The four-time Rome champion Serena Williams has won the first match on clay outside Roland Garros since Rome 2016, ousting Rebecca Peterson 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 15 minutes on Tuesday to kick off title chase. This is only the fourth WTA tournament of the season for world no.
11, losing to Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-final of the Australian Open and retiring against Garbine Muguruza at Indian Wells before withdrawing in Miami. Her last match came against Peterson and she managed to beat the Swede again today, firing ten aces and dropping 13 points in nine service games.
Peterson broke her once but that wasn't enough for a more favorable result, spraying too many errors and suffering four breaks from ten chances offered to Serena. The 23-time Grand Slam champion tamed her shots nicely, moving around the court well and reducing the number of unforced errors, one of the key elements in her win today.
The Swede fended off a few break points in the early games and broke Serena for a 3-1 lead after a loose forehand from the American, staying ahead only for a couple of minutes before Williams broke back in game five with a forehand return winner.
Serving at 3-3, Rebecca got broken again when her forehand landed long and Serena closed the opener with a serve at 15 in game ten for a 6-4 after 38 minutes. Williams played even better in set number two, securing a break in game three after a backhand mistake from Peterson and moving 5-2 up after a fantastic point and a crosscourt forehand winner.
Serving for the triumph in the next game, Serena repelled two break points and sealed the deal after yet another forehand error from the Swede, booking the second round clash against her sister Venus, the 31st overall, the first on the European clay since 2002 and in Rome since 1998!
Unfortunately, the crowd will not be able to see that clash on Wednesday as Serena was forced to withdraw due to an ongoing left knee injury, staying on just nine matches in 2019 and not being able to finish the encounter at the last three tournaments.
After she returned from pregnancy in March 2018, Rome was the 11th WTA tournament for Serena and she managed to reach the quarters only at the biggest stage at Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open, with the Roland Garros participation being pretty much in doubt now as well.