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Serena Williams like a 'warrior princess' in 'Wakanda cat suit' on Grand Slam return

 

Serena Williams made an eye-catching return to the Grand Slam scene with victory over Kristyna Pliskova in the first round of the French Open.

The former World No.1 had not played a major tournament since winning a 23rd title at the 2017 Australian Open, having given birth to her daughter Olympia in September.

Her first Grand Slam action in over 15 months had the Paris fashionistas in a whirl as she walked on court in a black bodysuit with a bright pink belt.

"I call it like my Wakanda-inspired cat suit," Williams told the post-match press conference, in a reference to the blockbuster movie Black Panther. "I feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess, kind of.

"I'm always living in a fantasy world. I always wanted to be a superhero, and it's kind of my way of being a superhero. I feel like a superhero when I wear it."

This was not, however, a decision purely based on fashion, as she revealed that the compression element of the garment is important for her circulation.

"I had a lot of problems with my blood clots," she continued. "I don't know how many I've had in the past 12 months so there is a lot of functionality to it.

"I have been wearing pants in general a lot when I play, so I can keep the blood circulation going. It's a fun suit, but it's also functional so I can be able to play without any problems."

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Serena Williams a forehand return to Czech Republic's Kristyna Pliskova

Understandably, this was not quite a superhero performance. Williams is short of match sharpness and the footwork is not quite there yet.

But the 36-year-old's serve remains a formidable weapon, helping her take the first set after a tie-break.

The pair exchanged breaks in the second set, with Williams grabbing the decisive one in the seventh game before sealing a 7-6 (7/4) 6-4 victory - not bad going for her first match on clay in two years.

Maria Sharapova lost six games in a row and then won the next six as she got her return to Roland Garros off to a successful start.

The Russian appeared to be cruising at 6-1 3-1 ahead, but Holland's Richel Hogenkamp suddenly had her on the ropes, taking the second set and racing 3-0 ahead in the decider.

But Sharapova rediscovered her game in the nick of time to reel off half a dozen games for a 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory.

It was an ultimately sweet moment for the two-time Paris champion.

This time last year Sharapova had recently returned from a 15-month doping ban, but had not built her ranking high enough to qualify and was not offered a wild card.

But, 12 months later, Sharapova is back in the world's top 30, is seeded 28th at Roland Garros and is among the potential challengers for the title, which would be her third should she emerge victorious.

"I think if there is any way to turn that match around, it's that way," she said.

"It's great to be in this draw and great to be back on a court that I have had great success at in the past."

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza got the better of Svetlana Kuznetsova in a first-round meeting of two former winners.

After a 90-minute rain interruption at 5-5 in the first set, Muguruza, the 2016 winner, blew 2009 champion Kuznetsova away in the tie-break and went on to win 7-6 (7/0) 6-2.

Meanwhile, Caroline Garcia of France was in dominant form, taking just 58 minutes to dispatch China's Yingying Duan 6-1 6-0.

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