PARIS: Serena Williams will be part of the story again on Monday when she plays in the first French Open night session match, while her fellow veteran Roger Federer also starts her bid to disrupt the odds on Roland Garros.
The 39-year-old Williams again looks like Margaret Court’s record with 24 Grand Slam titles all the time, but arrives in Paris after losing two of his three matches on clay so far this season.
She was beaten by eventual champion Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semi-finals in February, the sixth time she reaches at least the last four of a major since her last Slam success in Melbourne four years ago.
Williams meets Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu on Monday night under the light of Court Philippe Chatrier – the site of her only major round in the first round against Virginie Razzano in 2012.
The recent signs for Williams, seventh-seventh, have not been good with early defeats in both Rome and Parma earlier this month.
But not surprisingly, she has remained convinced that her form will reverse.
“My season usually doesn’t start so late on clay. But the training is not for nothing, so I know it’s just a matter of time,” Williams said after losing to Nadia Podoroska in the second round of the Italian Open.
However, the American star’s match will be the first of this year’s tournament to be held behind closed doors, as France still has a curfew of 21 due to Covid-19.
Just over 5,000 spectators are allowed to attend during the day, though this number rises to over 13,000 on June 9, the same date the curfew moves to 11pm.
‘Realistic’ Federer ‘knows he’s not winning title –
Earlier on Monday, Roger Federer continues his return from a long absence injury as he gears up to Wimbledon and the delayed Olympics in Tokyo.
The 39-year-old Swiss, French Open champion in 2009, is only playing the event for the second time in six years and warned his fans not to expect a title challenge.
“Once you’ve played so little and you know where your level is, how can I think of winning the French Open?” Federer said after losing to Pablo Andujar in Geneva 11 days ago.
“I’m realistic, and I know I do not want to win the French, and whoever thought I would or could win it is wrong.”
But Federer reached the semis at his last Roland Garros appearance in 2019 and lost to old rival Rafael Nadal.
“Of course, more crazy things have happened, but I’m not so sure that in the last 50 years of the French Open, there are some who just cut almost 40 years when they are out for a year and a half and win everything equally. “
Federer, Nadal and world leader Novak Djokovic are all placed in the same half of the draw at a Grand Slam for the first time.
It leaves the pitch ready for anyone to reach a maiden French Open final after fourth seed Dominic Thiem’s shock first round loss against Andujar on Sunday.
Second seed Daniil Medvedev, who faces Alexander Bublik on Monday, will be one of the men trying to take advantage.
But the Russian, who is a twice-bigger second place, has only won one match on clay this season and lost eight of his last nine on the surface.
“So far, I’ve played great in practice. I didn’t feel like 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, have a player who does not like clay either!”
Medvedev has lost in the first round on all four of his previous Roland Garros appearances.