Serena Williams may have a ways to go before reaching her signature peak fitness. But the tennis champion and new mom is determined to keep moving forward.
In her fourth match on the Women’s Tennis Association Tour — after a 13-month break — Williams fell to 20-year-old Naomi Osaka in a loss that shocked fans of the tennis giant. With two consecutive aces, Osaka beat Williams 6-3, 6-2 in a first-round matchup on Wednesday at the Miami Open.
After the match, Williams posted an optimistic message on Instagram, writing, “4 months ago I could not walk to my mailbox… but I will keep going forward and I’ll get there.”
After the match, Williams shook Osaka’s hand graciously and left the court. And the significance of playing against the tennis great wasn’t lost on Osaka, who calls Williams her idol.
“Sometimes when I’m in a really important position, when I’m serving, I’m like, ‘What would Serena do?’” she said, according to the New York Times. “She’s the main reason why I started playing tennis and I have seen her on TV so many times and I have always been cheering for her.”
She added after the match, according to ESPN: “It’s sort of this respect thing, but you also want to win really bad. I don’t really know how to describe it. I just wanted her to, in the end, like after the match, just know who I am and stuff.”
Williams has been steadily making her way back to the tennis world in the months since welcoming daughter Alexis Olympia in September. Last month, she said she “almost died” during the birth. In an opinion piece published on CNN, she said her heart rate plummeted to dangerously low levels during contractions, causing doctors to perform an emergency cesarean section.
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“It’s been over a year and a kid later and I get to go home to her now, and I’m excited about that,” Williams said then, calling the match “incredible,” according to The Washington Post.
“It definitely wasn’t easy. We always have a couple tight sets. It was good. I’m a little rusty, but it doesn’t matter. I’m just out here on this journey and doing the best I can.”