Serena returns with slam record firmly in sights
DESPITE not playing an official singles match in 15 months, Serena Williams plans to lay siege to 2018's three remaining majors in her most ambitious mission statement yet.
Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, revealed the American expects to be back near top form for May's French Open - the first of three grand slams she hopes to win and eclipse Margaret Court's record of 24 major singles crowns.
Williams, 36, will this week return to the WTA Tour for the first time since January, 2017 after giving birth to her daughter in September.
Mouratoglou described the former world champion's post-maternity return as "the biggest challenge" of her career.
"Serena's target (for this season) will be to win grand slams," Mouratoglou said.
"She knows that coming back might take some time, but her level of expectation is high as always. There are three grand slams left this season. They will be her three main goals for 2018."
Mouratoglou has coached Williams since 2012, guiding her to 10 majors in a remarkable collaboration.
The Frenchman believes there are no limits with the winner of 23 majors, who has not contested a rankings match since winning last year's Australian Open.
"She is known for her comebacks, the last of which took place in 2012," he said.
"Recovering from a surgery, then from a blood clot, going two years without winning a grand slam, she finally comes back at 30 years old to win 10 more grand slams and to stay No.1 in the world for three-and-a-half years - her longest period of dominance.
"Now she is 36, just had a child, a second blood clot, has gone more than a year without any competition. I think we can say without a doubt that this is her biggest challenge."
Mouratoglou said Williams would take time to build form and confidence.
"With Serena, it is always difficult not to expect her to win the tournament," he said.
"But clearly we are in a very special situation at the moment. She hasn't played a match for more than a year, she has had a baby with a lot of complications post-delivery.
"The plan is to get back to her best level. She has been practising hard for that, and competition is part of the process.
"She needs more than anything to compete and that is why she will plan to play Indian Wells and Miami.
"I think she will be ready for Roland Garros. The competitions she will play until then will help her and every day she progresses on her fitness."
Mouratoglou said there are now "two Serenas."
"I do feel she is the same person once she steps on a tennis court. I can see during practices the same determination, the same level of expectation," he said.
"There are two Serenas: the mother at home and the competitor once on the court.
"Serena's life has changed. She has a family, she is a mother, she has different priorities now.
"But Serena stays Serena. When she decides to do anything, she does it to be the best in it.
"Having a champion's mindset is not anything situational, it is an attitude, it is a trait of character. This always remains. She prepares herself to perform at the highest level.
"She took the decision to come back to tennis. She definitely did not have to. Now she wants to break records again, and especially one.
"That is her drive, to keep winning grand slams and hopefully establish her own grand slam record. But she knows she will have to go step by step, it is a long way."