Serena Williams is back.
The greatest female tennis player of all time made her return to grand slam competition on Tuesday at Roland Garros, and made it clear she is still a force to be reckoned with on the court.
In a straight-set match, an unseeded Williams dispatched of Kristyna Pliskova 7-6, 6-4 in the first round of the French Open.
Williams, who has never shied away from making a sartorial statement on court and would return to the number one ranking for the ninth time in her career should this latest comeback go as planned, appropriately wore a catsuit on court for her big return.
‘All the moms out here that had a tough pregnancy and had to come back and try to be fierce in the middle of everything, that’s what this represents,’ said Williams after the match.
‘You can’t beat a catsuit, right?’
The catsuit could bring good luck too, as a previous version by Puma was debuted by Williams at the 2002 US Open en route to her first of two Serena Slams.
Rolling at Roland: Serena Williams defeated Kristyna Pliskova 7-6, 6-4 in the first round of the French Open on Tuesday
Greatest in Garros: It was an upset of sorts for Williams, who is currently ranked 453rd on the tour while Pliskova is 70th in the world
Wham bam thank you ma’am: It was not one of Williams’ greatest matches, but she proved that her serve is still lethal and looked to be in better shape then she had been earlier this year
Nine lives: Williams, who would returns to the number one ranking for the ninth time if all goes as planned, wore a catsuit for her grand slam return
It was an upset of sorts for Williams, who is currently ranked 453rd on the tour while Pliskova is 70th in the world.
She is the twin sister of sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova, who in 2016 joined the very short list of players to defeat both Williams sisters in the same tournament at the US Open.
Williams’ ranking plummeted as she sat out the past year due to her pregnancy and later maternity leave.
The fact that the athlete who holds almost every single Open Era record will now have to once again fight her way back to the top has been a topic of controversy for many, though Williams has remained largely quiet on the subject.
Among those who have voiced their support for a change in the rules is Ivanka Trump, whose concern for the relationship between mothers and their children has been called into question by some given her father’s immigration policy.
‘Two years has been a really long time,’ said Williams in her post-match interview on court Philippe Chatrier.
‘But I trained really hard on the clay, and I feel good, and I’m just happy to have won a match here. And I just take it a day at a time.’
It was not one of Williams’ greatest matches, but she proved that her serve is still lethal and looked to be in better shape then she had been earlier this year.
She elected to sit out the warm-up tournaments prior to the French after defeats to her sister Venus at the BNP Paribas Open and up-and-comer Naomi Osaka in the first round of the Miami Open
It has now been over a year since Williams last entered a grand slam, winning the 2017 Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant with her first child.
And it has been just nine months since Serena gave birth to Alexis Ohanian, saying from the start of her pregnancy that her goal was to get back on tour – but not until she knew that she could win.
Among those cheering Williams on were husband Alexis Ohanian, who has been by Williams’ side since the two first met three years ago just before the French Open in Rome.
The two have been in Europe for the past two weeks, and last weekend stopped by a friend’s wedding in London.
And while Williams has been off the court for much of the past 18 months, there has been no lack of excitement in her life.
‘Causing a racket: All the moms out here that had a tough pregnancy and had to come back and try to be fierce in the middle of everything, that’s what this represents,’ said Williams after the match
Meow-ser: ‘You can’t beat a catsuit, right?’ Williams said to the crowd in her post match interview on Philippe Chartier
She and Ohanian had only just announced their engagement in 2016 when Serena learned she was pregnant.
Ohanian did this by whisking Williams way to Rome as a tribute to their first meeting.
The pair later detailed their romance in an interview with Vanity Fair, which began when Ohanian refused to move from a table Serena had wanted to use for her group while they ate breakfast.
Williams shared the news on Reddit by posting a poem, writing: ‘At the same table we first met by chance / This time he made it not by chance / But by choice / Down on one knee / He said 4 words / And I said yes.’
Baby Alexis came in September and in November they married in New Orleans.
Prior to the 2017 Australian Open the two did not realize that Williams was pregnant, and she initially refused to even take a pregnancy test when her friend recommended it just three days before the start of the tournament last January.
The test was positive. As were the five subsequent ones she took that night.
Williams’ initial response was shock and concern as to how she was going to be able to play starting Monday, and win Wimbledon in July, which she said had been her big goal for the the year.
That first hurdle proved to be no real challenger for Williams, who spent the following two weeks handily dispatching of each and every competitor she face down in Melbourne, ending with a win in the finals over her sister Venus.
The boxcar children: Williams’ husband Alex Ohanian, her agent Jill Smoller, her sister Isha, and her mother Oracene Price take up residence in what may be their perch for the next two weeks
Williams’ older sister Venus was one of the few who knew she was pregnant at that time, a secret she kept private however for weeks.
She shared video of herself practicing throughout her pregnancy, and there is just one more record she needs to break.
‘It’s hard to figure out what the end of your tennis career should look like,’ said Williams.
‘I used to think I’d want to retire when I have kids, but no. I’m definitely coming back. Walking out there and hearing the crowd, it may seem like nothing. But there’s no better feeling in the world’
She then added: ‘Obviously, if I have a chance to go out there and catch up with Margaret, I am not going to pass that up. If anything, this pregnancy has given me a new power.’
The ‘Margaret’ she refers to is Margaret Court, who has won 24 Grand Slam championships as opposed to Williams’ 23 in women’s singles.
It is a record of lesser importance than the 22 wins Steffi Graf had which, like Williams’ were all in the open era.
Court won most of her championships before 1968 and 11 came at the Australian Open during a time when the top players did not compete in the tournament.
Williams will now have a chance to tie that record should she win in Paris , only this time with Alexis Jr watching on and not in her stomach like last year.