“I just need to play with more confidence,” Williams said, by way of explanation for how her 7-6 (2) 6-0 victory over 102nd-ranked Kristie Ahn unfolded Monday, “like I'm Serena.”
Well, yes, she was more herself for the latter half of the contest, which by the end really wasn't much of a contest.
And this is how Ahn described the sensation of being across the net from that version of Williams, the one where she is at her very best.
“It feels like you're trying to push a runaway train in the opposite direction,” Ahn said. “It's very difficult to try and stop, to stop her momentum when she's going, when she's feeling it.”
Imagine Ahn's (bad) luck of the draw: She is the first player to face Williams in the first round at two consecutive grand slam tournaments, having also lost their matchup at the US Open.
“I mean, I laughed,” Ahn said. “I mean, what are the odds?”
Williams now gets another rematch, facing Tsvetana Pironkova, the player the 39-year-old American beat in the quarterfinals in New York earlier this month.
“It's always exciting to face her,'' Pironkova said.
Williams has won three of her professional-era record 23 grand slam singles titles in Paris; add one more and she'll equal Margaret Court's all-era mark.
She keeps coming close: Williams has made it to the final at four of the past eight major tournaments, losing each time. At the US Open, she exited in the semifinals against Victoria Azarenka, slowed a bit down the stretch after hurting her left Achilles tendon.
Williams wore a strip of black athletic tape on the lower portion of that leg on Monday (Tuesday NZT). Asked after the match what she's done to take care of herself, she replied: “A ton of prayer.”