Serena Williams went for a striking catsuit look as she returned to Grand Slam action with victory in the first round of the French Open.
Dressed in a figure-hugging black outfit with a pink band around her waist, the 36-year-old American saw off world No 70 Kristyna Pliskova 7-6, 6-4 in an hour and 45 minutes.
While clearly not at the kind of physical level that has brought her 23 Grand Slam titles, Williams showed that a winner’s mentality remains intact as she came through a stern examination after weeks of preparation on the clay.
Serena Williams made an emphatic return to the court with victory over Kristyna Pliskova
The 36-year-old saw off world No 70 Pliskova 7-6, 6-4 to mark an incredible comeback
Williams congratulated her opponent after getting the better of her at Roland Garros
Williams took to Philippe-Chatrier court wearing a black Nike catsuit on Tuesday
Williams was appearing at a Grand Slam for the first time since winning 2017 Australian Open
Williams proved her class still endures after coming back to the court in winning fashion
Playing her first Major since the birth of daughter Alexis Olympia on September 1, she is determined to show that the competitive fire still burns bright.
She will struggle to win the French Open on this evidence, but the medium-term goal will be to mount a serious challenge at Wimbledon, and that may well be within range.
‘I’m very happy,’ said Williams. ‘ She played really well, she made a lot of aces (15). Two years has been a long time but I trained really hard on the clay. I’m taking it a day at a time.’
Pliskova is the twin sister of number six seed Karolina, a solid player but not as good as her sibling and someone who has never won a match at Roland Garros before.
Williams had not played in a Grand Slam since last year’s Australian Open, and her only appearances at all since then as a singles player had seen her win two matches at Indian Wells and then lose in the first round of the Miami Open.
She had deliberately held back from a return, skipping Rome and Madrid, in order to make sure she was ready to compete on what is her least natural surface, training at the academy belonging to her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.
Williams is bidding to win her fourth French Open title after making her comeback on Tuesday
The 36-year-old American won the Australian Open in 2017 while eight weeks pregnant
Williams celebrates a point against her No 70-ranked opponent Pliskova in the opening set
Williams with her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian in an image posted to her Instagram
Her first point was a dropshot to chase, and it was the initial indication that her movement was definitely improved from her performances in America.
Pliskova illustrated that she no mug, and on the only break point before the tiebreak slammed an ace down the middle. Williams’s first serve had been impregnable up to that point, losing only one point on it, although the second delivery was still vulnerable.
The American went 0-3 down in the tiebreak, unable to reach one of the ten aces that Pliskova managed in the opening set, but roared back with six straight points to eventually take it 7-4.
Williams poses alongside her husband Alex Ohanian and daughter Alexis Olympian
While improved, her movement was still on the cumbersome side and she was also blowing hard after the some of the longer rallies, which contributed to her going 0-2 down in the second.
That fearsome determination, however, was reminiscent of the great champion at her best as she fought back to go 3-2 up before being broken again.
Having got her nose in front once more, she served for the match at 5-4 and made something of a hash of it, messing up a dropshot on her first match point. Again she needed to battle hard to close it out but managed at the second time of asking when Pliskova slammed a backhand in the net.