10th April, 2012
The draw of Paris is just as much for the fashion week as for the fortnight at Roland Garros these days for Serena Williams.
But Williams, who revealed after her victory at the Family Circle Cup that she was considering moving to the French capital, looked remarkably at home on the clay in her first tournament on the surface in nearly two years.
Williams is the only active player to have won a career Grand Slam, having held all four majors after completing the ‘Serena Slam’ back in 2003 – but her 2002 French Open win is her sole triumph on the red dirt, while she has 12 other major titles.
But after steamrolling past Lucie Safarova to win her first clay title since 2008, the former world No. 1 warned her rivals that she believes the surface is well-suited to her game these days.
“I really love the clay,” Williams said last week. “I feel like it suits my game. I don’t have to go crazy and move my feet so much. And it’s no different from hard or grass – I should be able to play the same and do the same, if not better, because I have more time.”
Due to a major health scare and numerous injuries, not to mention her clothing line, TV commitments, charity work and a business management course she has enrolled on, Williams has played just 14 WTA events in the last 24 months.
After arriving in Charleston from the hard courts of Miami, Williams played her way into form, adjusting to the clay during her opening win over Elena Vesnina on Tuesday. She looked sharper as she took out Marina Erakovic to reach the quarter-finals before Sabine Lisicki retired in the first set with an ankle injury.
She had her revenge against Sam Stosur in the semi-finals, powering to a 6-1 6-1 win over the player who denied her a 14th grand slam at last year’s US Open, before coasting to a 6-0 6-1 win over Safarova on Sunday.
It was only her second final on clay since 2003 – the last coming during her 2008 victory at the Family Circle Cup, but Williams was commanding on the surface as she powered to the title without dropping a set. In fact, she dropped just 15 games all week and didn’t lose a service game in her final four matches.
“I’ve never played, I can say, consistently at such a high level with low errors the last two matches,” Williams said. “And the scary thing is I could’ve served so much better.”
Alarm bells will be ringing for Williams’ rivals. In just four tournaments this season, she leads the WTA standings with 108 aces.
Williams is not scheduled to play again until next month in Madrid, before heading to Rome ahead of the French Open. She may not play as often as the likes of Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki, but she remains an ominous presence on any draw sheet.
And following a dominant performance in Charleston to move up to ninth in the world rankings, Williams could make herself at home in Paris on two counts this summer as she hunts a 14th grand slam.