Serena, who returned to the tour from maternity leave in March by making the Indian Wells third round and losing her opener in Miami, has been training for the clay season at her coach Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy in the south of France but withdrew from this week’s Madrid Open, throwing her Roland Garros participation in doubt.
But Venus says Serena is on track to make a return to action, for the first time since Miami, in Rome next week.
“I think she’s looking forward to hopefully playing in Rome… I don’t know. I don’t think there’s any reason why she can’t continue and hopefully be able to play Rome and the French Open,” Venus said at the Caja Magica ahead of her Madrid opening round against Anett Kontaveit.
Venus will be playing her first match since her quarter-final exit in Miami in March and is appearing in Madrid for the first time since 2015.
The 37-year-old is seeded No. 8 in the draw and plays Kontaveit on Saturday.
“I want to do well. I haven’t played in a month, more. So I just have to see how it goes and try to learn every match,” said Venus, who was runner-up at the Caja Magica in 2010.
She is hoping to get over any rustiness quickly in order to go far in the tournament.
“I hope pretty fast. Sometimes you have bad luck and somebody plays too well and you’re not at your best but for the most part you hope that you have some chances to get into the match and get into the tournament,” she added.
“I found the courts here to be completely different than when I came here last a few years ago for the better actually, different for the better. They actually look and feel like French Open courts in a lot of ways whereas before it felt more like Har-Tru.”
Novak Djokovic’s search for a first title since Eastbourne last June just got tougher as the Serb was handed a brutal opener in Madrid against former top-five player Kei Nishikori.
While Djokovic is 11-2 head-to-head against Nishikori, and has won his last 10 straight matches against him, the Japanese has been finding his form recently, and made the Monte Carlo final a couple of weeks ago.
Djokovic has played just 10 matches in 2018 and is 5-5 this season.
The 12-time Grand Slam champion has landed in a loaded quarter of the draw that also includes eighth-seeded David Goffin, South Korean Chung Hyeon, who ousted Djokovic from the Australian Open last January, Marrakech finalist Kyle Edmund, French No. 15 seed Lucas Pouille, talented Canadian Denis Shapovalov and third-seeded Grigor Dimitrov.
Should Djokovic get past Nishikori in round one, who faces either Edmund or Daniil Medvedev, who practiced with the Serb on Friday at the Caja Magica.
Defending champion and top seed Rafael Nadal has a bye in the first round and will begin his assault on a sixth Madrid trophy against either Frenchman Gael Monfils or a qualifier.
Nadal, who is on a 19-match winning streak on clay and has claimed his last 46 consecutive sets on the surface, will be looking to add the Madrid crown to the Monte Carlo and Barcelona ones he clinched last month.
The Spaniard is seeded to potentially face fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals, in what would be a rematch of last year’s Madrid final.
Sharing the same half of the draw are fourth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro and sixth-seeded Kevin Anderson.
Djokovic’s potential path:
F: Nadal/Del Potro
Other notable first rounds:
Pablo Carreno-Busta (ESP x9) v Borna Coric
Richard Gasquet (FRA) v Tomas Berdych (CZE x14)
Lucas Pouille (FRA x15) v Benoit Paire (FRA)
Simona Halep will be looking to become the first WTA three-time champion at the Madrid Open but standing in her way are a string of dangerous opponents bidding to halt her 12-match winning streak at the Caja Magica.
The world No. 1 and two-time defending champion in the Spanish capital opens her campaign on Sunday against Russian lefty Ekaterina Makarova.
Halep, who fell tamely to CoCo Vandeweghe in the Stuttgart quarter-finals last week, has been dealing with an upper leg injury but says she’s ready to take on the world’s best in Madrid.
“I’m okay, I recovered, I had a lot of treatment coming here, so I feel good,” the Romanian top seed told reporters on Friday.
“I was practicing hard these days. I’ve been here since Tuesday so I had time to adjust myself here, to adapt, I’m all good.”
Halep will face one of two Belgians in the second round, either Alison van Uytvanck or Elise Mertens, before a possible third round against American No. 13 seed Madison Keys.
Sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova, ex-world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and US Open champion Sloane Stephens, who is seeded No. 9 in Madrid, are all potential quarter-final opponents for Halep.
“Expectations are always there, but I don’t feel the pressure,” assured Halep.
“I feel I’m ready, I feel that it’s going to be tough, for sure every match I will play. But if I enjoy and if I’m happy on court then it’s going to be fine.”
Home favourite and No. 3 seed Garbine Muguruza and eighth-seeded Venus Williams could collide in the quarters and share the same half of the draw with Halep.
Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion, has struggled in Madrid in the past and has never made it beyond the second round here. She has only ever won three main draw matches at the Caja Magica but is looking to finally do well on home soil.
The 24-year-old retired from her opening match in Stuttgart last week, citing a lower back problem.
“It was a shame because I didn’t want to start the clay season with a retirement but I just felt pain in my lower back and I took a few days with the doctor to recover and I’m happy that I’m feeling much better here in Madrid,” said Muguruza on Friday.
“Historically it’s a tournament where I’ve never played very well but I’m always very excited to be back because it means a lot to me to play in front of the crowd. I’m just excited to go out there and perform better than previous years.”
Muguruza takes on China’s Peng Shuai in the first round and could play 14th-seeded Daria Kasatkina in the third round.
Petra Kvitova or Venus Williams are possible quarter-final rivals for Muguruza if she makes it that far.
“I think first of all it’s a Premier Mandatory, there are no byes, right away you’re playing the best in the world. There’s a little bit of altitude, there’s nothing really specifically, it’s just something that isn’t happening and I still don’t know why,” said Muguruza of why she finds this tournament so tricky.
The other half of the draw features Australian Open champion and No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki, who was handed a daunting opener against Australia’s Daria Gavrilova.
The Dane is drawn to possibly square off with French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals and could get seventh-seeded Caroline Garcia or fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina in the semis.
Ostapenko kicks off her campaign on Saturday against Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu, while Svitolina is also in action on opening day against Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.
Projected quarter-finals (by seed):
Simona Halep (ROU x1) v Karolina Pliskova(CZE x6)
Garbine Muguruza (ESP x3) v Venus Williams (USA x8)
Caroline Garcia (FRA x7) v Elina Svitolina (UKR x4)
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT x5) v Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x2)
Serena Williams (USA)
Angelique Kerber (GER)
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
Laura Siegemund (GER)
Lucie Safarova (CZE)
Catherine Bellis (USA)
Timea Bacsinszky (SUI)
Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)