Djokovic: Serena is the greatest female athlete of all time

Novak Djokovic is inspired by the efforts of Serena Williams after the 23-time grand slam champion made her return at the French Open.

Serena Williams in action at the French Open   -  Getty Images

Serena Williams is the greatest female athlete of all time, according to Novak Djokovic.

The 23-time grand slam champion returned to action on Tuesday at the French Open, her first major since giving birth last September.

Williams beat Krystina Pliskova 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 to move into the second round of the women's draw, setting up a clash with Ashleigh Barty.

Her display brought plenty of praise from fellow players, with Djokovic adding his voice to them following a hard-fought 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 6-4 win over Jaume Munar.

"I love Serena," he told reporters. "All the superlatives and beautiful words that you can think of, she deserves it.

"Especially now, after she gave birth to Olympia and after all she has achieved in sport to see her back and putting [in] hours on the court and work, again and again."

He added: "What a woman has to go through with the pregnancy and birth and then everything after that; I'm sorry to all the guys, but it's much more difficult for a woman.

"So that's why it makes it even more impressive when they make a comeback, and especially Serena after all she has done. We cannot forget about that. 

"It's not like she never won a slam and then now she wants to come back because she has something to achieve from that perspective. 

"She has won what, 23? She's the greatest female athlete of all time, probably, and she keeps on coming back and inspiring everyone.

"She uses tennis as a platform to do good things, and that's why she's back. You can see how much she loves it."

Williams picked up her second win as many days on Wednesday, this time in the women's doubles alongside her sister Venus as they beat 14th seeds Shuko Aoyama and Miyu Kato 4-6 6-4 6-1.

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