Serena Williams: What does the future hold for her after Emilia-Romagna Open loss?

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Serena Williams has crashed out of the Emilia-Romagna Open as she continues her hunt for a record-equalling 24th Gram Slam title.

The American was defeated 7-6, 6-2 by Kateřina Siniaková at the Italian tournament in Paris. She had overcome a shaky start against wildcard Lisa Pigato in the opening round, but fell at the next hurdle.

Williams impressed at times, particularly with a down the line shot against Siniaková. She showed composure and precision to give the Czech player no chance of responding. But ultimately, Williams was not good enough for her opponent.

After yet another defeat for the 39-year-old, will she ever win a 24th Grand Slam?

What are Williams’s French Open chances?

Williams was competing at the Emilia-Romagna Open to prepare for Roland-Garros, scheduled for May 24th to June 13th. She will be hoping to claim her 24th Grand Slam title there, having triumphed at the tournament three times before.

The Emilia-Romagna Open was added to Williams’s schedule after she crashed out of this month’s Italian Open in the opening round. It had been her first match since the Australian Open in January, and the 1000th match of her career.

With Williams last winning a Grand Slam at the Australian Open in 2017, there are doubts over her ability to claim another and equal the record set by Margaret Court before she retires.

To do so at Roland-Garros, she would have to overcome the likes of Italian Open winner Iga Świątek, Madrid Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, and world number one Ashleigh Barty. Williams does not seem to be in adequate form to defeat these stars.

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Is retirement on the cards?

There are concerns Williams may have to retire before reaching 24 Grand Slam titles. She sparked speculation that she was stepping back from tennis after an emotional post-match press conference at the Australian Open.

Her subsequent withdrawal from the Miami Open because of oral surgery did nothing to quell the rumours.

According to her coach Patrick Mouratoglou, however, Williams will not quit until she wins another Grand Slam. “I don't think she will stop until she at least wins a Grand Slam, because she came back to win Grand Slams," Mouratoglou told People. "She doesn't quit."

"I have to believe it and she has to believe it, too. If she [doesn't], she would stop. After all she's achieved in her career, at her age, having a baby for the first time, having a family — it was an incredible effort to come back to tennis…she would never even start that if she didn't think she was able to win a Grand Slam."

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Has she proved the doubters wrong before?

Williams has experience in proving the doubters wrong. One of the most astonishing aspects of her career is her ability to experience a resurgence of form when she looks down and out. This is exactly what happened to the star in 2007 after she fell out of the top 100, having missed five of the previous 13 major tournaments.

Having been plagued by injury, commentators did not rate the chances of the unseeded Williams at the 2007 Australian Open. She proved everyone wrong, however, defeating rival Maria Sharapova in the final to win her first Grand Slam since the 2005 Australian Open.

Could she do the same again at one of this year’s Grand Slams?

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What do the pundits think?

Former British player Annabel Croft recently told GiveMeSport Women she felt it was “only going to get tougher” for Williams.

“It seems as though the nerves have just come into play, because she’s human”, Croft explained. “I think it’s getting more and more difficult and because she’s had some injury problems as well, it’s only going to get tougher because of the age she’s at. So it’s been an uphill battle, but I’m never one to write off a great champion.”

Croft echoed the sentiments of Mouratoglou, claiming Williams would have the belief that she could earn a 24th Grand Slam.

“She wouldn’t still be there if she didn’t believe that she could win [a Grand Slam.] And, it doesn’t take much for a draw to suddenly open up and an opportunity to present itself, so you just never know.”

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