She’s the woman everyone is trying to beat, but Serena Williams insists she is “ready for anyone” as she prepares to defend her French Open crown.
The world No. 1 triumphed in Paris last year as part of a run which has seen her win four of the last six grand slams, and despite suffering a shock defeat to Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open she is the strong favorite as the tennis world heads to Roland Garros.
“You do want to play the No. 1 — you do want to beat them,” the 21-time grand slam champion told CNN’s Open Court. “I know I did — but I am ready for that. I am ready for anyone every time.”
The 34-year-old appears in good shape ahead of the clay-court showpiece, heading to the French capital following a win over compatriot Madison Keys in the final of last weekend’s Rome Masters.
Rome was only Williams’ fourth official event of 2016 after she skipped three tournaments because of the flu.
But if she wins at Roland Garros, Williams would tie Steffi Graf’s Open Era grand slam record of 22 majors.
“Right now I feel good when my feet first hit the clay,” Williams told CNN prior to the Rome tournament. “I always feel amazing because I love the clay.
“The day I lost in Miami (to Svetlana Kuznetsova) — the next day I was on the clay courts,” added Williams. “I didn’t take a day off — I feel good on clay.”
A key member of Williams’ team since 2012 has been Patrick Mouratoglou.
When the pair first started working together, Williams’ had just suffered her first grand slam opening round defeat at that year’s French Open.
But since that surprise loss to Viriginie Razzano, Williams has won two Wimbledon titles, three consecutive U.S. Opens between 2012 and 2014, one championship in Paris and the Australian Open in 2015.
“I’ve had a lot of success with Patrick and it’s been really, really great,” said Williams.
“We work together well — we are both kinda leaders on the team — he let’s me do what I need to do and I let him do what he needs to do and it works.
“We respect each other so much. He respects me. I respect him. No matter what — we always have that connection — and I just feel like it’s rare to have that.”
The French Open will see Williams resume another partnership as she plays doubles with older sister Venus.
As well as glittering singles careers, the Williams sisters have also won 13 grand slam doubles titles together and, should they be selected for the U.S. team, they could win a fourth Olympic title in Rio later this year.
“We are trying to get as many matches under our belt as we can — hopefully we’ll win some tournaments — but regardless — we love it,” added Williams. “We love playing doubles — we have so much fun.”