Catwoman: Serena Williams on her way to victory over Kristyna Pliskova - AFP / CHRISTOPHE SIMON
30 May 2018: Serena Williams made a winning return to Grand Slam tennis which was as memorable as her body-hugging black catsuit when she reached the Roland Garros second round on Tuesday.
The 36-year-old downed Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 to register her first victory at the majors since her 2017 Australian Open triumph.
"I missed Roland Garros so much, I missed the battle," Williams, the 2002, 2013 and 2015 champion, said after playing her first clay court match since finishing runner-up to Garbine Muguruza in the 2016 final on the same Philippe Chatrier Court.
"It's been two years since I played here. It wasn't easy but I have been training really hard. I feel good and just so happy to be back here."
As Williams -- and her eye-catching outfit -- grabbed the headlines, there were wins but a few scares for 10-time champion Rafael Nadal and two-time winner Maria Sharapova.
Nadal racked up his 80th win in Paris by seeing off Italian lucky loser Simone Bolelli 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (11/9).
Sharapova, playing the tournament for the first time in three years after missing 2016 through a doping ban and last year when she was refused a wildcard, battled from a 0-3 deficit in the final set to beat Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.
Williams, the winner of an Open era record 23 Grand Slam titles, had arrived at Roland Garros with just four matches under her belt in 2018, the last of which was in Miami in March.
Having been off the tour to give birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian in September, many in the sport wondered if she would still be a contender at the majors especially with her ranking at 451.
However, she gave a stinging response to the doubters on Tuesday even if her win over the 70th-ranked Pliskova tested the American.
Arriving on Philippe Chatrier Court in a black catsuit, offset with a pinkish-red waistband, Williams trailed 0/3 in the first-set tiebreaker.
The three-time champion champion then fell 0-2 behind in the second set and was forced to retrieve another break to level at 4-4.
As she served for the match, she even slipped into the net, righting herself sporting an embarrassed smile.
She saved three break points in an eight-minute-plus 10th game before taking victory, setting up a second-round clash with Australia's Ashleigh Barty.
The only consolation for Pliskova, the twin sister of world number six Karolina, was finishing with 15 aces, the most hit against Williams since such records began to be kept in 2008.
Leave a Comment