Serena Williams said the latest chapter in her tennis life was “just beginning” on Saturday after seeing her hopes of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title dashed in the Wimbledon final.
The 36-year-old lost 6-3 6-3 to Germany’s Angelique Kerber — putting on hold her bid to match Margaret Court’s Grand Slam haul.
It also stopped her joining Court, Evonne Goolagong and Kim Clijsters as the only mothers to win Grand Slam titles in the professional era.
Williams only gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia 10 months ago, and while she looked close to her best at times throughout the fortnight, she could not find her A game against fellow former world number one Kerber.
Considering that the American suffered a difficult childbirth and needed several surgeries to remove blood clots after an emergency C-section, it was a huge achievement to contest her 10th Wimbledon final.
Far from being downhearted, though, Williams spoke afterwards of her desire to improve in time for the U.S. Open.
“I feel like I have a ways to go,” Williams said. “This is literally just the beginning, literally just the beginning.
“It’s good to just continue that path and just continue to keep going for me.
“I didn’t know a couple of months ago where I was, where I would be, how I would do, how I would be able to come back. It was such a long way to see light at the end of the road.
“I think these two weeks have really showed me that I can compete. Obviously I can compete for the long run in a Grand Slam. I can come out and be a contender to win Grand Slams.
“I took a giant step at Wimbledon. But my journey has just begun. Just have to keep going.”
Williams spent a year on maternity leave and returned in March but had contested only seven matches prior to Wimbledon, arriving as the 181st-ranked player in the world.
She was bumped up to 25th seed courtesy of her seven titles at the All England Club — the most recent in 2016 — and more than justified that decision. She will now be ranked back in the top 30.
American great Billie Jean King said William’s run to the final so soon into her return showed how special she is.
“It was a big day for Serena and it didn’t come true, but let’s face it, this shows what a wonderful athlete she is,” four-time Wimbledon champion King said.
“Most people would not even be able to be here. I think by losing, it will incentivise her even more to do well for the rest of the year, to get really fit and get back. She will want to win it really badly next year.”