Navratilova backs Williams to fly

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Martina Navratilova believes Serena Williams will quickly be back among the winners when she returns to the WTA Tour.

Serena Williams will be at "full flight" upon her return to the WTA Tour and it would not be a surprise to see her winning top titles immediately, says Martina Navratilova.

American great Williams won the Australian Open in 2017 despite being two months pregnant, and has only played one exhibition match and a doubles dead rubber in the Fed Cup since giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Jr in September, although she is due to play at the Tie Break Tens in New York.

Williams, a winner of 23 grand slams - a record in the Open Era - is set to be back in a WTA tournament for the first time in over a year at Indian Wells, as she bids to build up her playing time ahead of the French Open and Wimbledon.

Navratilova, who has 18 grand slam singles titles of her own, says it is not impossible that Williams can win and, even if she fails to do so, makes her favourite to triumph at the Miami Open later this month.

"Maybe in Indian Wells there will be some cobwebs, but I expect her to win in Miami," Navratilova told Omnisport, speaking courtesy of the Laureus World Sports Awards.

"I just don't see people beating her on hard courts and on grass. Maybe on clay [because] it's her weakest surface. 

"But she's just so strong off the mark, she's not going to play unless she thinks she can win, that's why she pulled out of the Australian Open. She doesn't just want to show up and give somebody a leg up so they can say 'oh I beat Serena'.

"So, I expect her to be at full flight. I wouldn't be surprised if she wins [at Indian Wells], impressed yes, but not surprised. I think she's only going to come out when she's at 100 per cent."

Navratilova added that Williams' style of play means she will soon be competing at her best level.

"The way Serena plays is very short points, she doesn't have to hit 20 balls to win a rally, the way the game is played lends itself to playing less and still be able to do it well as long as you stay in physical shape," she added. 

"Mentally you can take those breaks and really just concentrate on the big tournaments. Again, with the way she plays with the big serve, big returns, it lends itself to that. 

"She takes full advantage of it, she does it better than anybody. She's such a fiery competitor, she embraces it."