By Karen Price | May 29, 2018, 1:36 p.m. (ET)
Serena Williams plays a forehand during her first round match against Kristyna Pliskova of Czech Republic at the 2018 French Open on May 29, 2018 in Paris.

 

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Serena Williams made a triumphant return to the clay courts of Roland Garros and the French Open on Tuesday, winning the first round matchup in her first major tournament since claiming her record 23rd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in 2017.

The three-time French Open champion came in unseeded despite being ranked No. 1 in the world when she took maternity leave last year, later giving birth to her first child in September. Now ranked in the 400s, Williams faced Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic and won, 7-6(7), 6-4. Pliskova, ranked No. 70 in the world, was facing Williams for the first time. She lost to a wild card in the first round of the French Open last year.

Williams, 36, had to fight for this one, particularly in the first set in which she lost the first three points of the tiebreaker. The 36-year-old, again showing off her sense of style in a black bodysuit, served up 13 aces en route to her first Grand Slam match victory (and match at all) since January 2017.

She’ll now face No. 17 Ashleigh Barty, of Australia, in the second round on Thursday.

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Williams is a four-time Olympian who has won one Olympic gold in singles and three in doubles with sister Venus Williams. On Sunday, Venus lost her first-round match to China’s Wang Qiang, but several American women advanced, including 2017 US Open champ Sloane Stephens, who defeated Arantxa Rus, and CoCo Vandeweghe, who beat Laura Siegemund.

Madison Keys defeated fellow American Sachia Vickery, Caroline Dolehide beat Viktorija Golubic, Jennifer Brady beat Amandine Hesse, Bernarda Pera defeated Elena Vesnina, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands beat Johanna Larsson. Taylor Townsend’s match against Myrtille Georges was just starting as Williams’ was ending, and Alison Riske is set to face Simona Halep later in the day.

In the men’s singles draw, Sam Querrey is one of several U.S. players to make it to the second round. Querrey defeated fellow American Frances Tiafoe in the first round, Steve Johnson defeated Adrian Mannarino, John Isner topped American Noah Rubin, and Jared Donaldson beat Nicolas Jarry.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.