'Not at her age': Tennis great's major truth bomb for Serena Williams

·Sports Editor
·3-min read
Serena Williams, pictured here at Roland Garros ahead of the French Open.
Serena Williams hits the practice court at Roland Garros ahead of the French Open. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Former World No.1 Mats Wilander has offered a brutal reality check for Serena Williams heading into the French Open, saying the 23-time grand slam champion needs to drastically change her game to have any chance of winning the title.

The French Open has been the least rewarding of the four majors for Williams, who won the last of her 23 grand slam singles titles at the Australian Open in 2017.

FRESH TWIST: Leaked email emerges amid Naomi Osaka furore

BRUTAL: Ash Barty cops dangerous French Open draw

The 39-year-old reached four grand slam finals throughout 2018 and 2019, but has failed to get past the last 16 at Roland Garros in her last three appearances.

Wilander, who won three of his seven grand slam titles on the red clay in Paris, says Williams needs to take a leaf out of Roger Federer's book and make changes to her game like the Swiss legend did four years ago when he won three more majors.

"I don't see Serena's game developing in the last few years," Wilander said on Thursday. "It's kind of the same Serena that we've seen over the years.

"And at her age, unless she changes something a little bit, becomes a little more creative, I don't think Serena can overpower all these women these days because they serve well, they hit the ball hard. 

"She's kind of competing with the same game against the women today.

"She needs to tell other people that 'listen I've been playing this game for 22 years, I got 23 majors. I need to change something and this is what I'm going to do'."

Mats Wilander likes Barty or Swiatek over Williams

Wilander said it remains "highly doubtful" that Williams will complete her quest to equal Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 majors.

"I think Serena is in the same boat as Federer. Which is 'let's go to the French Open and let's hope that we can win a match or two or three'," Wilander said.

"And then that will be an unbelievable bonus in her confidence, in the experience of playing matches in a big stadium court with hopefully some people in the crowd.

"And then she can take that fresh experience to Wimbledon and then carry it through to the US Open.

"Can she beat Iga Swiatek? Of course, we know Serena can beat anyone, pretty much on any given day. 

"But can she do it seven matches in a row on clay? Highly doubtful."

Mats Wilander, pictured here at the US Open in 2018.
Mats Wilander at the US Open in 2018. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/GC Images)

As for who he thinks will win the title, the Swedish great is finding it hard to go past favourites Swiatek and Ash Barty.

"The way she plays, very much a clay-court player with power. Even though she's only 19-years-old, she still is the favourite," Wilander said of Swiatek

"That's a new situation for us. In tennis, men or women, we haven't had that for a long, long time where a teenager after they won the first one is still the favourite to win the second one, even though she's only 19. So that's very exciting.

"Besides Swiatek I think that Ash Barty can win the title. I'm not sure if there's anybody else that can win the title.

"Barty even on a very bad day finds a way to win matches. But if Swiatek plays her best tennis there's only two or three players that can beat her and I don't think Barty's one of them.

"But I do think there could be a big-hitter that can maybe beat her on a given day but that big-hitter does not go past Barty after that."

with Reuters

Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.