Williams to play in Parma after early Rome exit

Rome (AFP) –


Serena Williams has been given a wild card to play in next week's WTA tournament in Parma after her premature exit from the Italian Open, her entourage told AFP on Thursday.

Williams crashed out in the second round on Wednesday, her first match in nearly three months since her semi-final defeat in the Australian Open.

The 39-year-old will continue to warm-up on clay at the Emilia-Romagna Open which starts on Sunday before the French Open in Paris on May 30.

Williams needs one more Grand Slam title to match Australian great Margaret Court's record of 24 major trophies.

"It's tough to have a first match on clay," said Williams after losing 7-6 (8/6), 7-5 to Argentina's Nadia Podoroska, 24, a surprise semi-finalist at last year's Roland Garros.

"But I usually don't take this much time off on a clay court season, so usually I play like a Charleston or a Madrid or somewhere.

"So my season doesn't usually start this late on clay. But the training isn't for nothing, so I know that it's just a matter of time.

"Maybe I do need a few more matches, so I'm going to try to figure that out with my coach and my team and see what we would like to do," added the four-time Rome winner.