Serena Williams sealed a successful return onto the major stage as she triumphed on her return at the 2018 French Open. The 23-time Grand Slam champion suffered a huge scare in her high-quality first-round encounter against the hard-hitting Kristyna Pliskova, prevailing with a tight 7-6, 6-4 scoreline after an hour and 45-minutes of play.
Williams’ serves looked incredibly good throughout the encounter, winning 80 percent of her first serves and firing 29 winners to just a mere 25 unforced errors. Whereas, Pliskova also played a decent match, blasting 15 aces while claiming 75 percent of her first service points. Although 33 unforced errors may have proved costly, the Czech’s 34 winners helped to make this encounter a competitive one.
Williams edges the tight first set
When Pliskova faces Williams, it ought to be a hard-hitting affair with the servers dominating play — and it turned out exactly how people expected it to be. Pliskova, with her lefty advantage, was often misfooting the American with her wide serves while it seemed like Williams never left, serving up some bombs with her footwork looking decent.
The first 11 games of the match featured no break points, and none of the games went to deuce either. Furthermore, it was some impressive serving statistics from both players and Pliskova had already hit nine aces. Occasionally, Williams and Pliskova were able to produce some exhilarating rallies, which will be more evident in the second set, but otherwise, it was a set full of short rallies but impressive serving display.
Serving to stay in the first set, Pliskova certainly felt the nerves and committed a couple of unforced errors which gifted Williams her first break and set point out of nowhere. However, the Czech came up with the perfect reply — throwing in a 178 km/h ace down-the-tee, and two more unreturnable serves to send the set into a tiebreak.
Pliskova started the tiebreak in emphatic fashion, opening with a stunning forehand return winner before easily claiming both her service points to storm out towards a commanding 3-0 lead within a blink of an eye. However, some inspired play from Williams saw her come back roaring into contention, rattling off six consecutive points to completely turn the tides. Although Pliskova saved one set point with an unreturnable serve, the 23-time Major champion impressively sealed the opening set 7-6 after 50 minutes of play.
Entertaining second set goes the way of Williams as she seals the win
After a confidence-boosting start to begin the second set with, Pliskova stunned everybody by drawing the first blood and making the first breakthrough. A slew of unforced errors from Williams coupled with several outstanding forehand winners by Pliskova allowed the Czech to power towards a hard-fought 2-0 lead.
However, her joy was short-lived as the American immediately broke back with ease. Williams was reading the serves much better and quickly leveled the scores at 2-2 having fended off yet another break point in the process. The second set was a completely different story as compared to the first — as it featured five breaks of serve while the first set only featured one unconverted break point.
Three consecutive breaks followed with both players displaying some high-quality tennis, featuring a complete breakdown from Pliskova while being 40-0 up in the seventh game. After what seemed like an eternity, Williams was able to clinch the commanding love service hold and stormed her way to a 5-3 lead, placing herself just a game away from the win.
Serving to stay in the match, Pliskova survived having came from 0-30 down to lessen the deficit before she played like she had nothing to lose and earned three break points while Williams was serving for the match. The final game was tennis at its best; with Pliskova hitting a drop shot winner which left the crowd in awe, and Williams serving bombs to fend off those break points. Ultimately, the 23-time Major champion sealed the win after Pliskova sent a forehand straight into the net.