Williams still haunted by hard-fought 2015 French Open win

Serena Williams, of the U.S, appears on giant screen before the draw of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, Friday, May 20, 2016 in Paris. The French Open starts Sunday May 22. (AP Photo/Bertrand Combaldieu)
Bertrand Combaldieu/AP

PARIS (AP) Serena Williams is still haunted by her struggles en route to winning last year's French Open title.

After getting the flu early in the tournament, Williams was in major trouble during her three-set semifinal win over Timea Bacsinszky, wrapping herself in ice towels during changeovers, breathing heavily between points, the strain etched on her face.

''I think about it a lot, and I still don't know how I got through it,'' Williams said Friday after the draw for this year's tournament. ''My eyes were glassy, and I was just not doing well.''

After getting through that ordeal, she skipped practice on the eve of the final, preferring to sleep until the afternoon at her Paris apartment. It proved to be good choice as Williams overcame a mid-match slump to beat Lucie Safarova in three sets and clinch her 20th major title.

Bidding for her fourth Roland Garros title this year, the 34-year-old American will open against 76th-ranked Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia, then could meet Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals and third-seeded Angelique Kerber in the semifinals.

In a bid to avoid similar physical woes this year, Williams has made a firm pledge to take ''Vitamin C every night'' and to ''regulate my temperature.''

That is because the weather in Paris has been overcast and somewhat chilly the past few days, and Williams – who joked that the warm weather only arrives at Roland Garros in time for the semifinals – said she put her tracksuit hood up following one practice session because she felt the cold on her ears.

Her victory in Paris last year followed successes in 2002 and 2013, and she then followed up with the Wimbledon title in July.

Williams was then surprisingly beaten by Roberta Vinci – an Italian ranked 43rd – in the semifinals of the U.S. Open, and lost this year's Australian Open final to Kerber.

It leaves Williams still needing one more major to equal Steffi Graf's record for the Open era, which began in 1968, and three more to match Margaret Smith Court's all-time mark of 24 majors.

The French Open is the only major Williams never has won back-to-back and she enters the tournament following a confidence-boosting win at the Italian Open last weekend.

''I got the match play that I needed in Rome,'' she said.

Although it was her 70th career title, it was her first anywhere in nine months.

''Four titles and three finals is not bad for everyone else, but I'm not everyone else,'' Williams said. ''I want to win more than most people – ever.''