Serena Williams, arguably the greatest female player in history, hit the practice court at Melbourne Park on Thursday ahead of the Australian Open, where she will chase a record-equalling 24th grand slam title.
The American star was scheduled for a one-hour session on Thursday and trained at medium intensity as she returns to grand slam tennis.
The 37-year-old will be appearing at a major tournament for the first time since her infamous clash with chair umpire Carlos Ramos in the US Open final, which she lost to Naomi Osaka.
In a heated verbal exchange, Williams branded the umpire a “thief” and a “liar” – a clash that resulted in the American being docked an entire game penalty after she had already received three code violations.
Amid unsavoury scenes, Osaka went on to win her maiden grand slam title.
That loss left Williams, who also lost in the Wimbledon final last year, short of matching Margaret Court’s marker of 24 grand slam titles, a record the American has another chance of equalling in Melbourne over the next fortnight.
Fellow American great Chris Evert said the shadow of the US Open final controversy would not hang over Williams’ career.
“The fact that she dominated for so long and could break the record of grand slams, I think that will overshadow everything at the end of the day,” former world No.1 Evert told a conference call.
“But there will be a side note that Serena has a lot of passion and that she has at times lost her cool on the courts, but I don’t think for one minute it’s going to tarnish her whole reputation.”
Williams also drew censure from tennis officials for her clothing in 2018.
After giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian jnr during the 2017 US Open, Williams eventually returned to the circuit and unveiled a figure-hugging Black Panther-inspired catsuit at last year’s French Open.
Williams, who revealed she “almost died” after complications from childbirth, turned to the skintight compression garment as one way to avoid blood clots.
The grand slam champion was bedridden for six weeks due to the complications after her daughter was delivered by caesarean section.
But she fell foul of officials with the spandex compression garment outfit criticised by the French Tennis Federation president and subsequently banned at Roland Garros.
“I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far,” Bernard Giudicelli told a tennis magazine as the federation pledged to introduce a dress code for this year’s tournament in Paris.
“It will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place.”
Source – .smh.com.au