LONDON (Reuters) - Just call Roland Garros the warm-up.
Four weeks on from her run to the last 16 at the French Open, Serena Williams is back at Wimbledon, having missed last year’s event as she prepared for the birth of her daughter.
Ranked 183 after just three tournaments back, the seven-time champion will go into Wimbledon as the 25th seed, the seeding committee having deviated from the WTA ranking list, an exception because she is coming back after maternity leave.
Having pulled out before her fourth-round match in Paris with a pectoral injury, Williams did not play a warm-up event on grass. Instead she arrived early at Wimbledon and has been practising hard under the eye of her coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
Such is the aura the American brings with her to south west London, British bookmakers make her second favourite for the title, behind the two-time champion, Petra Kvitova.
Three months short of her 37th birthday, it is 16 years since she first won Wimbledon and as she continues to regain full fitness, she knows an eighth title is a big ask.
“Roland Garros was a mountain way steeper than the other mountains I’ve climbed,” she told her documentary, Being Serena, which is being streamed on Eurosport Player.
“And....I can honestly say that I didn’t enjoy all the demands and all the tugging.
“It’s a lot of stress and it’s a lot of pressure. But I have support that I’ve never had before. I have Olympia and I have my husband and it made it a little bit easier.”
Combining being a mum and a professional tennis player presents additional challenges but Williams says motherhood has changed the way she looks at things.
“I’ve been a perfectionist my whole life,” she said. “And I feel like Olympia has made it lesser for me.
“On the court sometimes, when I’m really down, I think about her. I’m like, ‘Serena relax, you can do this’. If anything, she enables me to believe in myself more and relax and realise that there are other things that are more important.”
At the French Open, Williams showed she has lost none of her fighting spirit, with wins over Ashleigh Barty and Julia Goerges particularly impressive.
With such a formidable record at Wimbledon, where she last won the title in 2016, Williams will still be confident she can do well again, though she admits it has been tough to re-programme her post-pregnancy body.
“It wasn’t as tight as I was used to,” she told ABC’s Good Morning America programme. “I’ve played tennis for over 30 years, so I’m so used to (being) incredibly fit.
“But I realised every single body is different. Every single experience is different. I honestly didn’t realize that until a month ago.”
But feeling less than superhuman, she said, had actually given her a new lease of life.
“I definitely have a new sense of determination, new sense of expectations,” she told ‘Being Serena’. “I guess it all starts again where I have to be this athlete that I know I can be.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty