PARIS – With the French Open just days away, Serena Williams finds herself racing the clock to get fit and ready to make a run at her 20th major title.
The top seed has been dealing with a right elbow injury throughout the clay season, which forced her to withdraw before her third round match at the Italian Open two weeks ago. On Friday, Serena told reporters the injury is healing but she has yet to be able to practice without pain.
"I was worried about it, but lately I have been really getting some really good treatment that has been able to alleviate it and make the symptoms go down substantially," Serena said. "So I feel a lot better going forward in the tournament and just getting through it."
A champion in Paris two years ago, Serena comes into the tournament without a clay title for the first time since 2010. After winning two tough matches against Italy on clay in Fed Cup, she was handed her first loss of the season in the semifinals of the Madrid Open, a 6–2, 6–3 loss to eventual champion Petra Kvitova.
With her eye on matching Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22 majors, she wisely pulled out of Rome in hopes of giving her elbow time to heal. It's a move she hopes will rectify a mistake from last year, when she came into Paris fatigued and lost in the second round to Garbine Muguruza.
"I think it was definitely the right decision [to withdraw from Rome]," Serena said. "Last year I almost didn't play Rome. I was like, 'Oh, I probably shouldn't play.' Ended up playing and ended up winning. Came to Paris and I couldn't even really practice until like Friday-ish. That was really tough."
Williams said she was not concerned about her lack of match play heading into the second Slam of the season. Her eight clay matches this year are the fewest she's played before the French Open since 2010.
"It's always good to have a little more practice time before the Grand Slam," she said. "Like in Australia I always get a good week; the U.S. Open I always get a really good week; Wimbledon is always a good week to start. That's something that I really needed to have here."
Serena will play her first round match against qualifier Andrea Hlavackova.