Serena Williams Aims for Steffi Graf’s Record This Weekend

Serena Williams can tie Graf’s record for most singles majors in the Open Era.

By: Shane Lambert

After a bad day for American women in the 2016 French Open draw, Serena Williams remains the USA’s only hope for a title at Roland Garros this season in women’s singles. Sister Venus fell to Timea Bacsinszky, Madison Keys lost to Kiki Bertens, and Shelby Rogers lost to Garbine Muguruza. However, Serena remains the large favorite of the six players left in the French Open draw.

The American will be in action on Thursday as she faces Yulia Putintseva of Kazahkstan. The 21 year old has come on very strong at Roland Garros, winning all four of her matches in straight sets. Her run of form includes six sets where her opponents were not able to win more than 2 games in any set. Furthermore, Putintseva posted a solid win over Carla Suarez-Navarro in the quarters, a far more experienced player that will certainly be disappointed at missing the semifinal round.

It’s clear that Putintseva has a promising future on the WTA Tour and the match-up could be a tricky one for Williams. There are some similarities between the Kazahkstani and both Angelique Kerber and Roberta Vinci, the players that beat Serena in Melbourne and New York respectively. All the players lack significant height and each is more reliant on foot speed and shot accuracy more so than power. That’s the kind of player that stands a decent chance against the American as opposed to powerful players like Venus, Maria Sharapova, and Victoria Azarenka. Generally Serena will beat those players in baseline slugfests, while it’s the players that can execute amazing drop-shots and mid-ranged spinning-out-wide groundstrokes that cause the American grief.

However, Williams enters the match 2-0 against Putintseva and the American is also 3-0 against Bacsinszky, a likely semifinal opponent. It’s Garbine Muguruza who looms large in the draw as a potential spoiler for Williams. The Spaniard has only one win against the American however it was at the French Open a couple of years ago. Furthermore, Sam Stosur is into the semifinals on the bottom half of the draw. Should she advance to the final, she shouldn’t lack confidence knowing she beat Serena in the final of the 2012 US Open.

But if Williams is able to rattle off three more wins in the French Open draw then she would equal Steffi Graf’s record for most singles titles in majors. The American already missed a chance to tie the record in New York and in Melbourne. With her 35th birthday coming later this year, she certainly won’t be taken her chances for granted. In fact if things go well for the American over the next month then she may not only tie Graf, but surpass the record with a title at the All England Club.

Williams’ next match is on the order of play for Thursday, 2nd up on Philippe-Chatrier Court (not before 3pm local time in Paris). Don’t be surprised if the American is made to work and if this match ends up being quite close.

Shane Lambert