Serena Williams makes eye-catching return at French Open

Serena Williams made an eye-catching return to the grand slam scene yesterday with victory over Kristyna Pliskova in the French Open first round.

The former world number one had not played a major tournament since winning a 23rd title at the 2017 Australian Open, having given birth to her daughter in September.

Her first grand slam action in over 15 months had the Paris fashionistas in a whirl as she walked on court in a black bodysuit with a bright pink belt.

Afterwards Williams revealed: “I feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess, kind of.

“I’m always living in a fantasy world. I always wanted to be a super-hero, and it’s kind of my way of being a super-hero. I feel like a super-hero when I wear it.”

Understandably, this was not quite a super-hero performance. Williams is short of match sharpness and the footwork is not quite there yet.

 

But the 36-year-old’s serve remains a formidable weapon, helping her take the first set after a tie-break.

The pair exchanged breaks in the second set, with Williams grabbing the decisive one in the seventh game before sealing a 7-6 (7/4) 6-4 victory — not bad going for her first match on clay in two years.

Maria Sharapova lost six games in a row and then won the next six as she got her return to Roland Garros off to a successful start.

The Russian appeared to be cruising at 6-1 3-1 ahead but Holland’s Richel Hogenkamp suddenly had her on the ropes, taking the second set and racing 3-0 ahead in the decider.

But Sharapova rediscovered her game in the nick of time to reel off half a dozen games for a 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory.

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza got the better of Svetlana Kuznetsova in a first-round meeting of two former winners.

After a 90-minute rain interruption at 5-5 in the first set Muguruza, the 2016 winner, blew 2009 champion Kuznetsova away in the tie-break and went on to win 7-6 (7/0) 6-2.

Caroline Garcia of France, the seventh seed, took just 58 minutes to dispatch China’s Yingying Duan 6-1 6-0.

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal admitted he may have taken it a little too easy as he began his bid for an 11th French Open title.

Nadal’s latest Roland Garros campaign is up and running after a straight-sets — but far from straightforward — win over Simone Bolelli.

The Spaniard — top seed, world number one, reigning champion and red-hot favourite for another Paris crown — had to return yesterday morning to finish his first-round clash against the lucky loser from Italy.

Nadal had taken the first two sets in typically ominous style but then trailed 3-0 in the third when the rain came.

Nadal broke straight back on the resumption but Bolelli did not let him have things his own way, threatening another break at 4-3.

Bolelli then forced four set points in a marathon tie-break but the 16-time grand slam winner got over the line 6-4 6-3 7-6 (11/9).

“It was a difficult match, because he played so aggressive and very well,” said Nadal.

“I resisted, you know, it’s always difficult to play against players that want to hit every ball so hard, and even more if it’s the first round.

“He played well, so well, playing with lots of risk but having success with all of the risk that he took.

“Yeah, I played a match that I have to play more aggressively, I know. But it was difficult to play so aggressive being in the first round and against a player who really decided to play that strong.”



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