Serena Williams badly wants to win the 2013 French Open, but the red clay has been her kryptonite. If she is to grab only her second title at Roland Garros, she needs to win at the Madrid Open to boost her confidence on the surface.
Even superheroes have a weakness.
When Williams is plugged in, she's still the most dominant player in the world. Her biggest challenge is protecting against lapses in focus. After winning at the Madrid Open in 2012, Serena was upset in the first round of the French Open by Virginie Razzano.
Williams is competing with her signature intensity thus far in Madrid, and it seems she is determined not to let the same thing happen to her again this year.
Obviously, she has to take care of business at La Caja Magica first. She has easily moved into the quarterfinals and is now just three matches away from taking the tournament.
Winning this tournament would be big for Williams. The field was stacked with elite female players and it would only reaffirm her ability to shine on clay.
Taking this French Open tuneup for the second year in a row would prove her 2012 triumph was no fluke. The early exit at Roland Garros could have blurred the way she saw herself on the surface.
She faces Russian Maria Kirilenko in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Williams is 6-0 lifetime against her with two of the wins coming on clay. She has only dropped two sets to Kirilenko in their career series.
You'd have to think this is a match Williams will win. When looking over the possible opponents for the remainder of the tournament, she appears to be in a favorable position.
If she does come away victorious against Kirilenko, she would face the winner of the Yaroslava Shvedova-Anabela Medina-Garrigues match.
She's also undefeated against both of those players. From there, another battle with Maria Sharapova could be on tap. As most know, she has dominated Sharapova over their careers. Williams is 12-2 against Sharapova and hasn't lost to her since 2004.
Success in Madrid could be the beginning of a snowball effect. The last time Williams won the French Open was in 2002. She went on to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open that year.
If something or someone doesn't derail her, she may very well plow through the year in similar fashion.
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