For all that has changed in the 16 months since Serena Williams last played in a Grand Slam tournament — she is now married and a mother — so much was familiar about her at the French Open on Tuesday.
The fashion statement, this time in the form of a black bodysuit with a red belt that she said made her feel like a “warrior princess.” The cries of “Come on!” The big serves that provided 13 aces. The returns that eventually produced three consecutive breaks of serve.
And, yes, the victory. Competing as a mom for the first time at a major, and about nine months since giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia, then dealing with postpartum complications, Williams edged 70th-ranked Kristyna Plis-kova of the Czech Republic 7-6 (4), 6-4 at Roland Garros.
Already a transcendent sports star and cultural icon, Williams now carries a new title: working mother.
“Well, my priority is Olympia. No matter what, that’s my priority. I have given tennis so much, and tennis has actually given me a lot, and I couldn’t be more grateful,” Williams said. “She’s my priority, and I work everything around her.”
The 36-year-old American had not played in one of tennis’ biggest tournaments since winning the Australian Open in January 2017 for her 23rd Grand Slam title, breaking a tie with Steffi Graf for the most in the professional era.
Williams, the world found out later, was pregnant at the time. Her baby was born Sept. 1; Williams married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in November.
Williams eventually revealed that she had an emergency cesarean section, then needed a follow-up operation.
Williams next faces 17th-seeded Ash Barty of Australia . Her match was by far the most significant event of Day 3 at Roland Garros, even though there were other Grand Slam champions in action.
Rafael Nadal finished off a rain-interrupted victory as he begins his try for a record-extending 11th French Open title. Maria Sharapova, a two-time champion in Paris, was pushed to three sets in a win. Garbine Muguruza, who beat Williams in the 2016 final at Roland Garros, beat another past champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Jack Sock, the No. 14 seed, ranted and railed as he lost in the first round for a second consecutive year. He fell to 136th-ranked Jurgen Zopp of Estonia in five sets.
Sock blamed the Brazilian umpire, calling her “atrocious.”
On his way to losing the fourth set, he said to her during a changeover: “You’re atrocious. If we could request a new one, I would. This is shocking stuff. Can I request a new ref?”