despite his overall positive attitude, Mouratoglou is aware that Williams’ chances at Roland Garros are lower than an the other three Grand Slams, although he is confident that they can do massive improvements in these remaining days until the tournament starts on May 30.
Clay minimizes the power of Williams’ serve and groundstrokes, while requiring her to be in top physical shape. Looking at the past few years, the French Open has been the least rewarding major for Williams, who won the Suzanne Lenglen Cup three times in her career. However, since 2018 she played Grand Slam finals on all surfaces other than clay. (source: Tennis World USA)