There was no fairytale return for a rusty Serena Williams at the Fed Cup as she focuses on the positives of playing her first competitive match in 13 months.
The 23-time grand slam champion teamed up with sister Venus to take on the Dutch duo of Demi Schuurs and Lesley Kerkhove in was was the final match of the tie on Sunday. Unfortunately for the host nation the Williams sisters, who have won 14 doubles titles in the majors, was no match. Losing 6-2, 6-3 in just over an hour.
“It felt really good to be back on the court,” Williams said after the match. “I’ve been training; it’s just exciting to be out there. A lot of nerves, but anticipation for myself. That’s good, I think that’s normal.”
Sunday’s appearance launched the official return of the former world No.1. The 36-year-old hasn’t played a competitive match since winning the 2017 Australian Open. During her hiatus, she gave birth to her first child and was troubled by complications afterwards. Shortly after the arrival of her daughter Alexis, Williams had to be treated for blood clots and her wound reopening.
Few knew what to expect when the American staged her return at the Fed Cup. She had played only one high-profile match during her time away. At the start of the year she took on Jelena Ostapenko at the Abu Dhabi exhibition, but lost in three sets. Despite also losing her latest clash, Williams is drawing positives from her performance.
“I didn’t know what to expect. Maybe that’s why I felt like I did better. I didn’t expect to …have that much power on my serves, even though they didn’t go in,” she explained.
“It’s just a start. I feel like that’s a very good step in the right direction.”
Williams is scheduled to make her return to the WTA Tour next month at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. An event she has previously won on two occasions in 1999 and 2001. Following on from the tournament, she has also received a wild card into the Miami Open.
Unlike previous years, Williams isn’t focusing on her herself when she travels. The new mum acknowledges that she needs to ‘managed her time’ better as she deals with the life of a professional athlete and motherhood at the same time.
“I didn’t manage my time well, but I was thinking about it in the future how to manage it better,” she said.
“This is literally my first time travelling with the baby and everything. I‘m going to try to do better. It was hard. It was the first time for me.”
Williams’ next appearance is set to occur on March 5th in New York when she will take part in the Tie Break Tens tournament.