Williams in the mood for French Open title defense

Wed May 21, 2014 10:08pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

(Reuters) - Six different champions in the last six years suggests that tipping a French Open women's champion is something of a lottery, but those backing world No.1 Serena Williams are surely investing wisely.

The American powerhouse claimed a second Roland Garros crown last year - 11 years after her first - and warmed up for the defense of her crown by winning the Rome title on Sunday, dropping just one set and 22 games all week.

It was a return to the form that helped Williams win 11 titles in 2013 and proof, if any were needed, that the fire within burns as ferociously as ever as she returns to the city she calls her second home chasing an 18th major singles that would tie her with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

The former French Open champion Li Na is probably her main rival as the Chinese attempts to become the first player since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win the year's first two slams.

Maria Sharapova, winner in 2012 and runner-up last year, will also be confident of a strong run after beating Li on the way to claiming the Madrid title earlier this month.

Poland's gritty world No.3 Agnieszka Radwanska, and Serbian duo Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, the champion in 2008, will also be strong contenders while Simona Halep, the aggressive Romanian baseliner who has blasted into the top four, is more than capable of causing an upset.

Whoever Williams faces, however, she will not be feeling any extra pressure just because she is defending champion.

"Usually I'm like, 'Oh my God, I have to defend'. This time I'm going to be cool with it," Williams, who has bought a second Paris apartment near the Eiffel Tower, said recently when looking ahead to the French Open.   Continued...

Serena Williams poses for a selfie with a supporter as she signs on a ball, after winning the women's singles final match against Sara Errani of Italy, at the Rome Masters tennis tournament May 18, 2014.  REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito