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Roland Garros 2021: Serena Williams' projected path to the final

Serena Williams
Serena Williams
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It's been six years since Serena Williams won the last of her three titles on the claycourts at Roland Garros, and the 23-time Grand Slam champion will have her work cut out as she looks to end her drought in Paris.

Serena hasn't had the best of seasons. After making the last four at the Australian Open in February, the American's campaign was interrupted by oral surgery and she hasn't found much success on her return to action.

The former World No. 1 has posted a 1-2 record in the three matches she's played in Rome and Parma and clearly needs to fine-tune her game before starting her campaign in the French capital.

The 39-year-old's movement on the terre battue has been laborious and she has lost some of her sharpness. Regardless, her ability to lift her game in Majors remains unparalleled and Serena can be expected to iron out the chinks in her armor before she steps out on court.

Standing in the way of Serena and a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title is a bevy of stars waiting to pounce on any weakness the American might display. On that note, let's take an in-depth look at Serena Williams' potential opponents at Roland Garros this year.

Serena Williams' projected path to the final:

R1 - Irina-Camelia Begu

R2 - Arantxa Rus

R3 - Angelique Kerber/Danielle Collins

R4 - Petra Kvitova/Elena Rybakina

QF - Victoria Azarenka/Aryna Sabalenka

SF - Naomi Osaka/Marketa Vondrousova/Bianca Andreescu

F - Iga Swiatek/Ashleigh Barty

Serena Williams kicks off her quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam against World No. 74 Irina-Camelia Begu. Even though the Romanian has slipped down the rankings, she is a seasoned claycourter, who has reached the fourth-round at Roland Garros in the past.

World No. 84 Arantxa Rus is likely to be Serena's second-round opponent. The Dutchwoman enters the French Open on the back of a quarterfinal showing at Strasbourg and could pose a threat to the American.

If Serena manages to get past that hurdle, she could face former World No. 1 Angelique Kerber or last year's quarterfinalist Danielle Collins.

While Collins has stayed off the circuit due to surgery, Kerber has gradually begun to find her feet on clay, which is evident from her run to the third round in Rome.

Petra Kvitova is a potential fourth-round opponent for Serena Williams
Petra Kvitova is a potential fourth-round opponent for Serena Williams

Awaiting Serena in the fourth round could be Petra Kvitova or Elena Rybakina. Rybakina hasn't made much of an impact this year, but the World No. 12 Kvitova is a dangerous proposition.

The Czech, who won the title in Doha this year, made the quarterfinals in Stuttgart and Madrid. The hard-hitting southpaw also reached the semifinals in Paris last year and could pose the biggest threat to Serena's title aspirations.

If Serena survives the last-16 test, she is likely to meet World No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka, who is in a rich vein of form on clay this year. The Belarusian won her first-ever WTA title on clay in Madrid and also finished as the runner-up in Stuttgart. Sabalenka will also be gunning for revenge after her fourth-round loss to the American at this year's Australian Open.

Aryna Sabalenka is gunning for revenge
Aryna Sabalenka is gunning for revenge

Predicting Serena Williams' semifinal opponent is tricky. Going by the seedings, she could face second seed Naomi Osaka, who has struggled to find any rhythm on clay this year, or Bianca Andreescu, whose fitness issues remain a major concern.

2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova is also a potential last-four opponent. Vondrousova will be looking to replicate the form she showed in 2019, when she advanced to the final.

If Serena can navigate through her half of the draw, she will probably face the in-form World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty or defending champion Iga Swiatek in the final.

The draw has never really mattered in the past for a player like Serena Williams, who has won a Slam ranked as low as 81. But things are different this time around.

At the age of 39, Serena Williams might find it difficult to compete with the ambitious and fearless youngsters on the tour, especially on this surface where footwork plays a vital role.

Serena Williams' mental strength and fighting spirit are likely to carry her as far as the fourth round but to progress further, she needs a few seeds to fall early.

Prediction: Serena Williams to reach the fourth round.

Edited by Arvind Sriram
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