MUMBAI (Reuters) – Serena Williams is as motivated as ever to add to her 23 Grand Slam singles titles and the COVID-19 shutdown could end up helping her in that quest, the American’s long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou has told Reuters.
Williams, who turns 39 in September, has reached four Grand Slam finals since giving birth to daughter Olympia in 2017 but failed to win any of them and remains one major title short of Margaret Court’s record of 24.
The tennis season came to a halt in March when world sport went into lockdown due to the novel coronavirus outbreak and the hiatus will continue at least until the end of July.
Frenchman Mouratoglou said Williams had been able to recharge during the break and that her appetite for titles had not waned.
“First of all it was good for Serena because she had time to rest and her body needed rest,” he told Reuters by telephone.
“Second, her motivation hasn’t changed. She’s still as motivated as before to win more Grand Slams.”
Mouratoglou, who has been working with the American since 2012, said experienced players like Williams, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic were best equipped to hit the ground running when tennis restarts.
“For someone like her, and probably the same for Roger or Rafa or Novak, they have so much experience that being out of competition for a few months doesn’t affect their game so much,” said Mouratoglou.
“And we’ve seen the best, someone like Roger for example, coming back from six months injury and winning a Grand Slam straightaway (in 2017). So, only those guys can do that. So for Serena, it’ll be fine.”
Mouratoglou was less sure about how well other players would cope given the lack of clarity over the sport’s return.
There are concerns professional tennis may not be able to return at all this year given the amount of international travel required to get players to tournaments.
“I think that for all the players it’s extremely challenging because it’s a situation that is completely new,” said Mouratoglou, whose Ultimate Tennis Showdown league kicks off at his academy in Nice from Saturday.
“A tennis player always has a short-term goal with the next tournament coming up. And this is their motivation. This didn’t happen during this period and they don’t even know when the next tournament is.
“So they have to find other ways to feed their motivation, which is a bit challenging.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)