Serena 'fresh' and 'ready' to go

 - Reem Abulleil

American legend returns from a three-month absence in Rome this week

Serena Williams Roland-Garros 2020©Julien Crosnier / FFT

She may have been away from the tour for the last three months and she hasn’t been posting any footage from her practices, but Serena Williams would like to assure everyone that she has been putting in the hard yards and is ready to get back to action in Rome this week.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion has not competed since her semi-final exit at the Australian Open in February and pulled out of Miami in March due to oral surgery.

Speaking to reporters in the Italian capital on Monday, Williams revealed she had been training on clay in Florida before spending the past two and a half weeks at her coach Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy in the south of France.

“[I’m feeling] pretty fresh. But at the same time, it's good to start fresh but it's also hard to start fresh,” admitted Williams, who takes an 8-1 win-loss record for the season into Rome, her third outing in 2021.

A three-time champion at Roland-Garros, Williams’ quest for a record-tying 24th major will resume on Parisian clay later this month and the 39-year-old is not too concerned about her lack of match-play ahead of the second Grand Slam of the season.

“I feel like I'm good. I'm in Rome. I'm going to have some good matches here hopefully, and then I will be at another Grand Slam which always makes me excited. So I think either way I'll be ready,” she stated.

Williams recently posted a video on her Instagram telling fans she has been working hard, despite not sharing any practice clips on social media.

She is typically very active online and likes to share posts about her family, her businesses and her off-court activities, including a fun recent campaign for Gucci alongside comedian and TV host James Corden. Holding back on the on-court content turned out to be a strategic decision from the American superstar.

“I do feel like, because I don't do a lot of sport content, I do feel like people are wondering if I'm playing, and I have to say I always am, you just don't see it. I don't show what I do. I don't always show my cards,” she explained.

Williams is seeded No.8 in Rome and has a bye in the opening round. She awaits the winner of the clash between last year’s Roland-Garros semi-finalist Nadia Podoroska and Laura Siegemund.

When an Argentinean journalist asked Williams of her potential showdown with Podoroska, she had high praise for the world No.44, before adding: “Everyone gears up for top-10 players, and so if I'm in the top 10, I will be ready.

“Am I? I don't even know where I am, but somewhere,” the world No.8 concluded with a laugh.

Since her return from maternity leave in 2018, Williams has made four finals and two more semi-finals from the 11 Grand Slams she has contested. Her form in Melbourne earlier this year appeared to be her strongest yet, since she became a mother, and we can expect her to bring more of the same in Paris this month.

Whether she’s at the summit of the rankings or outside the top 10, Williams is always a contender. That we know for sure.