Indian Wells - Serena Williams is through taking baby steps
on the comeback trail after the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia in
The 23-time Grand Slam singles winner is ramping up her
return this week by playing in Indian Wells, her first WTA Tour event since she
won the 2017 Australian Open.
After a couple of exhibitions and a Davis Cup doubles match,
Williams is eager to hit with the big guns as she opens her campaign on
Thursday night against Zarina Diyas.
"I'm ready to just jump in and get started and see what
happens," the 36-year-old American told the Wall Street Journal on
Wednesday. "Obviously I'm going to have a few hiccups, I would imagine,
and I'm ready for that."
Earlier this week she played one tiebreaker in an exhibition
tournament in New York. In February she played a doubles rubber for the US Fed
Cup team, and took part in another exhibition in Abu Dhabi in late December.
Indian Wells features a star-studded women's field in a
tournament that looks wide open.
Many of the players on Wednesday said they welcomed Serena's
"We are all going to look to see how she is
playing," said reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza.
"She is one of the best players so it is good that she
is back, especially after being a mom. It is great."
French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko said Serena's
contribution to women's tennis cannot be overstated.
"She is an amazing athlete," said sixth seeded
Latvian Ostapenko. "She is a very special and what she has done for
women's tennis is huge."
But Czech fifth seed Karolina Pliskova said it is going to
take more than one WTA event for Serena to get back in championship form.
"Obviously it is tough to get back even for a champion
like her," Pliskova said on Wednesday. "I don't have that experience
with having a baby, but I think it changes the body and the mindset a lot.
"We will see in the first round. For sure she is going
to be a little bit nervous. I don't know what kind of shape she is in and if
she was practising or not practising.
"She can play good tennis again but I don't know if it
is going to be at this tournament maybe it will take her a while."
The first clues to Williams' form will be displayed in
Thursday's night game against Diyas.
Serena's first match in Indian Wells will be Thursday night
against Diyas, the 24-year-old world number 53 from Kazakhstan.
Serena boycotted this event, with her sister Venus, for 14
years after she was booed in the 2001 final. She returned in 2015 but had to
pull out before her semi-final against Simona Halep with a knee problem.
Times have changed for the most successful female player of
the Open era. If you asked her 10 years ago if she envisioned herself playing
after the age of 30, Serena would have replied no.
But that was before she started collecting Grand Slam titles
like others collect antique furniture or vinyl records.
"There's nobody's rule that says you have to retire at
30," she told The Wall Street Journal. "All the best players in the
world now are well into their 30s, so you know, technology is better at
enabling athletes to play a longer life."