BASTAD, Sweden - There aren't many things Serena Williams hasn't achieved in her career but she'll have a chance to check another one of them off at the Collector Swedish Open in Bastad this week, as she tries to capture the first International-level title of her career in the Scandinavian paradise.
Williams has won a wealth of WTA titles in her career, 52 to be exact, but they've all come on the biggest stages - Grand Slams, Premiers, and so on. She has played five International-level events in her career and has never come away with the title, in fact she has never even reached a final:
(l. to Zakopalova in 1r)
(l. to Bammer in QFs)
(l. to Zvonareva in SFs)
1998 Oklahoma City
(l. to Kruger in QFs)
1995 Québec City
(l. to Miller in qualifying)
And the curse doesn't end there. Only one reigning No.1 has played here before, Caroline Wozniacki in 2011, and her campaign was stopped in the second round as she retired due to a shoulder injury.
The draw is littered with threats, as well, beginning with the rest of the Top 4 seeds, Simona Halep, Klara Zakopalova and Tsvetana Pironkova, who have all made deep runs the last few weeks. Lourdes Domínguez Lino, Lesia Tsurenko, Sílvia Soler-Espinosa and Johanna Larsson round out the seeds.
Williams might have a few problems with some of the unseeded players in the draw. She begins with Sesil Karatantcheva, who has a win over Venus Williams; Anabel Medina Garrigues is in her quarter, the Spaniard nearly beating her in Madrid two months ago; Virginie Razzano, who beat her at Roland Garros last year, is in the bottom quarter; and former Top 10 player Flavia Pennetta is in there too.
But if there's one player who can be counted on to overcome the odds, it's probably Williams.
"I've never been to Bastad and I'm excited about it," Williams said during Wimbledon. "I've heard it's a great city. I've heard that it's like Cannes, but in Sweden. I definitely need to experience that.
"I'm looking forward to getting back on the clay, then I'm going to hit the hardcourts in the US."
Over in Bad Gastein, it's German domination as three of the Top 4 seeds are from Germany - No.1 seed Mona Barthel, No.2 seed Annika Beck and No.4 seed Andrea Petkovic. Rounding out the seeds are Irina-Camelia Begu, Kiki Bertens, Chanelle Scheepers, María-Teresa Torró-Flor and Karin Knapp.