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Williams out to break French Open record

Serena Williams

Serena Williams appears well-placed to become the first player to defend the women's singles title at the French Open since 2007.

The second grand slam of 2014 takes place in Paris through late May and early June and gets under way on Sunday, with American Williams entering the tournament in good form.

The 32-year-old won the WTA Internazionali d'Italia on Sunday, thrashing Italian Sara Errani 6-3 6-0 in the final.

Victory in Rome has proved a good omen in recent years, with Maria Sharapova and Williams – in 2012 and 2013 respectively – both going on to triumph at Roland Garros after claiming victory in the event.

Williams' only other French Open success came in 2002, a year in which she also won in the lead-up in the Italian capital.

She surprisingly bowed out of the Australian Open in the fourth round earlier this year, to Ana Ivanovic, but is determined to bounce back and is confident of doing so due to a relaxed mindset.

"Usually I'm like, 'Oh my God, I have to defend (a title).' This time I'm going to be cool with it," Williams said.

"I've been feeling that way for a while now. I think that's a good way to feel, since I have so many titles that I won last year."

Victory would give Williams 18 grand slam successes, hauling her level with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

No player has won more than Steffi Graf's 22 grand slam titles in the Open era.

Before Williams' success last year, she had not reached the last four of the tournament since 2003, which is sure to give her rivals hope.

Also encouraging for them is the fact that seven different women have won the tournament since 2007.

World number two Li Na triumphed in 2011 and the Chinese player also claimed this year's Australian Open title.

Victories on clay in both Stuttgart and Madrid will mean Sharapova heads to Paris in good spirits, with the world number eight also possessing a good record at the French Open.

Russian Sharapova – who won the 2012 tournament against Errani – also made last year's final before losing to Williams.

Serbian Ivanovic, finalist in 2007 and winner one year later, is also sure to be in contention, but world number five Victoria Azarenka misses out due to a foot injury.

Romanian Simona Halep should be quietly confident about her chances after storming to fourth in the world rankings.

The 22-year-old is comfortable on clay and made the final in Madrid earlier this month and won in Qatar in February.

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