ROME (AP) — The Williams sisters are making another run for Olympic gold.
The winningest team in Olympic tennis history has entered the doubles draw at this week’s Italian Open to kick off their preparations for the Rio de Janeiro Games.
It will mark the first time that Serena and Venus Williams have played doubles together since the 2014 U.S. Open.
“Obviously we would love to play in the Olympics. I love playing with Venus. She’s the best partner, and hopefully she feels the same about me. We make a great team,” Serena said Sunday. “Hopefully we’ll be able to at least win a couple of matches here, just shake off the dust and keep playing.”
The Williams sisters already have three golds in doubles, from the 2000, 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Each sister has also won a gold in singles — Venus at the 2000 Sydney Games and Serena at the 2012 London Games.
Having obtained a wild card entry in Rome, the sisters open against Andreja Klepac and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia and could meet top-seeded Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza in the final.
“The doubles teams have gotten really good, so we look forward to it,” Serena said.
Serena added that she had not been asked by any of the men to play mixed doubles in Rio yet, and is not really focusing on that possibility.
“It’s just one at a time. Hopefully I can be chosen for the doubles. That would be the best opportunity,” she said. “And then after that we’ll see.”
Having missed the Madrid Open due to a fever, top-ranked Serena is also hoping to get her singles game back on track.
“I wasn’t feeling really good for the past several weeks and even the past few days,” Serena said. “But right now I’m better. I will see how I’m doing when I step on the court for the first time, but overall I think I’m feeling a lot better.”
Having had her attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam derailed by Roberta Vinci at the U.S. Open in September, Serena could meet the Italian again in the semifinals here.
A 21-time Grand Slam winner in singles, Serena hasn’t won a title since a hard-court event in Cincinnati last August. She was beaten by Angelique Kerber in this year’s Australian Open final then fell to Victoria Azarenka in the title-match in Indian Wells, Calif. In her only other appearance this year, Serena lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round of the Miami Open.
Given a first-round bye, Serena’s opening opponent in Rome will be either 51st-ranked Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany or 35th-ranked Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia.
“It’s always nice when Serena is in the draw. It’s tougher, for sure, but the challenge, it’s also bigger,” said Kerber, who is seeded second. “It’s good for the tournament. It’s good for the fans that she is playing always in the big events.”
Kerber said she plans on playing doubles at the Olympics with Andrea Petkovic. The Rio tennis program runs from Aug. 6-14 on hard courts.
Defending Rome champion Maria Sharapova is out awaiting a verdict in her doping case.
Williams is aiming for her fourth title at the Foro Italico — the last big warmup for the French Open, which starts in two weeks.
Playing only one clay-court tournament before Paris isn’t a concern.
“Every year I only play one tournament before Australia — done OK there,” Serena said, referring to her six Grand Slam singles titles in Melbourne. “So I’d like to think positive. I don’t play anything thinking I’m going to lose. I always just play thinking I’m going to do the best I can. For me, that’s winning.”
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