LONDON – Now that she’s “Mrs. Williams,” per the Wimbledon chair umpire, now that she’s a mother, now that she is back on tour, Serena Williams is ready to rediscover her full complement of shots and full ability to dominate.
“Not only do I expect to win,” she said Monday after picking up a victory in her first match at the All England Club in two years, “I expect to win emphatically.”
Williams found herself in a bit of a jam against 105th-ranked Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, down by a break in the second set on a windy afternoon. And then, a five-game run and 25 minutes later, Williams had completed the 7-5, 6-3 result.
“I have such high expectations of myself,” said Williams, whose 23 Grand Slam singles championships include seven at Wimbledon, so she was seeded 25th even though her ranking is 181st following an extended absence. “I don’t go out there expecting to ‘do well’ or ‘see what happens.’ That’s just not me.”
Day 1 at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament featured some mild surprises, such as U.S. Open champion and French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens’ third first-round exit in the past five majors, and losses by No. 5 Elina Svitolina and No. 6 Grigor Dimitrov (to three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka).
Also drawing attention was eight-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer’s new clothing sponsorship, during his easy-as-can-be victory at Centre Court.
Nothing feels as significant in tennis today, though, as what Williams does – because of what she’s accomplished in the past and because of what she’s trying to accomplish in the present, with a baby in tow. Not that she’s unique: Other mothers who won Monday included 57th-ranked Tatjana Maria of Germany, who beat Svitolina 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-1; former No. 1 and two-time Australian Open titlist Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and 120th-ranked qualifier Evgeniya Rodina of Russia.
“The tougher balance, for me, is to be able to spend time away from my son and be OK with taking, sometimes, time for myself, which is a struggle sometimes, because I really want to spend every second with him,” said Azarenka, who faces No. 7 seed Karolina Pliskova next.
Williams has won 15 matches in a row at Wimbledon, a streak that encompasses titles in 2015 and 2016, although Williams said that hadn’t occurred to her until a reporter mentioned it. The 36-year-old American sat out the tournament last year while pregnant; she gave birth to a daughter in September and married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in November (hence the change from “Miss Williams” over the arena microphone).
“Almost,” Rus lamented later, “like a double-break.”
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.