Serena Williams will make history again on Monday when she plays the first match of the Roland Garros night session, while her veteran compatriot Roger Federer also begins her attempt to turn the odds at Roland Garros.
Williams, 39, is looking again to match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, but arrives in Paris after losing two of her three clay court matches so far this season.
She was beaten by eventual champion Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semifinals in February, the sixth time she has reached at least the last four of a major since her last Slam success in Melbourne. Four years ago.
Williams will face Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu on Monday night under the spotlight of the Philippe Chatrier court, the scene of her only major first-round outing against Virginie Razzano in 2012.
Recent signs from seventh-seeded Williams haven’t been good, with early defeats in Rome and Parma earlier this month.
But, unsurprisingly, she remained confident that her form will recover.
“My season doesn’t usually start that late on clay. But training is not for nothing, so I know it’s only a matter of time, ”said Williams after losing to Nadia Podoroska in the second round of the Italian Open.
The American star’s match will however be the first of this year’s tournament held behind closed doors, with France still having a 9 p.m. curfew in place due to Covid-19.
Just over 5,000 spectators are allowed to attend during the day, although that number will rise to more than 13,000 on June 9, when the curfew passes to 11 p.m.
– “Realistic” Federer knows he won’t win the title –
Earlier Monday, Roger Federer continued his return from a long injury absence as he prepares for Wimbledon and the delayed Tokyo Olympics.
# photo1The 39-year-old Swiss, Roland Garros champion in 2009, is only playing the event for the second time in six years and has warned his fans not to expect a challenge for the title.
“When you have played so little and you know where your level is, how can I think of winning Roland-Garros? Federer said after losing to Pablo Andujar in Geneva 11 days ago.
“I’m a realist and I know I won’t win the French and anyone who thought I would or could win is wrong. “
But Federer reached the semi-finals in his last Roland Garros appearance in 2019, losing to former rival Rafael Nadal.
“Of course crazier things could have happened, but I’m not so sure that in the last 50 years of Roland Garros, someone has just turned 40, has been away for a year and a half and has won it all in a row. “
Federer, Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic were all placed in the same half of the Grand Slam draw for the first time.
That leaves the way open for someone to reach a first Roland-Garros final after the shocking first-round loss of fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem against Andujar on Sunday.
Second seed Daniil Medvedev, who will face Alexander Bublik on Monday, will be one of the men to try to profit.
# photo2But the Russian, a two-time major finalist, has won just one clay court match this season and has lost eight of his last nine on the surface.
“So far in training I have played amazingly. I didn’t feel it was clay. I played like on hard courts, ”said the 25-year-old, whose 10 ATP titles have all come on hard courts.
“The most important thing is to play well, to have a player who doesn’t like clay either! “
Medvedev has lost in the first round in his previous four appearances at Roland Garros.
© 2021 AFP