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Serena plans French Open surprise

Posted: Tuesday April 24, 2007 5:47PM; Updated: Tuesday April 24, 2007 5:47PM
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NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Serena Williams likes proving people wrong and intends to surprise the skeptics at next month's French Open.

Williams stormed to victory in the year's opening Grand Slam, thrashing Maria Sharapova in the finals of the Australian Open despite finishing 2006 ranked 95th after battling injuries and appearing to critics to be in less than top condition.

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"Everybody had written me off. Everyone was like 'she can't win a Grand Slam,' which I thought was outrageous," Williams told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. "It was good. I like nothing more than proving people wrong."

After winning her eighth Grand Slam trophy, the 25-year-old American last month claimed her fourth Sony Ericsson Open title in Miami, overcoming world No. 1 Justine Henin after dropping the opening set 6-0.

Despite knee problems that bothered her during this month's U.S. Fed Cup win over Belgium and a groin pull that forced her out of her first clay court warmup in Charleston, Williams said she planned to spring her next surprise in Paris.

"I have something in mind, but I'm not going to say. It has something to do with clay," the 12th-ranked Williams said slyly. "I'm really looking forward to Roland Garros. It's going to be fun."

Williams won her only French Open crown in 2002, which began a run of four Grand Slam titles in a row that was dubbed the Serena Slam.

Victory on the red clay would bring her halfway to a classic Grand Slam sweep with Wimbledon and the U.S. Open left on the 2007 calendar.

"I think it can be done. I play well on all surfaces so I'm a good candidate to do it. Who knows?

"My knees are good, it feels much better.

"I'm playing again in Germany in a couple of weeks, then there's Rome," she said about her preparation for the French.

"I want to start sliding more. I've been playing on hard courts for so long, so intensely that I haven't been sliding as well as I want to, so I have to work harder on that."

Williams has put some of her off-court interests on hold while concentrating on tennis.

"But I love acting so much. In the fall I might have some opportunities to do some things.

"In a perfect world I could do a full season and be done in late September and then film a movie and start (tennis) again in January," she said. "In a perfect world."

Williams has appeared in several film and television dramas is keen to develop a movie career.

Despite the WTA Tour plans to shorten the season, Williams was critical of scheduling changes to begin in 2009.

"There's a lot of changes. I think it's drastic, almost too drastic," she said.

"All the tournaments are in Europe, Russia and all the players seem to be from there. To grow the sport more in the United States, the tour should focus on tournaments in the United States," she said, noting the shrinking number of U.S. events on the calendar.

"I think they're changing the schedule to cater to Europe and I don't like it. I don't like it at all."

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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