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French Open: Year later, Serena Williams seeks more in Paris
French Open » Williams returns with new appreciation of disappointing 2012.

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So now she is back at the French Open, which she won in 2002, and is playing as well as, or perhaps even better than, ever. Williams is on a 24-match winning streak, part of a 36-2 record with a tour-leading five titles this season. Since that loss to Razzano, Williams is 67-3, including championships at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open that boosted her career haul to 15 Grand Slam titles.

At a glance

French Open

Site » Roland Garros.

Surface » Red clay.

Schedule » Play is scheduled to begin Sunday on all courts at 11 a.m. local time (7 a.m. MDT). The 15-day tournament closes with the women’s singles final on June 8, and the men’s singles final on June 9.

On Court Sunday » No. 1 Serena Williams vs. Anna Tatishvili, No. 5 Sara Errani vs. Arantxa Rus, No. 14 Ana Ivanovic vs. Petra Martic, No. 30 Venus Williams vs. Urszula Radwanska; No. 2 Roger Federer vs. Pablo Carreno Busta, No. 4 David Ferrer vs. Marinko Matosevic, No. 15 Gilles Simon vs. Lleyton Hewitt, No. 18 Sam Querrey vs. Lukas Lacko.

2012 Men’s Singles Champion » Rafael Nadal of Spain.

2012 Women’s Singles Champion » Maria Sharapova of Russia.

Key Statistic I » 52-1. Nadal’s career record at the French Open. His only loss came in 2009, against Robin Soderling in the fourth round.

Key Statistic II » 30. Number of years since a man from France (Yannick Noah, the father of current Chicago Bulls player Joakim Noah) won the country’s major tennis tournament — or any Grand Slam singles title.

Prize Money » Total is about $28.4 million, an increase of nearly 18 percent from 2012, with about $1.9 million each to the men’s and women’s singles champions, an increase of 20 percent.

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With three more, Williams would match Hall of Fame members Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert at 18.

Evert thinks Williams will eventually surpass that total, and continue climbing up the list that Margaret Smith Court leads with 24 major championships, followed by Steffi Graf’s 22, and Helen Wills Moody’s 19.

"It’s still a reachable goal for her to win 22 and match Steffi," Evert said. "If she plays another two, three, four years healthy, she can break all those records."

Evert, who will analyze French Open matches on TV for ESPN2, took her assessment of Williams a step further.

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"With her serve and her athleticism, her power, her court mobility — I just think when she’s on, she’s the greatest player we’ve ever seen. Ever," Evert said. "Now, whether her record is the greatest remains to be seen, because she hasn’t retired yet. But I think she is really the greatest player, (and) I have seen Martina and Steffi at their best."

It’s that serve that might very well be Williams’ greatest advantage over her contemporaries.

She leads the tour this season in most significant serving categories: 227 aces, nearly 80 more than the next-highest count; 85.4 percent of service games won; 75.7 percent of first-serve points won; 68.4 percent of break points saved.

Williams still seems to bring out her most compelling tennis when across the net from the game’s other top women: She is a combined 25-4 for her career against current No. 2 Maria Sharapova, the French Open’s defending champion, and No. 3 Victoria Azarenka.

That includes a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Sharapova in Madrid, and a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Azarenka in Rome — both in finals, both this month, and both on the same red clay used in Paris.

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