Serena Williams might not be ready to come back right now — but she will be
The tennis star is learning how to juggle being a wife, a mother and professional athlete. But there’s no doubt she’ll dominate all three.
Six days ago, Serena Williams stepped out with her husband to attend the royal wedding decked out in a fitted Versace dress.
Williams, who bowed out of the Italian Open to attend the Meghan Markle/Prince Harry wedding, looked stunning.
Twelve days ago Williams shared, via Instagram, a photo of her poolside holding her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., who looks absolutely adorable while rocking a mohawk.
Williams — who had backed out of the Madrid Open, which was being played at the time she posted that picture — looked as if there was no other place she would have rather been than with her daughter.
That’s all to say that Williams has been rather busy in the weeks entering the French Open, which begins Monday. And, yes, tennis has also been a part of her life as she’s also spent extensive time training for her first competitive tennis match in two months — and her first Grand Slam tennis tournament since winning the 2017 Australian Open 16 months ago.
So what can we expect to see from Williams, who’ll play the French Open despite not having played a clay-court match since losing in the final there in May 2016?
Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, told WTATennis.com last week that Williams will be ready for the French Open with the expectations “to win it.”
But her lead-up to the year’s second Grand Slam tells us that Williams’ return to championship-level dominance might keep her without a major tournament title for the first time since she was blanked in 2011.
After her royal wedding experience, Williams appeared at Roland Garros on Monday in an attempt to get ready for next week. The takeaway from the photo released by the tournament’s Twitter page is no different from the assessment of Williams from every event she’s played this year.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 21, 2018
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion is far from fit.
That was clear just over three months ago when Williams played doubles with her sister Venus during the Fed Cup opener in Asheville, North Carolina — her first competitive match since the 2017 Australian Open. The two lost in straight sets.
That was clear just over two months ago when Williams won her first two matches at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California, before being outplayed by her sister in straight sets in the round of 32.
And that was clear just over a week later when Williams was destroyed by Naomi Osaka in her first match of the Miami Open. It was a loss so one-sided that Williams never surfaced to face the media after the match, instead releasing a statement that said, “I look forward to continuing my return by progressing every day.”
In between attending royal nuptials and receptions and tending to her daughter, Williams has been training on clay for the past several weeks to prepare for the French Open.
Mouratoglou told WTATennis.com that Williams wasn’t ready when she came to his academy in late April, which is the reason she skipped the Madrid and Italian opens. He also admitted that Williams came back to tennis too soon, explaining: “She was not ready yet but needed to feel the competition, so she decided to play even though she was far from being at 100 percent.”
Williams admitted as much in the opening episode of her Being Serena documentary currently airing on HBO: “There’s no escaping the fear — the fear that I might not come back as strong as I was, the fear that I can’t be both the best mother and the best tennis player in the world. I guess my only choice is to live and find out.”
She’ll find out at the French Open as the 453rd-ranked player in the world, which is unheard of for a player who’s made over $84 million in her career.
She’ll find out while playing against a top seed in the opening round, as her protective ranking backed by maternity leave allows her to gain entry into tournaments but doesn’t give her the benefit of a top seed. (Not allowing Williams a top seed is unfair to her and unfair to a possible higher-seeded first-round opponent. The WTA is expected to address the rule regarding protective ranking due to maternity leave.)
She’ll find out entering her first major tournament as a wife and a mother, which means tennis is no longer the main focus of her life.
The love Williams received from the crowds in Asheville, Indian Wells and Miami demonstrates that she is still the biggest draw in women’s tennis.
Williams loves that adulation and loves more what comes with the number 25 — the number of Grand Slam singles titles that would solidify her as the greatest women’s tennis player of all time. That’s the reason that Williams, who has 23 career Grand Slam singles titles, will one day return to dominance. She’s too close to that record to allow it to elude her.
One day Williams is going to figure out how to balance being a wife, being a mother and being a tennis player.
One day she’s going to get her body tight, which will allow her to combine her mental toughness and physical strength to dominate her opponents.
One day she’ll be able to tell her daughter stories about how her mommy came from the public tennis courts of Compton, California, to become the game’s greatest women’s player, and even won a Grand Slam tournament while pregnant.
Enjoy your new life, Serena.
Take your time with your daughter and your husband, and savor these special moments.
Then come back and dominate.
Tennis fans expect nothing less.