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Serena Williams at 2019 French Open: Preview and Prediction

ANALYST
Preview
465   //    25 May 2019, 11:49 IST

Can Serena Williams win a fourth French Open Singles Title?
Can Serena Williams win a fourth French Open Singles Title?

History beckons for Serena Williams at the 2019 French Open. A win here would see her equal Margaret Court’s all-time Grand Slam singles record of 24 titles. It would also ensure that she becomes the only player after Steffi Graf to hold each Grand Slam title at least four times.

Much depends on her fitness though. She has had to retire after her first match in both her previous tournaments, at the Italian Open and the Miami Open. If she is physically fit and not at her best, even at about ninety percent fitness, she could still be considered a possible favourite.

After her maternity leave, she has not played many tournaments, but she has still reached Grand Slam finals and come excruciatingly close to winning too. Rustiness is not a worry, but the fitness concerns certainly are.

But there are a couple of factors that go in her favour coming into this year’s French Open. Firstly, there are no clear favourites in the women’s section. Unlike the men’s section, where there are clearly two overwhelming favourites, the women’s draw is wide open. Neither the world number one Naomi Osaka nor the defending Champion Simona Halep, is in great form. Both have had a topsy-turvy season thus far.

Secondly, Serena has been handed the kind of draw that can help her ease into the tournament. Here is a look at her likely opponents in various rounds of the tournament.

In her first round match, the tenth seed Williams meets the unseeded Russian Vitalia Diatechenko, who is unlikely to pose much of a challenge to her. Her second round match could see her either face the 107-ranked Dalila Jakupovic or the qualifier Kurumi Nara. Neither is expected to be a threat to her.

Serena’s first major challenge could be in the third round, where she might run into the fast-rising Canadian Bianca Andreescu. However, the Canadian teen too is coming off an injury lay-off and may not be at her best. If both are at their best, the fans could be in for an absolute treat. At the moment though, Serena might have the edge.

The likely fourth round opponent for Serena is Ashleigh Barty. Serena had got the better of the Australian at the same venue in the second round last year, but Barty is a much more improved player now, and it may be a closely-fought encounter. If Serena is not at her physical best, then the tricky Barty would use her variety of slices and take advantage of her lack of fitness.

If Serena manages to win that encounter, then we will be in for a mouth-watering quarter final clash between the American super star and the Japanese star Naomi Osaka. After the 2018 US Open fiasco, Serena would be hungry to set things right this time. It is unlikely though that Osaka will give in easily. In fact, if this match eventually comes to pass, then it is the Japanese who could have the edge.

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Serena’s challenge may most likely end at the quarter final stage. But if she manages to get it past Osaka, then it is immaterial who she meets next. She will an overwhelming favourite to lift her fourth French Open singles title.

Prediction: A Quarter Final Finish for Serena Williams

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