Williams ready to defend title

Blackpool Citizen: Serena Williams is the French Open's defending champion Serena Williams is the French Open's defending champion

Serena Williams fulfilled her duties as defending champion by helping out at the draw for the French Open but did not notice she would be playing good friend Alize Lim in the opening round.

The pair know each other through the Paris academy of Patrick Mouratoglou, the coach who helped Williams win the Roland Garros title for the first time in 11 years last summer.

Frenchwoman Lim, ranked 138, quickly heard the news and wrote on Twitter : "So 5 minutes ago I was in the locker room speaking to Serena, asked her "oh did you make the draw, who do I play ?!" She told me no I don't look at the draw."

On Friday Lim had posted a picture on Twitter of the pair at the players' party at the Eiffel Tower.

Williams said: "I actually never, never, never look at it. I just wait for someone to tell me, and then I go from there.

"I guess it goes with that song, 'Isn't it ironic'. She's a great player. She's been doing really well. So we'll see."

Winning the French Open for a second time had been a major goal for Williams, and she linked up with Mouratoglou after a shock loss to Virginie Razzano in the first round in 2012.

Clay has become arguably Williams' most dominant surface, with the 32-year-old unbeaten on it last season and having lost just three matches in the last three seasons.

The American said: "I don't remember the last time I was defending champ (at Roland Garros), so it feels really good that I'm here as defending champion. I'm really excited.

"I don't know what clicked or didn't click. I grew up on hard courts, and then when I turned 10 I played only clay until I turned pro.

"I have the capability of playing on clay, so I don't know why I wasn't more consistent on clay before. But I guess better late than never."

Williams comes into the tournament on a winning note having defended her title in Rome last weekend, beating Sara Errani in the final.

The week before the world number one had withdrawn ahead of her quarter-final in Madrid because of a thigh problem.

She said of her Rome victory: "It was important for me, because I didn't get to play as much clay as I did last year. I had to stop in Madrid early, so I wasn't even sure if I was going to play Rome.

"Then to come out with the win gave me a lot of confidence. I got a lot of matches in there and I needed those matches. I felt good after them."

Williams appears to be back to her best after taking a month off following a shock loss to Jana Cepelova in Charleston in March.

Explaning the loss she declared herself "dead" from exhaustion because of the number of matches she has played - and won - over the past couple of years.

"I'm really good now," said Williams. "I'm great. I feel like this is the only place I want to be. The next tournament is the only place I want to be and the tennis court is where I need to be.

"That break, I really needed it. I tried as hard as I could in Charleston, and I just couldn't do it. That's when I knew that I needed to take some time and just refocus and regroup and then see what happens."

There is the intriguing prospect of an all-Williams battle in the third round but first Venus must get past precocious Swiss Belinda Bencic, who has rocketed up the rankings after winning the junior title last year.

Williams is also in the same quarter as Maria Sharapova, whom she beat in the final last year, while in the bottom half s econd seed Li Na faces France's Kristina Mladenovic.

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