LONDON: There was something old, something new and something blue on show on Monday as Serena Williams swapped the skin-tight catsuit that caused a stir in Paris for a more conservative look on her return to Wimbledon for the first time since becoming a mum.
The American, who missed last year’s tournament while pregnant with daughter Alexis Olympia, proved she had lost none of her old warrior skills as she overcame gusting winds and a tumble on Court One’s manicured lawn to outclass tricky opponent Arantxa Rus 7-5 6-3 in the first round.
Apart from adjusting to her role “as a working mom”, the seven-times champion also had to get used to hearing something “new” as she was addressed as “Mrs Williams” for the first time at the grasscourt major following her marriage to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian last year.
But before the umpire could declare “Game, set and match Mrs Williams”, the 36-year-old produced 29 unforced errors and needed six match points to finish off her 105th-ranked Dutch opponent.
Monday’s outing was only her eighth match since giving birth and according to the WTA rankings, she is only the 181st best player in the world.
However, the 23-times Grand Slam champion is considered by many – including herself – as the woman to beat at these championships.
“I have such high expectations of myself. I don’t go out there expecting to do well, see what happens. That’s just not me,” the 36-year-old, who wore flesh-coloured compression tights to help with blood clots during the match, told reporters.
“Not only do I expect to win, I expect to win emphatically.”
While Monday’s victory was far from emphatic, it did give Williams, who is seeded 25th despite her lowly ranking, a 15th successive win at Wimbledon as she also triumphed at the All England Club in her last two appearances in 2015 and 2016.
The contest also gave her 88 minutes of court time to test out her serving arm. Four weeks ago her French Open run came to an abrupt end after she was forced to pull out of her fourth-round showdown with Maria Sharapova due to an injury that impeded her service motion.
“I took a lot of time off with serving. I didn’t serve at all. I just started serving when I got here,” said Williams, who will next face Bulgarian qualifier Viktoriya Tomova.
“As time will go on, it will get better. My arm is doing much better. My serve is a little playing catch-up, but it’s doing better than I could have hoped, to be honest. It’s all on the right track.”
And what about the something blue that was spotted on a blustery Court One? Well, that had nothing to do with Williams as it was Rus who came out swinging, albeit in a losing cause, with a blue-framed racket.