Serena returns with slam record firmly in sights

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She had played just once this year, losing a Fed Cup doubles match with Venus last month, and hasn't played a singles match on tour since winning the 2017 Australian Open, where she beat Venus in the final.

She gave birth to her daughter on September 1 and has been working on her match fitness ever since.

"But I keep going and I know that I might not be at my best yet but I'm getting there". Here are just five of those reasons, including the event's host, Serena Williams.

"I think she will be ready for Roland Garros".

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"We do not know how much time she will need to get her best level back, and I think that we should give her the necessary time for that without having too much expectations at the start". Her opponent, on the other hand, didn't even make her main-draw debut at the tournament until a year ago. Dimitrov, who won the ATP World Tour Finals in London in November, the biggest title of his career, won the Queen's crown in 2014 and went to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals.

Her coach since 2012, Frenchman Mouratoglou has been with Williams for 10 of those major wins, and he said he believes there are no limits to what she can achieve.

The birth of Williams' daughter, Alexis Olympia, was followed by complications that scuppered the player's plans to defend her title in Melbourne this year.

"She's one of the few players that has all the serves, in terms of slice, kick, flat", Lindsay Davenport said of Osaka at the draw ceremony.

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'She's going to bring that instinct on the court with her, so I don't think she's too anxious about that'. However, she asserts that she is committed to bounce back to the apex of her performance, in a matter of time.

"She needs more than anything to compete and that is why she will plan to play Indian Wells and Miami".

Desert Smash is the kick off to Indian Wells, which will be broadcast on Tennis Channel over the next two weeks. I've always been an extremely motivated person, but my main thing is that I would love for my daughter to be around with me doing great, and playing fantastic, so that definitely gives me some motivation. Though she has a 5-0 career record against Watson, an accomplished player in her own right, the extended time off the tour may make this a hard match for Azarenka. "I can see during practices the same determination, the same level of expectation", he said.

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