STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Serena Williams pulls off huge comeback at French Open

Serena Williams felt like a 'superhero' as she wore a black catsuit when ...

Posted: Jun 1, 2018 6:18 AM
Updated: Jun 1, 2018 6:18 AM

Serena Williams felt like a 'superhero' as she wore a black catsuit when making her grand slam return Tuesday after 16 months away.

The American's 23 majors speak to her immense powers on the tennis court and she engineered an out-of-this world comeback at the French Open against Ashleigh Barty on Thursday to reach the third round.

Williams wins over Ash Barty 3-6 6-3 6-4

She trailed by a set and break to the 17th seed

Williams playing first grand slam in 16 months after becoming a mum

Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal also advance

READ: Lucky loser's 1,000km dash to Paris payday

Barty -- the 17th-seeded Australian with a serve nearly as imposing as Williams' -- looked on course for the biggest victory of her career when she claimed the first set and led by a break in the second.

But Williams -- as she has done so often in her career -- rallied for a 3-6 6-3 6-4 win as light faded in the Parisian evening.

The gripping tussle on Philippe-Chatrier court concluded at around 9:15 p.m. local time.

"I think when push came to shove, the real Serena came out," Barty told reporters. "And that's one of her best assets is, when her back is against the wall, the best comes out."

Where does that come from?

"I have definitely always had that will to win," new mum Williams told reporters. "It was something I was born with, thank goodness.

"This is a grand slam, my first one back. I want to do the best that I can. I want to be able to just do my best and one day tell my daughter that I tried my best. When I was out there, that's all I was trying to do."

Lack of matches

Despite those nearly two-dozen grand slam titles, if Barty had prevailed it could hardly have been classified a massive upset.

The 36-year-old Williams revealed for CNN that she almost died while giving birth to daughter Olympia in September and has only contested two tournaments in 2018 prior to Roland Garros.

None came on clay, either, a specialized surface where moving can be difficult, unlike hard courts.

And Williams -- down to 451st in the rankings due to her tour inactivity -- was facing a different Barty than the one she defeated at the 2014 Australian Open for the loss of only three games.

After taking a break from tennis as it all got too much for the junior Wimbledon winner, Barty enjoyed a breakthrough 2017.

Her first serve fired as the opening frame unfolded while Williams was struggling. Barty's low slice caused havoc, Williams erred on overheads and dumped make-able volleys into the net.

Her first-set tally read three winners and 12 unforced errors.

The first game of the second set brought yet more miscues and Williams was broken to love.

Then came the turnaround.

Big point

On break point in the ensuing game, with a short forehand and Williams out of position, Barty directed her shot at her opponent instead of putting it away down the line.

Williams duly sent her own forehand into the open court for 1-1.

Of the 159 points in the match, that could have been the most important.

There was simply no stopping Williams afterward, roars of delight and fist pumps confirming the shift. Barty, meanwhile, was rattled and the 22-year-old never regained her form of the first set.

In the final two sets Williams, whose next foe is 11th seed Julia Goerges, compiled 25 winners and 24 unforced errors.

"I think she's not quite at the level she was when she was at her best, but that's normal," Barty said. "But her level when she's not quite on her best is still bloody good."

Williams acknowledged she is still seeking top form but is adamant she will find it.

"I'm probably not where I was before I left," said Williams. "But the good news is I feel like I'm definitely going to get there. And I don't want to get there, I want to get beyond there. I don't want to limit myself. That's what I want to look forward to doing."

Stunning comebacks

Williams has been closer to defeat at grand slams in the past.

At the Australian Open, for example, in 2007 -- the last time she was unseeded at a major -- Nadia Petrova and Shahar Peer were within a whisker of ousting Williams. Williams didn't buckle and beat Maria Sharapova in the final.

And at the French Open in 2015, when Williams dealt with illness, she overturned set deficits four times. In the final, Lucie Safarova led by a break in the third set prior to Williams' charge.

Yet this comeback, with her time away from the game, playing on clay -- just three of her 23 grand slam titles have come at the French Open -- and how the first set unfolded, has to be right up there.

Elsewhere, Sharapova -- a possible opponent of Williams' in the fourth round -- relinquished leads in both sets but still beat Donna Vekic 7-5 6-4 and top-ranked Simona Halep thumped Taylor Townsend 6-3 6-1.

In the men's draw, 10-time champion Rafael Nadal cruised past Guido Pella 6-2 6-1 6-1, with Dominic Thiem -- perhaps the Spaniard's main threat -- completing a four-set win over Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2 2-6 6-4 6-4.

Nadal next encounters friend and French hope Richard Gasquet, against whom he holds a 15-0 record.

READ: Who can stop Nadal?

Visit CNN.com/tennis for more news, features and videos

Back to Williams and who is to say she can't keep it going at Roland Garros?

She is still, after all, wearing that 'superhero' outfit.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 364965

Reported Deaths: 29484
CountyConfirmedDeaths
New York City19996821362
Nassau400342137
Suffolk392581861
Westchester331861352
Rockland13047626
Orange10292443
Erie5810504
Dutchess3847138
Monroe2791198
Onondaga2033127
Albany179676
Ulster164574
Sullivan134030
Putnam122758
Niagara97263
Oneida92946
Schenectady67329
Broome52844
Rensselaer46628
Saratoga46511
Columbia38032
Madison31010
Warren25226
Steuben24141
Greene23118
Washington22813
Orleans21033
St. Lawrence2002
Fulton19818
Ontario1989
Genesee1954
Tompkins1550
Chemung1361
Chenango1250
Tioga12421
Livingston1187
Wayne1103
Herkimer1053
Oswego1053
Clinton954
Montgomery824
Wyoming825
Cattaraugus820
Cayuga801
Chautauqua784
Delaware784
Jefferson720
Otsego695
Seneca550
Schoharie490
Allegany450
Yates396
Cortland390
Essex360
Lewis200
Franklin200
Schuyler110
Hamilton50
Unassigned00
Utica
Overcast
79° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 81°
Oneonta
Overcast
72° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 72°
Herkimer
Overcast
79° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 81°
Thendara
Overcast
79° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 81°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
Click here to learn more about A Healthier Mohawk Valley
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve
Senior Send-Off brought to you by Herkimer College
Menu 2 Go list of takeout dinners & fish fries
Apply to Go the Distance 2020
23 courses for only $79.99