World number one Serena Williams said her first defeat of the season to Petra Kvitova in the semi-finals of the Madrid Open on Friday could prove the ideal preparation for her assault on the French Open later this month.
Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova ended Williams’s unbeaten streak at 27 matches stretching back to last year’s WTA finals in a resounding 6-2, 6-3 win to also snap the American’s run of winning her last 19 matches in the Spanish capital.
The 19-time Grand Slam champion had battled back from three match points down to Victoria Azarenka in the third round on Wednesday and admitted fatigue had played a big part in her under-par performance.
However, she confirmed that she does still intend to defend her title in Rome next week.
“I’m just exhausted today. This has been a rough week for me. It’s all part of the clay though. It’s really good to be really exhausted now going into another tournament, and then getting ready for Roland Garros.
“This is all great preparation that I actually really, really needed, something to really push me on and push me to the limit. Really I think it’s perfect actually. It’s perfect timing.
“I just need to play with a little more confidence obviously and be ready for every point. Be ready for every point and anyone that I play to come at me like Petra did today.
“Normally I’m ready for that. Today I was too, but my body wasn’t. Mentally I was, but my body wasn’t.”
By contrast, Kvitova has only recently returned to the tour after a two-month break after admitting to feeling physically and mentally exhausted at the start of the year.
And Williams reiterated her admiration for Kvitova for being brave enough to take time away from the tour.
“Most people don’t do it. Most people play through it and maybe go down a level or don’t play well because they really need to take some time off.
“So they end up losing confidence and not playing as good as they can. She was wise enough to realise that she needed a break, and she was able to do well.”