With one long backhand, Serena Williams’ hopes of winning a fourth French Open and a 24th Grand Slam went up in the smoke. Faltering at the hands of Elena Rybakina in the fourth round, it was another major tournament which got away for Williams, and tennis fans and pundits are beginning to wonder whether another Grand Slam title is beyond her capabilities.
Since she gave birth to her child in September 2017, and since her comeback she has failed to lift a Grand Slam trophy. Of course, to simply be back playing at a high level is an incredible achievement, especially when you consider the complications that she endured while giving birth, and the fact that it took her longer than expected to recover afterwards. But Williams is not the kind to settle for mediocrity, and that’s why you can bet that she is desperate to rack up at least one more Grand Slam title before she hangs up her racket.
She’s come mighty close. The 39-year-old has reached four Grand Slam finals since she won the Australian Open in 2017, but has just come up short every team, losing each of those four finals in straight sets. There have also been a couple of semi-final appearances, suggesting that the level of performance required to win a Grand Slam is still within Williams’ reach — she just needs to find a way to ascend to that next level and get over the line.
It’s no surprise that Williams was among the favourites in the bet exchange ahead of the French Open, given the fact that she is still playing at a high level, but ultimately, it wasn’t meant to be for the American. Indeed, of the four Grand Slams, the French Open is probably the one that Williams is least likely to win again. The clay surface is extremely demanding and leads to more defensive rallies, whereas Williams is a player used to winning points quickly through her supreme power and speed.
“I’m in a much better place than when I got here,” she said after the loss to Rybakna. “I was just literally trying to win a match, because it had been a really difficult season for me on the clay. Although I love the clay, I was, like, if I could just win a match. That’s kind of where I was kind of coming in.
“It was definitely close. There is literally a point here, a point there, that could change the whole course of the match. I’m not winning those points – they could literally change everything.”
It’s clear that Williams did not hit top gear at the French Open, but to reach the fourth round — her joint best result at Roland Garros since reaching the final in 2016 — despite not being at the top of her game is still a respectable achievement. There are two more opportunities to get her hands on that 24th Grand Slam title this year, and with Wimbledon around the corner, you just can’t rule Williams out of the running to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish.