London 2012 gold medallist is seeded No.17 for US Open
Combining motherhood and top-level tennis is no easy task, even when your name is Serena Williams.
Almost a year after giving birth, Williams heads to New York for the final Grand Slam of 2018.
In keeping with the ‘Black Panther’ outfit of her Roland Garros return, the 36-year-old has already shown superhero-like powers in her comeback.
But how ready is she to challenge for a seventh US Open singles title?
She has played just three matches for a total of four hours on hard courts.
That would not be anywhere near enough for most players, but Serena Williams is not most players.
Speaking to TIME Magazine earlier this month, the superstar revealed her return has been a struggle. She even argued with her coach over breastfeeding.
Patrick Mouratoglou insisted that Williams needed to stop nursing baby Alexis Olympia, to lose weight and regain peak physical fitness.
She eventually did so, reluctantly, after eight months.
Williams has also had to deal with the emotional turmoil and the insecurities which can come with motherhood.
But that’s not all.
At the end of July, Williams took just one game off Johanna Konta in San Jose in the worst defeat of her career.
That came hours after she found out the man who shot dead her sister, Yetunde Price, had been released after 15 years in prison.
Williams also claims she has been unfairly singled out by the US Anti-Doping Agency, having been tested five times in 2018.
Despite all that, she goes to Flushing Meadows with a fighting chance of winning a 24th Grand Slam singles title to equal the record held by Margaret Court.
Another source of tension between Williams and coach Mouratoglou was her decision to stay at home with her daughter rather than go to Europe for the clay court season.
She went to the French Open having played just four competitive singles matches – all on hard courts – since giving birth.
Even so, the London 2012 Olympic singles champion reached the fourth round in Paris before pulling out of her match against Maria Sharapova with a pectoral muscle injury.
She did not play AT ALL before Wimbledon but threw herself into training, with Mouratoglou saying, “I’ve never seen her work like that before.”
On the grass of SW19, the American went all the way to the final before going down in straight sets to Angelique Kerber.
Having been unseeded at the All England Club, Williams’ run to the final vaulted her back into the world’s top 32. She will be seeded 17th in New York.
And, unlike before Wimbledon, she has at least had some match practice ahead of the US Open.
Admittedly it has not been a great deal, but Williams knows the tournament like the back of her hand after no fewer than 18 appearances.
She also has fond memories of Flushing Meadows having won her first Grand Slam title there in 1999 as an 18-year-old.
Write her off at your peril.