Serena Williams will end a three-month pause with a return to tennis as eighth seed at this week’s Rome Masters.
The 39-year-old last played in an Australian Open semi-final against Naomi Osaka and will have to make a running start on the clay of the Foro Italico with the French Open starting in three weeks.
She owns four titles in the capital, the first in 2002 and the most recent five years ago.
Williams has kept a low profile in recent months, but has spent the past few weeks training in France with coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
Nevertheless, the winner of 23 Grand Slam titles is making no predictions about her 2021 dirt debut in what she calls her favourite European city.
“I’m pretty fresh. But at the same time, it’s good to start fresh but it’s also hard to start fresh,” she said on Monday.
“I’m in Rome, I’m going to have some good matches here hopefully, and then I will be at another Grand Slam which always makes me excited.
“Either way I’ll be ready.”
When she last competed here in 2019, the injured Williams gave sister Venus a second-round walkover win.
The seed said that playing in this week’s crowd-free ambience will not be ideal, but it beats any other COVID-safe alternative.
“I’ve been getting used to the crowds not being there, so in a way it’s kind of – it’s a different experience.
“We can always go back and say, ‘I remember that time we had to play without a crowd or whatever, that was really interesting.’
“I just look at everything as an experience. It will be hard without the Roman fans, because they are special, but it’s always something.”