When it comes to playing their way back into top form after an extended absence from the tour, nobody does it quite like Serena Williams. Time and time again throughout her long, historic career, she’s upset the form book by going deep and lifting big titles in her first few tournaments back.
As of now Serena hasn’t confirmed whether or not she’ll start her official WTA-level comeback at the Australian Open, but wherever she does it, she’s probably going to be as dangerous as ever.
Here are five times Serena Williams was back at her best in no time:
1. The Summer Of ’99—Having missed Wimbledon due to the flu and playing just one Fed Cup match in the span of two and a half months between late May and early August, Serena came back to the tour with a 15-match, three-tournament winning streak during the summer hard-court season that included her first major title at the 1999 US Open.
2. ’02 & The First Serena Slam—After missing the Australian Open with an ankle injury Serena got right back on track, winning three of her first five tournaments back and then taking the next four Grand Slams in a row—the 2002 French Open, 2002 Wimbledon, 2002 US Open and 2003 Australian Open—otherwise known as the first Serena Slam. She went from missing a Slam to winning four in a row...
3. The Spring Of ’04—A knee injury kept Serena off the tour for eight months from July 2003 to March 2004, a stretch that included missing title defenses at the 2003 US Open and 2004 Australian Open. Serena returned to action at Miami in March and nobody knew quite what to expect, but she went all the way to the title, even winning her first career encounter against Maria Sharapova en route.
4. The ’07 Australian Open—Ranked No. 81 in the world after missing most of 2006 with a knee injury, Serena was unseeded and an extreme long shot at the 2007 Australian Open. But one by one she took out six seeded players en route to arguably the unlikeliest of her 23 career Grand Slam titles, saving her best for last—she crushed then-No. 2 Sharapova in the final, 6-1, 6-2.
5. The Summer Of 2011—Having missed 11 months between July 2010 and June 2011 due to a combination of injury and illness, Serena came back to the tour during the grass-court season, and although she came away from both Eastbourne and Wimbledon without the trophy, she then went on an incredible 18-match winning streak that brought her titles at Stanford and Toronto and took her all the way to the final of the US Open, where her run came to an end against an inspired Sam Stosur.
She would win 10 of the next 19 Grand Slams, though, the first of those coming at 2012 Wimbledon.