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“I forgot what it felt like” – Serena Williams after first win in 14 months

Monday’s match was also special for Serena Williams since it marked the first time she was watched by her daughter, Olympia, from the stands

Serena Williams at the 2022 National Bank Open in Toronto Serena Williams at the 2022 National Bank Open in Toronto Image Credit: AI/ Reuters/ Panoramic

On Monday, Serena Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, won her first-round match at the National Bank Open in Toronto – a 6-3, 6-4 win over Nuria Parrizas-Diaz, a 31-year-old Spanish player enjoying a late career surge and ranked a career-high No 57 in the world.

In usual circumstances, this would have been a routine win for Serena Williams. But the American has played only one singles match in the last year (a first round loss at Wimbledon this year) and she will turn 41 years old next month. The American has been away for so long that the win was Serena’s first since Roland-Garros last year and it clearly meant a lot to her.

“I mean it’s just one win, you know, it takes a lot. But I was happy, like I said, to have a win. It’s been a very long time. I forgot what it felt like.”

Mentally I feel I’m getting there.

Serena Williams

“I feel good. I felt like I competed well today and I think that’s what I needed to do is just to compete. Mentally I feel I’m getting there. I’m not where I normally am and I’m not where I want to be. But I think any match that I play, whether I win or lose, it helps me get there mentally. Because I haven’t played a lot in the last year, two years. So I think that that really helps me. Physically I feel much better in practice, it’s just like getting that to the court. But literally I’m the kind of person who it just takes one or two things and then it clicks. So I’m just waiting on that to click.”

While many have wondered what continues to drive Serena and sister Venus, also in Toronto this week, to return after another long absence from the game, Serena tried to explain it in her press conference.

I love playing though, so it’s like amazing. But, I can’t do this forever.

Serena Williams

“I guess there’s just a light at the end of the tunnel. (Laughing) I don’t know, I’m guess closer to the light, so… (laughing). Yeah, like lately that’s been it for me. I can’t wait to get to that light.”

Williams said the light represents freedom to her because he is well aware that she cannot continue playing forever and wants to enjoy it as much as she can.

“Freedom. Yeah. I love playing though, so it’s like amazing. But, I can’t do this forever. So it’s just like sometimes you just want to try your best to enjoy the moments and do the best that you can.”

“I saw her in the first middle of the first set and I was like, Oh, my God, why is she here?

Serena Williams on daughter watching her play for the first time

Monday’s win was memorable for another reason for Serena Williams, since it was the time first time that her daughter, Olympia, was watching her mom from the stands – something that made Serena nervous as well as mindful of her on-court behaviour.

“She’s never like sat at my match. So I was super excited. I looked over and I saw her in the first middle of the first set and I was like, Oh, my God, why is she here? And then I went into mom mode, like, does she have on her sun cream. I was like, Okay, Serena, should I say something like, Take her upstairs to the suite. Because she never like, she’s never been to my match,” Williams said.

“So it’s kind of cool that it happened in Toronto but I didn’t expect it. But I was like, Okay Serena, just let go and enjoy this. It was good for her to have that memory. I mean, it’s pretty cool. And she’s never had it because I’ve always kept her away. And I’m so happy that she came out there and so it was good. And then I was like, Okay, no racquet smashing (laughing) stay calm. “

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