PARIS (AP) — Making a record 20th appearance at Roland Garros, Venus Williams is looking to finally get her hands on the French Open trophy.
Williams has played in the French Open more than any other woman, but has only gotten past the quarterfinals once — when she lost the 2002 final to younger sister Serena.
“Is it 20 already? I thought I missed a few, but apparently not,” Williams said with a smile. “Here we are. You know, what an experience. What can I say?
“It’s always an opportunity, for sure. You know, I want to play the kind of tennis that’s consistent and aggressive, inspired. That’s my goal, really, every match.”
Williams turns 37 next month, but is showing no signs of slowing down. The American reached her 15th Grand Slam final in January — nearly eight years after her 14th. She lost the Australian Open to Serena.
Williams attributes her longevity partly to the breaks she has taken during her 23-year career.
“Definitely, I think spacing out how long, how many tournaments I have played, I believe that’s helped me,” Williams said. “It’s not easy emotionally or mentally or physically to do this job, so I think that helps. I haven’t had any other experience.
“So would I recommend it? For sure, but I think if you’re happy playing a lot of tournaments and you can handle that, then it’s not a problem. But if you’re not, then you have to space it out.”
Williams will play Kurumi Nara of Japan in the second round at Roland Garros after surviving a scare to beat Qiang Wang in straight sets on Sunday.
The 10th-seeded Williams quickly took the first set in 41 minutes, but then had to draw on all her experience to recover from two set points down and go on to take the set — and the match — on a tiebreaker.
Williams eventually triumphed 6-4, 7-6 (3) after Wang hit a backhand into the net.
“The first round is always tricky,” Williams said. “You know, she played well. I just tried to stay aggressive until the end. You know, you have to still be aggressive even though the courts are slower here on the clay.
“When I was trailing, I know she had done things to earn it, to be at 4-2, so it was a credit to her. But also, I realized I had to put some balls in the court, so that would be my main focus at that point.”
Williams added: “I think today the experience helped, for sure. Having the opportunity to play 20 of these tournaments helped me a lot.”
Clay is Williams’ least favorite surface, but with several of the top stars out or struggling, this could be her year.
Serena is not playing because she is pregnant, while Maria Sharapova’s ranking wasn’t high enough to gain direct entry into the tournament after a 15-month doping suspension. Tournament organizers did not grant her a wild card.
World No. 1 Angelique Kerber lost her first-round match 6-2, 6-2 against 40th-ranked Ekaterina Makarova, while third-seeded Simona Halep is struggling with a right ankle injury.
“All I can speak of are the players that I play against, and they play amazing every time. That’s the competition I face,” Williams said. “What other players are doing, I have got to be honest, I don’t watch so closely. I just try to understand what can I accomplish. And then after that, I go home.”