Serena Williams claimed her first singles win in 14 months at the National Bank Open and there were more than a few glimpses of her imperious ball striking.
The US star defeated Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz 6-3 6-4 to reach the second round in Toronto –– setting up a clash with either Belinda Bencic or Tereza Martincova next.
While the 40-year-old is still a long way from playing her best tennis, there were signs of the old Serena and the former world number one treated the crowd to some outstanding shots.
At one stage during the second set, Williams was facing break-point at 2-1 down. Parrizas Diaz appeared to be dominating the rally, only for the American to hit a stunning cross-court passing winner.
The commentators were almost speechless and could barely find the superlatives needed to do justice to the shot.
“Phenomenal,” one said.
“Incredible,” stressed the other.
Fans react to Williams’ shot
The Toronto crowd erupted after Williams’ winner, as did social media, who praised the 23-time major winner and lauded her as the greatest of all time.
“Incredible hitting, always a champion,” said one fan.
“The GOAT, doing GOAT things,” stressed another.
A third echoed this sentiment and said: “The GOAT. Period.”
Others pointed out the power of Serena’s winner and suggested that this is a sign she is nearing a return to full fitness.
“The racket head speed on that winner. Insanity,” one emphasised.
Meanwhile, another said: “I have goosebumps. What a legend.”
Has Williams turned a corner?
Williams made her long-awaited singles return at Wimbledon in June, having spent a year away from the game.
However, the American looked a shadow of her former self and lost in the first round to France’s Harmony Tan.
Speculation around her future soon began to grow and some suggested that retirement may be imminent.
Yet, Williams stressed there was “light at the end of the tunnel” and that the end was not in sight just yet.
“Lately that’s been it for me. I can’t wait to get to that light. I love playing, so it’s amazing but, you know, I can’t do this forever,” she said.
“Sometimes you just want to try your best to enjoy the moments and do the best that you can.”
The 40-year-old is still searching for a record-equalling 24th major trophy and will seek her seventh US Open title later this month.
Williams is also a three-time winner in Toronto and a deep run in Canada would be the perfect preparation for the final major of the year.