The French Open is a Grand Slam tournament in which Serena Williams has played and won sparingly, but it has been anything but a footnote in her long and layered career.
The gritty red clay blunts some of her power and limits her ability to change direction in a flash, but she has managed to rise above Paris after crossing some deep valleys, including a major single The tournament also included his first round defeat.
In this sense, his up-and-down experience at Roland Garros is a nuanced knowledge of his extensive tennis journey. Williams is many things – driven, droll, maternal, territorial and outrageously talented – but he is above all resurgent.
Paris, a city she loves quite a lot, has made it a part-time home, proving the point is probably better than anywhere.
In 2020, he is still a contestant but no longer an automatic favorite at the age of 39 and with a challenging draw.
NBC analyst and former French Open doubles champion Marie Carrillo said, “Flexibility for me is the last resort in an athlete’s heart.” “I think my appreciation for her is still growing. Maybe it’s because I know she’s much closer to goodbye than Namaste.”
Williams proved as much in New York earlier this month, when he was far from the pinnacle before losing to Rousey’s semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka.
Now, Williams is back after a two-week break in Paris and training at his coach Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy in Nice, southern France. Instead of staying in her apartment on the left bank near the Eiffel Tower, she is staying at one of the official hotels of the nearby tournament: a requirement for all players in this epidemic-challenged French Open.
“It’s so different and weird,” he said. “This has always been my home away from home.”
Although most future champions come to a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, as a junior, Williams, like her older sister Venus, plays little junior tennis. Instead, she debuted in the main draw in Paris in 1998, reaching the fourth round in singles before losing to Arntax Sanchez Visario, who won the title.
16-year-old Williams still reached her first Grand Slam final, partnering with Luis Lobo in mixed doubles.
The following year, Serena and Venus joined forces to win their first Grand Slam doubles title together, winning the pair of another high-profile teen, Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova, 6-3, 6-7 (2), Defeated 8-6. 1999 final.
It was not known yet, but it was close enough that the sisters would come together to lose a Grand Slam doubles final. They are 14–0 and have often been the happiest and least contested of those moments, but Paris soon antagonized them.
In 2002, the French Open was the scene of their first Grand Slam singles final. Win or lose, Venus was guaranteed to return. No. 1. But Serena, who defeated her for the family’s first major singles title at the 19 US Open, defeated her in Paris, 5, 3-3. No.1 Jennifer Capria reigns in the semi-finals.
The final was very difficult and disoriented. A French fan chanted “Allez Serenus!” Expressed the struggling emotions of the screaming crowd! It was also staccato tennis, with most points ending with unexpected errors.
If suffered a defeat, Venus suffered pain during the award ceremony, teaming up with photographers and snapping shots of his sister. The following year, she would get plenty of opportunities as Serena defeated her in the finals of Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open to complete the so-called Serena Slam.
Serena herself did not use that label. She called it a So-and-So slam because it came after a bad breakup with a boyfriend whom she refused to name publicly.
“I wanted to so-and-so sorry how he treated me,” she wrote in the 2009 autobiography “On the Line”. “I wanted him to see me everywhere, doing well.”
But his 33-match winning streak – one of the biggest in the long history of the game – would end at Roland Garros in 2003, when he faced Justin Henin in the semi-finals.
Henin, a matchless Belgian with a backhand with one hand, was a stylistic contrast with Williams and was at his best on Clay, eventually winning three French Open.
He had previously beaten Williams in Charleston, SC, in 2003, but his beating in Paris came with controversies. Williams took the first serve, leading 4–2 and 30–0 in the third and final set, while Henin raised her left hand, as if to indicate that she was not ready to return. The service was missed, and despite Williams’ opposition, he was not allowed to serve second at first. The chair’s umpire, George Dias, had not seen Henin’s gesture, and Henin had not accepted that he had made it.
Williams lost 6–2, 4–6, 7–5 to the crowd’s delight. “I’ve had to fight all my life,” he said. “So this is just another battle I’m going to learn to win.”
At the time, in light of his dominance, no one could have predicted that he would need 10 more years to win another singles title at the French Open.
There will be a family tragedy, the subsequent murder of her elder sister Yetunde in 2003. It must have suffered many injuries, and although she would win other major tournaments several times, she faltered at Roland Garros.
In 2012, she struck down, giving more than a dozen errors in a first-round defeat to 111-ranked Virginia Rezano. It was a brutal, devastating blow, but it also changed his career.
In her disarray, she decides to change her pattern and arrives for Mouratoglou to see if she can train at her academy, then on the outskirts of Paris. She invited him to give her perspective on her game, a rarity for a player who usually relied on her parents for coaching.
Mouratoglou told her that although she was already one of the greatest players in tennis history, she believed she was a player with her talent and competitive fire.
He took note and then won Wimbledon a few weeks later and played his best tennis, perhaps winning the gold medal at the London Olympics, also held on grass at the All England Club.
“For me it was his biggest trip,” Carillo said.
Her progress paid off on all surfaces but most dramatically with her new emphasis on point formation on clay and creating more spin and margin for error. She won the French Open in 2013, winning just one set in the tournament a year after losing to Rezano.
After losing to Garbine Muguruza in the second round in 2014, a Spaniard who was just starting to pick up, Williams returned in 2015 and bounced again with one of his best performances ever. He won his third French Open despite signing a contract with Flu and topped it with a part of his victory speech in French after defeating Lucy Safarova in the final.
“You’re not afraid to dig deep and get yourself dirty and go for the win,” said Rob Steckley, Safarova’s coach. “That’s what Serena does best.”
As he coughed and busted his nose at the changes he was playing during the fever, it was a triumph that felt more willful than any other man in Williams’ career – with an opponent by himself More a fight.
Williams is yet to win at Roland Garros, but the fight continues. This brought her back into the game in the late 30s after her delivery in 2017. This has brought her back to Paris and a hotel room where she usually has far more options; Autumn sad and for some fans and heavy balls who don’t favor her game; Eager to take a swing at the most illustrious Grand Slam champion of his era in a field full of new arrivals and familiar rivals.
“I think Serena feels she still has more to say,” Carillo said. “I was honestly watching Roland Garros’s Day 1 with Andy Murray and struggling and Venus lost again. I always draw the difference between a comeback and a comeback all the way. I imagine. Can’t that Venus and Murray are still thinking, yes, I can get a big win, and I can reach the top again. But Serena knows it’s true. She hasn’t proved it yet But she knows that great, her heartbeat. “
Shut it down, and that would be her best Paris story yet.