n her first Grand Slam match in nearly 16 months, Serena Williams defeated Kristyna Pliskova, 7-6 (4), 6-4, in the first round of the French Open on Tuesday.
Much has changed in Williams’s life since she last played on one of the game’s biggest stages, winning the 2017 Australian Open.
She is now married and the mother of an infant daughter. Ranked No. 1 when she left the game, she arrived at Roland Garros as an unseeded player after playing only four singles matches on tour this season.
But her desire for more tennis success was palpable on Tuesday, as was her desire to make a strong sartorial impression. She took to the red clay on the Philippe Chatrier Court in a form-fitting black bodysuit that was reminiscent of the black catsuit she wore at the 2002 United States Open, which she won en route to four major singles titles in a row.
After losing to her sister Venus Williams in the third round at the BNP Paribas Open and to Naomi Osaka in the first round of the Miami Open earlier this year, Williams chose to focus on training instead of playing more tournaments. She traveled to southern France in April with her daughter, Olympia, in tow to train at the academy operated by her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.
Despite initially planning to play clay-court events in Madrid and Rome, Williams withdrew from those tournaments and arrived in Paris having not played a competitive clay-court match since the final of the 2016 French Open.
But she showed flashes of fine form in her straight-set but hardly straightforward victory over Pliskova, the unseeded and left-handed twin sister of Karolina Pliskova, the No. 6 seed here.
“Two years has been a really long time,” Williams, 36, said in her on-court interview on Tuesday. “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.”
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