Who will be the first to stop Serena Williams in Paris?

With Victoria Azarenka pulling out, the likes of Maria Sharapova, Li Na and Simona Halep might fancy their chances of reaching the French Open final, but upstaging Serena Williams could be an uphill task, writes Ahmed Rizvi.
Serena Williams of the US returns a ball during the WTA Rome's Tennis Masters final against Sara Errani of Italy on May 18, 2014, at the Foro Italico in Rome. Williams won 6-3, 6-0. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS
Serena Williams of the US returns a ball during the WTA Rome's Tennis Masters final against Sara Errani of Italy on May 18, 2014, at the Foro Italico in Rome. Williams won 6-3, 6-0. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS

Last week in Rome, there were a few interesting results on the women’s side. Li Na, the world No 2 and Australian Open champion, defeated Samantha Stosur for the first time in her career, after winning only one set in the previous six duels.

Former world No 1 Ana Ivanovic broke her seven-match losing streak against Maria Sharapova, beating the Russian for the first time since the 2007 French Open semis.

Jelena Jankovic notched her first win against Agnieszka Radwanska since 2008, breaking a string of five defeats against Pole. Sara Errani then defeated Li Na for the first time in her career on her way to becoming the first Italian to reach the final in Rome since Raffaella Reggi in 1985.

Errani, however, failed in her bid to beat Serena Williams for the first time. Struggling with a hip and thigh injury in the second set, the Italian was reduced to tears in the 3-6, 0-6 demolition.

Williams was the only constant through the week and if the past two years are any indication, the French Open is hers to lose. The 2012 (Sharapova) and 2013 (Williams) Rome champions have gone on to lift the winner’s trophy at Roland Garros. With Victoria Azarenka pulling out, the likes of Sharapova, Li Na and Simona Halep might fancy their chances of reaching the final, but upstaging Williams could be an uphill task.

Their only hope could be a lesser light beating Williams early on. That is when she is vulnerable. If she gets to the second week, there should be no stopping her.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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Published: May 19, 2014 04:00 AM

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