Williams sisters set for early clash in French Open

PARIS: Serena Williams is set for a third round clash with sister Venus following a French Open draw on Friday that left her in the tougher half of the tournament. The defending champion and top seed will open her 13th campaign at Roland Garros with a match against young French wildcard Alize Lim, while Venus, who has never won the title in Paris and went out in the first round last year, starts against Belinda Bencic of Switzerland. The prospect of once again playing her older sister at a Grand Slam event is not something Serena relishes.

If she makes it through to the last eight, the American’s opponent could be seventh seed Maria Sharapova who she beat in last year’s final. The Russian was the French Open champion the previous year and is seeded seventh this year. Potential semifinal opponents include third seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who took Serena to three sets in the 2012 Wimbledon final or big-hitting German Angelique Kerber. Coming into Paris on the back of a runaway win in Rome, Williams said that her form in Italy last week had done her a power of good after a run of injuries and loss of form early in the season.

Sharapova, who won back-to-back claycourt titles in Stuttgart and Madrid as part of her preparations for Roland Garros, said that at 27 and with a pro career dating back 10 years, she was as ambitious as ever. The bottom half of the draw sees second seed and 2011 French Open champion Li Na of China get things underway with a tie against France’s Kristina Mladenovic, the junior champion at Roland Garros in 2009. Li, the champion in Paris three years ago, is facing a quarterfinal matchup against Serb veteran Jelena Jankovic, with Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and rising Romanian Simona Halep looming as potential rivals in the semifinals. The Chinese icon, the same age as Serena Williams at 32, said that she would look to coach Carlos Rodriguez, a claycourt expert who guided Justine Henin to four titles in Paris, to put her gameplan together.

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Aaj Kal