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ICYMI at French Open: Serena Williams the center of attention

In a couple of days, Serena Williams will play her first official match since losing in the opening round of the Miami Open. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS -- She's barely touched a tennis ball since mid-March and wasn't anywhere to be seen on media day Friday at the French Open, so naturally she was the subject of a lot of the Q&A.

We're talking about Serena Williams, of course, the 23-time Grand Slam winner, who made more headlines leading up to the second major of the year for the shoes she wore to the royal wedding reception than she has for her upcoming return to the court.

So ... what does it mean to have Serena back in the draw? Here's what some of her fellow WTA stars had to say:

Simona Halep: "Of course it's great for tennis that she's back. Maybe she needs a little bit more time to get again used to the tournaments and everyday playing. In my opinion, I said many times, that she's able to come back and to win again tournaments. She knows how to handle the pressure, how to handle all the situations. She's there for so many years."

Caroline Wozniacki: "I think it's so nice to have her back. I think it's always great to have the best players play, and it raises your level. You have to play your best level, and I think, you know, having someone like Serena back, it's keeping us all on our toes and we have to keep improving all the time."

Garbine Muguruza: "It's always good. I think she's the best in history, so it's always good when she's around as a great competitor. I think Serena Williams is Serena. You never have to underestimate if she's not competing a lot. I think she has the talent and the confidence. So it's always a tough opponent."

Kristina Mladenovic: "She's the best player, in my opinion. She's a great champion, if not an icon, a legend in tennis. It's a great thing that she's here, that she's still here in the world of tennis. As you said, if she's here today, it means that she feels ready and good shape and fit. We'll see. We'll see what happens. I haven't seen her play lately. It's a good thing that she's here indeed."

Wozniacki elaborated even more when asked about Serena the mom:

On media day Friday at the French Open, Caroline Wozniacki was asked for her thoughts on the growing trend of mothers playing on the WTA Tour. "Well, I think you see it more and more now that you have some of the women come back after pregnancy and wanting to play and obviously playing at a high level. You know, Kim [Clijsters] did it and [Lindsay] Davenport did it, and there was quite a few. I think you see a trend as well where players play for longer now. They keep playing till their mid 30s, late 30s, and I think it's great."

Matt Wilansky, ESPN.com120d ago

Another career Grand Slam winner, Novak Djokovic, was also not on the grounds Friday. He took the day to do what he enjoys most: hanging with his family.


Petra Kvitova was on site 24 hours after the news broke that a suspect in the 2016 knife attack against her was in custody. Kvitova was happy to hear about the developments but conceded it's a lot to digest with the start of the French Open less than 48 hours away.

Still, the two-time Wimbledon winner was smiling brightly, even if the sun was not.


OK, so what else did we learn from media day? The truth is ... not a ton. But the players were on their best behavior, and their collective sense of optimism was evident. Here's the best of what they had to say:

Wozniacki on Liverpool's progress in Champions League: "It's been great to see the team play together the way they have, I think it's amazing. Obviously, Mo Salah has been playing incredibly and [Roberto] Firmino, as well. I think it's great. There is a lot of attacking going on and a lot of goal scoring. I think when they play on their highest level they can beat everyone."

Alexander Zverev on the nuances of playing on different clay events in recent weeks: "The balls I think a lot of players struggle with, because Dunlop balls [used in Madrid], Dunlop balls actually are quite fast balls. I think all the players really, really like them for the courts and these ones, the Babolat ones [that will be used here at Roland Garros] are completely different. ... But, yeah, the conditions are different, but the conditions are different everywhere we go. I mean, the biggest change so far was from Madrid to Rome because Madrid we played on a thousand meters altitude to Rome on sea level, and I had to change within one or two days."

Caroline Garcia on whether fans flock her everywhere she goes: "I took a flight from Lyon to Paris and I think one person recognized me. So I'm thinking I'm safe."

Frenchman Lucas Pouille on whether the NextGen players are ready to finally break through at a major: "I think the recent weeks have shown it. Even if Nadal was very much present, we have seen this in Madrid [with Zverev winning], we have seen the finals in Rome, Dominic [Thiem] in Madrid, as well. This is the proof that young players are gaining momentum, and it's tougher and tougher for the others. So, yes, I think that the NextGen is actually gaining momentum and finding a way up."

Simona Halep on the excitement of having Serena, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka all in the draw: "I feel that now like everyone is here feels that the tournament is completed and everyone is here just to show that tennis is really nice and also that everyone can win it, and these girls are coming back: Vika; Serena, with the kid, which is amazing. Makes it a little bit different and also special."