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Thursday, 15 March 2018 13:48 PM GMT
Serena begins the comeback trail takes a look at how Serena Williams fared at the beginning of her tennis comeback in Indian Wells. READ MORE

For Serena Williams, now a mother, there’s no surprise - and no shame - in losing a third round match in Indian Wells, a top-level tournament in California. Serena had to compete against her sister Venus, who, despite being older by a year, is in top form and ranked No. 8 in the world. Serena won two rounds before this, both in straight sets, and one against a seeded player. And at times on Monday night, she looked like Serena of old.

This is all good news for Williams, who, at 36 years old, isn’t even ranked after missing an entire year of tournaments. Instead of tennis, Williams had her first child, Alexis Olympia, who was born 1 September last year.

The delivery was complicated. Williams had to stay in bed every day for six weeks after birth, and faced blood clots in her lungs that, if not treated in time, were deadly. She didn’t really begin to practice as she once did until January, not enough time, it turned out, for her to enter the Australian Open, which she won last year.

Considering all that, it’s impressive where Williams stands at the moment, beating Zarina Diyas and then No.29 seed Kiki Bertens in Indian Wells.

Against her sister, Williams hit hard on her serves and strokes, but was much less consistent than usual - an expected fact after 14 months away from tennis. She accepted the defeat, and the future, with a positive attitude.

“You know, it’s good that I don’t have to say that this is the best tennis I have ever played and I lost,” Williams said.

“My room for improvement is incredible. So I have just got to keep saying each tournament my goal is just to be better than the last, and I don’t—definitely don’t want to go backwards. I just want to continue to go forwards. I think as long as I can do that, I will keep getting better.”

Only three women in the Open era, which began in 1968, have won Grand Slam titles while being mothers: Kim Clijsters, Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Margaret Court. Those women were all younger than Williams, with the oldest being age 31. But Williams is not worried about the past. With the way she trains and the resources she has to help her recover, she isn’t thinking about limitations.

Williams’ daughter, who was with Williams at Indian Wells, will have an easier time at the next tournament in Florida, where Williams has a home. Then the adventures - namely, travel - will begin as Williams enters the clay season. It won’t be easy, but Williams has a lot of help, from her husband and family, and almost certainly other companions. The ideal situation: figure out the ways to travel, train and practice often, and be ready in time for the French Open and Wimbledon, which begin in late May and finish in July.

That’s the goal for Williams, because with one more major title she will tie Court for the most won by a player, 24 (Williams now has 23). Even now, many see Williams as the greatest player in history. With those victories added to the list, there could be no doubt. She said she’s excited about the prospects, and what it will take to achieve them.

“I just have a long way to go, and I’m looking forward to the journey,” she said.

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