PARIS — Back at Roland Garros for the first time in three years, Serena Williams was hardly in the mood for nostalgia Friday.
A couple of hours after the French Open draw set up a potential quarterfinal between former No. 1 Williams and current No. 1 Justine Henin — in what would be a rematch of their contentious 2003 meeting here — the American was looking ahead.
Way ahead. As in, putting the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen on her mantle in about two weeks’ time.
“Well, right now, I think the French Open is my No. 1 priority, simply because I only have one trophy — and she’s really lonely, so she really wants a friend,” Williams said. “And the other ones have friends.”
By “the other ones,” she meant her pieces of hardware from Wimbledon (two), the U.S. Open (two) and the Australian Open (three, including this year in a remarkable run while ranked 81st).
If she is to add to her 2002 championship at this French Open, where play begins Sunday, Williams probably will need to get past the woman seen by many as an overwhelming favorite: Henin. The Belgian won this tournament three times, including the past two years.
Williams withdrew because of an ankle injury in 2005 and a knee injury in 2006.
“Here we go again,” she said. “I’m just here, hopefully, to play seven matches, and I’m feeling pretty confident in my game.”
Both were asked about their 2003 French Open semifinal, a three-set struggle marked by a mean-spirited crowd, Henin’s gamesmanship and Williams’ postmatch tears. Henin’s victory sent her on to the first of her five Grand Slam titles. Williams’ loss ended a 33-match winning streak at majors.
“Obviously,” Henin said Friday, “that’s still a special moment in my career.”
Here’s pretty much all Williams was willing to reveal when asked about that day: “Yeah, I remember that. That was a while ago.”
They have played twice since, though not in France. Williams won both matches, including the final at Key Biscayne, Fla., in March.
First up for Williams will be Tsvetana Pironkova, a 19-year-old Bulgarian who’s ranked only 95th but took Maria Sharapova into a second-set tiebreaker on clay in Istanbul this week. Henin starts with No. 67 Elena Vesnina of Russia, whose career record at Roland Garros is 0-1.
The other quarterfinals could be No. 2 Sharapova vs. No. 5 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 3 Kuznetsova vs. No. 7 Ana Ivanovic, and No. 4 Jelena Jankovic v. No. 6 Nicole Vaidisova.