Former British tennis star-turned-pundit Annabel Croft believes Serena Williams will be “extremely motivated” to defend her French Open crown and pull level with legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova in terms of number of Grand Slam singles championships won.
Williams was stunned by Ana Ivanovic at the Australian Open back in January, but Croft believes the 32-year-old American must be considered - along with the likes of Maria Sharapova and Li Na - as one of the favourites to win at Roland Garros not only because of her many technical qualities, but also because of her steely determination and fierce will-to-win.
Speaking exclusively to GiveMeSport, Croft said: “For many, many years we’ve felt every time Serena enters a tournament she is going to utterly and completely dominate it - but, of course, she didn’t win in Australia earlier this year
“She will be very, very hungry for that French Open title. She’s chasing down Chris Evert and [Martina] Navratilova and wants to overtake them in the history books of how many Grand Slams. They’ve both got 18 and she’s on 17 so I think she is extremely motivated to go even further.”
Croft also believes Simona Halep is a potential outsider to cause a shock at the French Open, which gets underway this weekend, after taking Sharapova to three sets in the final of the Madrid Open earlier this month.
“She’s taken her game to another level,” Croft continued. “She’s so feisty, determined, and has great firepower for someone who you could describe as petite and diminutive. Her game has really, really improved and she’s very exciting to watch.”
But Croft believes the person who recently beat her in that Madrid Open final, Sharapova, will be right up there amongst the potential champions. Indeed, she even paid the Russian the ultimate compliment: comparing the 27-year-old to the King of Clay himself, Rafael Nadal.
“She’s always such a great, great competitor,” Croft said of Sharapova. “The one thing we all admire about Maria is that she’s a little bit like Nadal in that every time she walks onto the tennis court she applied herself in the moment, one hundred per cent.”
Along with her main picks: Sharapova, Williams, Halep and Li Na, Croft also believes former world number one Ivanovic could spring a surprise after rediscovering her form and confidence over recent months.