French Open 2018: Hopes of sensational Serena success raised by Roland Garros draw
Serena Williams is something of an outsider at Roland Garros given her lack of match action. However, the draw has been kind to her.
It is hard to know what to expect from Serena Williams on her return to grand slam action at the French Open, but her chances of claiming a truly remarkable victory certainly appear to have been enhanced by the draw for the women's singles.
Twenty years on from her first appearance in the main draw at Roland Garros, Williams is in the unusual position of being unseeded for the coming fortnight - a somewhat controversial consequence of her absence from the WTA Tour for more than a year either side of the birth of her first daughter in September.
Many felt Williams, who won last year's Australian Open despite being in the early stages of her pregnancy, should have been awarded a seeding, but the French Tennis Federation thought otherwise and the 36-year-old was therefore at risk of being drawn against a top-ranked opponent in the opening rounds.
While a player boasting 23 grand slam singles titles is unlikely to fear anyone, Williams will surely need time to get back up to speed in Paris.
She came back from a 13-month hiatus with a Fed Cup doubles outing in February, but subsequent appearances in Indian Wells and Miami were followed by another break as the 36-year-old sought a return to peak fitness.
Having not played competitively since March, Williams would have been up against it had she been pitted against one of the game's other leading stars early on.
However, Williams has been handed an opening clash with world number 70 Kristyna Pliskova and cannot face a top-10 opponent until round four at the earliest. She could hardly have hoped for more.
Serena Williams will open against Kristyna Pliskova. #RG18— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) May 24, 2018
That is not to say Serena faces an easy ride. Ashleigh Barty and Julia Goerges - ranked 17th and 11th in the world respectively - are potential rivals in the second and third rounds.
Williams, though, could easily have drawn the likes of Simona Halep or Garbine Muguruza in round one. Instead, she seemingly has an opportunity to work her way into the tournament, knowing she can only meet an elite opponent once she has at least three wins under her belt.
If Williams' victory at Melbourne Park 16 months ago represents her greatest career achievement to date, given the subsequent revelation that she was pregnant at the time, claiming a fourth Roland Garros title at the age of 36 would be truly extraordinary, especially given her lack of match practice.
At this stage, such an outcome remains a long shot. Yet Williams may have received just the break she needs to have a shot at the most glorious triumph.