Serena Williams is capable of winning the French Open, even though she has not played a competitive match on clay this season, her coach Patrick Mouratoglou has told wtatennis.com in an exclusive interview.
While Williams withdrew from the Madrid and Rome tournaments as she was not ready to compete, Mouratoglou is "confident" the American will be in Paris for what will be her first Grand Slam event since landing a 23rd major at the the 2017 Australian Open title while pregnant.
"Serena will play the French Open to win it. Can she do it? Serena can achieve anything - after being her coach for six years, I'm even more sure of that statement," Mouratoglou said.
For the last two weeks, Williams has been training at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy near Nice in the south of France, a facility founded by her coach. She will remain there until the French Open.
"After her pregnancy, Serena had to rebuild her body. When she arrived at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, around April 30, we realised that she was not ready yet. The time she lost after the delivery with all the medical issues she had to go through, was missing," said Mouratoglou.
"That is the reason why we decided to skip Madrid and Rome as she needed five weeks to be perfectly ready. Then we worked with my team in order to prepare a programme for her to get back in her best shape including nutrition, fitness and, of course, tennis. So far, things are going very well. She is working extremely hard, she is improving in all the areas fast. I am very satisfied and confident that she will be ready for Roland Garros."
Mouratoglou admitted that Williams - who lost early in Indian Wells and Miami in March - returned to the WTA Tour too soon.
"Serena clearly came back too early," he said. "She was not ready yet but needed to feel the competition, so she decided to play even though she was far from being at 100 per cent. It was a good experience as she realised all the work that needed to be done in order for her to be really ready."
Williams has been in good spirits at the Academy, according to Mouratoglou. "What I find the most encouraging is her enthusiasm, her motivation, and the quality of her work. Thanks to that, she is making impressive progress. She is hitting the ball great already and her body is getting back to what it used to be. The goal is that she comes back even stronger than before," he said.
"I have been preparing Serena to come back to the game. This is more general, more about all the aspects of what a professional tennis player should be able to achieve on the physical, the technical and the tactical sides. Then we made a special preparation for clay as Roland Garros will be the first of the Grand Slams she will compete in. It consists mostly of using the spin, being able to slide well and using the angles."
Walking out on to the clay in Paris, Williams will experience a mixture of "stress and excitement". "For Serena, playing at Roland Garros is something very special as she has not been able to participate in a Grand Slam for a year and a half." said Mouratoglou. "She obviously comes back to win and the wait has been long, so she will probably start Roland Garros with a mix of stress because she will want to do well and excitement because playing those events is the reason why she made such huge efforts to come back."