By Mike McIntyre
Photos by Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Playing in her first Grand Slam match since winning the Australian Open 16 months ago, Serena Williams defeated Krystyna Pliskova 7-6(4), 6-4. Clad in an impressive and attention-grabbing black jumpsuit, the 23-time Slam winner worked her way through her first clay court match since the French Open two years ago.
In the hour and forty-five minute match, Serena was hitting her first serve in at a 55% rate while winning 80% of those points. Pliskova for her part served at 60% effectiveness on her first serve yet only managed to win 70% of those points. Pliskova had twice as many break point opportunities on Serena's serve but only could convert on 2 of 8 of those chances while the American was a sharp 3 out of 4 to break her opponents serve.
Serena was actually out-aced by Pliskova by a 15-13 margin but as she continues to find her groove back on the tennis court I would expect that to be a rare occurrence. Credit to Pliskova who was ripping her serves in at only 3 kph less than Serena on her average serve speed during the match. Though it is the other Pliskova twin - Karolina - who is ranked in the top-ten, Krystyna has been playing well of late and came into the match with a 10-5 record on clay this spring.
Serena spoke about the impressive serving display that the two put on in her post match press conference.
"I knew that after her first game of serving that I said, ok I have to serve really well today, I have to be really on my game serving-wise because there's not going to be a tremendous amount of rallies..."
The victory almost seemed to be overshadowed by the reaction on social media to Serena's eye-catching outfit that she revealed was as much about practicality as anything else. The returning tennis legend referenced in on her Twitter account as well after the match and gave credit to Mom's everywhere who have gone through challenging pregnancies.
"It is definitely a little functionality to it. I have been wearing pants in general a lot when I play so I can keep the blood circulation going," Serena revealed. "I feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess kind of -- queen from Wakanda maybe."
The coolest piece to the entire ensemble might have been the shoes that seemed perhaps overshadowed by the overall stunning look that she pulled-off on Tuesday with the catsuit.
Fashion aside, the victory puts Serena at a 3-2 record in her return to the WTA since her 14 month absence while pregnant and becoming a new mother. Things won't get any easier in the next round as she faces hard-hitting Ashleigh Barty of Australia, a player with a more similar style of game to Serena.
Barty won her opening round against Natalia Vikhlyansetva 6-3, 6-1 but that match likely offered very little in terms of preparing to face the greatest female tennis player of all-time. The pair have played once before - at the 2014 Australian Open - with Serena prevailing 6-2, 6-1. Barty was only 17 at the time, so the result doesn't hold any weight to it. The Australian has come a long way since then and has had some strong moments in 2018 including being a finalist towards the start of the season in Sydney and more recently when she made the semi-finals of a clay court tournament in Strasbourg where she had to retire down a set due to a sore back.
The big hitting second round match is slated for Thursday in Paris. We'll see if Serena is once again sporting her catsuit and can channel her inner superhero as she progresses through her inspiring comeback to tennis.