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Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Updated: May 20, 7:49 AM ET
Can a Williams sister produce the Big "W"?

2. Can Serena or Venus win?

Maybe the fans at Roland Garros will lighten up this year, showing the Williams sisters a little more love. After all, Serena has an apartment in Paris, on the Left Bank, and she's working on her French. Venus also is studying the language.

"Cest heure pour smallville!!!:) Jusqu'a demain," Serena tweeted Monday, shortly after landing in the City of Light. (Translated: "It's time for Smallville. Until tomorrow.")

Is it time for a second French Open title, allowing Serena to deliver the winner's speech, a la Jim Courier, in francais?

Serena returned from a knee injury in enough time to get some clay-court matches under her belt, in Rome and Madrid. Right off the bat the 12-time Grand Slam champion was under pressure, jostling with drop-shot artist Timea Bacsinszky and letting the doe-eyed Swiss know she wasn't too impressed.

Serena doesn't let leads slip often, but she blew a big one against Jelena Jankovic in the Rome semis and squandered a one-set advantage versus the temperamental Nadia Petrova in Madrid's third round. Whether it was due to the rust, or more serious than that, lacking a killer instinct on her least productive surface -- Serena failed to put away Svetlana Kuznetsova, not known for her mental toughness, in last year's French Open quarterfinals -- we'll soon find out.

Serena, who's won every other major at least thrice, is certainly one of the shrinking number of serious contenders, joined by Venus, Jankovic, Justine Henin and Samantha Stosur. Yet Henin, riding a 21-match winning streak at the French, isn't the confident, pre-comeback Henin.

Venus' great play (26-4 in 2010), coupled with dips from her rivals, means she's back at No. 2 in the rankings for the first time since May 2003, also the last time the siblings were 1-2.

Worryingly, however, Venus loses her way at crunch time away from grass. It happened at the Australian Open in January, in Rome against Jankovic (6-0, 6-1) and in the second set against slugging Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai in the Madrid finale. There's a sizable difference between winning four or five matches at a tournament, and seven. One bad one is all it takes.

History is working against Venus. At nearly 30, she'd become the oldest first-time women's winner at the French in the Open era.