PARIS: Serena Williams has said she is looking forward to Wimbledon after her final pursuit of a 24th Grand Slam record ended in a loss to Elena Rybakina in the French Open on Sunday 16.
The 39-year-old American went down with Roland Garros 6-3, 7-5 to the 21st Kazakh series, which still holds her one of Margaret Court’s records for most Grand Slam singles titles.
She has gone no further than the fourth round at Roland Garros since losing the 2016 final, the year after winning the last of her three titles in Paris. Her last major triumph came during the Australian Open in 2017 while she was pregnant.
“I’m very excited to change surfaces, but historically I’ve done pretty well on grass,” said Williams, a seven-time Wimbledon singles champion.
“I also did pretty well with clay. Just not this particular season.”
Williams became the eighth top-10 seed in the women’s draw, outscored by Russian-born Rybakina who appeared for the first time in the second week of a Grand Slam.
“It was definitely close. I’m so close. There’s literally a point here, a point there, that could change the whole course of the game,” Williams said.
“I don’t win those points. It can literally just change everything.”
Despite arriving in Paris with just one clay win this season, Williams sparked her title hopes with the absence of Simona Halep and the early exits of Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka.
Instead, she was knocked out by an opponent who was just two months old when Williams won her first Grand Slam title at the US Open in September 1999.
– Farewell to the French Open? –
“I’m in a much better place than when I arrived here,” Williams said.
“You know, (I) just literally tried to win a game because it was a very difficult season for me on the clay.”
Asked if this could be her last French Open, a smiling Williams does not give away much.
“I certainly do not think about it at all,” she said.
“I definitely only think of other things, but not of them.”
Rybakina (21) extended her best run on a major as she advanced to her first quarter-final, where she will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for a spot in the final four.
“I’m so happy with my match, it was incredible,” said Rybakina, who is at 22 the highest rankings in her half of the draw.
“Of course I was nervous. I have not served so well before, but I am glad I was finally able to control it.”
Rybakina’s powerful hit was not long overdue by the opportunity, placing Williams at the receiving end of the treatment she has handed out to numerous competitors over the past two decades.
“I was small, of course I watched her matches on TV. So many Grand Slams,” said Rybakina, who called Williams a ‘legend of the sport’ when they met their first meeting.
‘It’s hard to expect something because you’re watching TV and it’s completely different when you come to court and you feel the power and everything.
“I knew the delivery would be hard for me to return. She was powerful, but I was ready. Then I felt comfortable after a few points, so nothing.”