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What Serena Williams' Loss to Angelique Kerber Means for French Open 2016

FILE - In this June 4, 2015, file photo, Serena Williams, of the United States, returns a shot in her semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament against Timea Bacsinszky, of Switzerland, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris. Williams withdrew from her opening match at the Hopman Cup on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 because of inflammation in her left knee, an early setback in her preparations for an Australian Open title defense. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)
Francois Mori/Associated Press
Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 30, 2016

After winning three Grand Slams in 2015, Serena Williams looked to start 2016 in similar fashion, but she was shockingly upended by Angelique Kerber 4-6, 6-3, 4-6 in the final at the Australian Open on Saturday.

Serena fell short of her 22nd career Grand Slam singles title in Melbourne, which now shifts the focus toward the French Open—a tournament that has traditionally been her least favored of the four majors.

Williams has only three career titles at Roland Garros, with 18 split equally between the other three Grand Slams. She has enjoyed more success lately in France than she has for most of her career, though, with two of her French Open titles coming over the past three years.

The major concern regarding Serena, however, is her health. The 34-year-old veteran is no stranger to dealing with nagging injuries, and one may have hurt her chances at the Australian Open.

Williams was forced to pull out of the Hopman Cup prior to the Australian Open with a knee injury, which she admitted was a lingering issue, via the WTA's official site:

I have some knee inflammation that's going away very slowly. It's going away, but just needs a little more time. A little rest, a little treatment.

I've been training really hard during the off-season and really pushing myself beyond the limits; I just think a day off or two will make a world of difference.

Despite the knee ailment threatening to affect her performance at the Australian Open, Serena insisted during the lead up to the event she was feeling better, per Adam Smith of MailOnline: "My body is feeling great now, obviously I had a hiccup but right now it is doing much better," she said. "I've had a few days of training so it's looking good."

While it is possible Williams' loss had nothing to do with the condition of her knee, observers search for answers whenever she loses, which is an extremely rare occurrence at majors.

The knee could have been a factor, but it's also possible Serena's shocking defeat to Roberta Vinci in last year's U.S. Open semifinals carried over into 2016.

Williams seemed like a virtual lock to secure the calendar Grand Slam, but Vinci upset her, causing many to question Serena's form despite everything she accomplished in 2015.

Regardless of the reason behind her defeat in Melbourne, Williams has plenty of time to recover and refocus prior to the start of the French Open in May.

Serena's knee should have a chance to heal up, provided it isn't seriously injured, which is paramount considering how important movement is on the clay courts of Roland Garros.

While Williams may find it more difficult to fix her psyche and regain confidence after falling short in two consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, mental toughness has been a huge part of her success over the years.

If Serena can somehow manage to put the Australian Open behind her, there is no reason why she can't get the job done in the French Open. She is favored whenever she steps onto the court, and that won't change at Roland Garros despite her recent slip-ups.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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