Serena Williams has conceded that her return to tennis in 2018 after becoming a mother went “beyond my expectations” as she reached the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open.
Three months later, the American made a first appearance on court again as she lost to Jelena Ostapenko in an exhibition match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) in Abu Dhabi.
She made her first competitive appearance at the Fed Cup in February in doubles action with sister Venus, and she has since moved up from No 491 in the world to No 16.
While she did not win a title in 2018, the fact she came close at both Wimbledon, where she lost to Angelique Kerber in the final, and then at the US Open, where she went down to Naomi Osaka, has left her upbeat.
“Honestly, I cannot believe the year I had,” she told The National as she prepares to return to the MWTC next week to face sister Venus as part of her 2019 preparations.
“I have to say I always expect the best from myself, but reaching two grand slam finals back to back was beyond my expectations.”
Williams also reached the last 16 of the French Open before injury forced her to withdraw from her match with Maria Sharapova.
The three major appearances were part of only seven tournaments she competed in during 2018 in singles action, the others being at Indian Wells, Miami, San Jose and Cincinnati.
The fact that Williams was so competitive on court, despite minimal match action, has encouraged her in hopes of adding more titles to her trophy cabinet next year.
“It truly makes me excited for what’s ahead in 2019,” she said.
The first target for Williams in 2019 will be trying to win a record eighth women’s Australian Open title in January, which would take her to 24 titles, matching Margaret Court’s milestone total for the women’s game.
She herself is coy on her objectives and said she planned to keep them to herself at this stage.
“I always have crazy big goals but I like to keep them to myself,” she said. “I think keeping them a bit of a secret helps me do the best I can.”