Serena Williams hasn’t had much success on the red clay, but her win at the Madrid Open now sets the stage for the 31-year-old to compete for a title at Roland Garros at the end of May.
The French Open has never been especially kind to No. 1 players in the world, and last year’s opening-round exit at the hands of Virginie Razzano served to remind Williams of that fact. Just as she did this year, Williams was coming off a Madrid Open title in that contest.
But the result should be different this year.
A lot has changed since her first-round loss nearly a year ago. Williams is healthy, focused and prepared—as she showed in dispatching Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday. Focus is (and will always be) the key to the 31-year-old’s dominance of the sport.
One of the most physically gifted tennis players on the planet, Williams’ biggest physical obstacle has always been injuries, including an ankle injury that hobbled her in January. When healthy, winning is between her ears, and that will be her focus with the French Open fast approaching.
Williams even hinted at that fact following her victory. As she tweeted Sunday, it’s “back to focus” for the world No. 1:
The confidence that comes with winning the Madrid Open against a loaded field of competitors will carry over to the French Open, just as winning at Roland Garros did for her 2002 campaign in which she won at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. If there’s anything that can push her season in that direction this year, it’s a second career victory at the French Open.
Granted, Williams will have to prepare for the Italian Open before making her return to Roland Garros, but there’s no denying the importance of the Grand Slam event. Her next outing should be nothing more than a high-level tune-up in preparation for the French Open, and there’s nothing wrong with that considering the pressure she’s sure to face after last year’s debacle.
With the win at the Madrid Open, Williams now boasts four singles tournament victories in 2013 and a 25-2 record in that span—two figures that will undoubtedly contribute to increased confidence for the 31-year-old. As well as she has played throughout her career, this may be her best opportunity to secure a second French Open title.
If Williams can escape the Italian Open without any major setbacks, there’s no reason to believe her troubles at Roland Garros will continue in 2013. She’s the No. 1 player in the world for a reason, and she’s in perfect position to prove it at the French Open.