Champion, queen, goddess, mother: Serena wins at French Open

PARIS — This was one mistake too far for Serena Williams.

Sure, the bad backhand put her behind only 15-30 at the outset of the second set of her opening match at Roland Garros on Monday. What made the miscue so bothersome? She’d already dropped the first set against 83rd-ranked Vitalia Diatchenko — and Williams’ unforced error total was at 15 on a windy evening.

So she reacted by throwing her head back and letting out a scream. Then she stepped to the baseline to serve and stomped her right foot. And simple as that, Williams righted herself: She won 11 of the next 13 points, and 12 of 13 games the rest of the way, to come back for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory at the French Open.

“I just was so frustrated at that point, because I have been training well. The past week and a half has been really good, and, God, it was, like, ‘This isn’t the Serena I have been practicing with — or that I see every day,’” Williams said afterward. “I just let out this roar, and here I am. Yeah, so maybe that helped.”

She arrived on court with a black-and-white jacket bearing words such as “champion,” “queen,” “goddess” and “mother” in French.

“Those are things that mean a lot to me and reminders for me — and for everyone that wants to wear it,” Williams explained. “Just remind everyone that they can be champions and are queens.”

A reporter told Williams those four words are “a lot to carry,” to which the 37-year-old replied: “It is a lot to carry, but so is being Serena Williams.”

She made her return to Grand Slam competition in Paris a year ago after missing five majors because of the birth of her first child. Williams pulled out before the fourth round because of an injured chest muscle, then was the runner-up at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Williams came to Paris this time having withdrawn from each of her past two tournaments because of a balky left knee, and the one before that because of illness.

Another former No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki, went in the opposite direction Monday, going from playing a perfect set to quickly fading away against an opponent who had not won a Grand Slam match, losing 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 to 68th-ranked Veronika Kudermetova of Russia.

Before Williams took over the main stadium, No. 2 Rafael Nadal began his bid for a record 12th championship in Paris and No. 1 Novak Djokovic got started on his quest for a fourth consecutive major trophy. Djokovic beat Hubert Hurkacz 6-4, 6-2, 6-2; Nadal beat Yannick Hanfmann 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.

Howard Fendrich is an Associated Press writer.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Champion-queen-goddess-mother-Serena-wins-at-13899584.php.

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