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Serena faces more major doubts

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PARIS (AFP) – Serena Williams’ bid to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title was thwarted again when she suffered her earliest exit at the majors in almost five years, leading to more questions over her long-term future at the highest level.

Her 6-2, 7-5 French Open third round defeat by US compatriot Sofia Kenin meant that she failed again to move level with Margaret Court’s majors record set between 1960 and 1973.

The bare figures do not making encouraging reading.

Williams will be 38 in September while her 23rd and most recent Slam triumph was at the Australian Open in 2017 while pregnant.

After giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September 2017, she returned to Grand Slam tennis at Roland Garros in 2018, making the last 16.

An arm injury torpedoed that meeting and stalled her assault on a fourth title in Paris after 2002, 2013 and 2015. Defeat in the 2018 Wimbledon final to Angelique Kerber, and at the US Open championship match, where her now-infamous meltdown overshadowed Naomi Osaka’s title triumph, followed her Paris heartbreak.

Her Australian Open campaign in January ended in a quarter-final loss to Karolina Pliskova.

Since Melbourne, Williams had been unable to finish the three tournaments she entered. Saturday’s loss was her earliest exit at the Slams since a third round defeat at Wimbledon in 2014.

Despite that grim record, the American, is determined to return to the peak of her powers.

“If I was told I would only make the third round here, I would have thought they were lying, because I wouldn’t expect to have gotten only to the third round,” said Williams after her loss on Saturday.

Williams said she will try again to equal Court’s record at Wimbledon in July.

“I’m just pretty far away, but the optimistic part is I haven’t been able to be on the court as much as I would have,” she said.

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