Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
5:49 PM ET

There was no joy when the match ended. The arms were raised triumphantly.

Serena Williams hadn't won a single match in 14 months. But with the support of the crowd in her first-round match at the Canadian Open on Monday, the 40-year-old returned to the win column.

Williams said she didn't know if she would be able to play in Toronto again after the win. One of my favorite stops on the tour was here.

She addressed the crowd at the end of the interview. She said thank you loudly. I adore you.

Another year, another Serena win πŸ™Œ

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ @serenawilliams comes through a tough test in Toronto to advance to Round 2!#NBO22 pic.twitter.com/PGUY5sX10k

β€” wta (@WTA) August 8, 2022

Most of the time, a first-round win over a lucky loser wouldn't bring such emotion from Williams. It is clear that the victories have been harder to come by and the injuries harder to recover from.

"I guess there's just a light at the end of the tunnel, I'm getting closer to the light, so lately that's been it for me, can't wait to get to that light," Williams said with a laugh. Sometimes you just want to enjoy the moments and do the best that you can, because I can't do this forever.

With each tournament that passed, rumors about her retirement grew louder, as she was out for nearly a year with a torn hamstrings. It was premature to speculate again.

Williams returned to competition earlier this summer when she played doubles with Ons Jabeur. Due to a knee injury, the duo withdrew from the semifinals. Williams lost to Tan in the first round of Wimbledon, in a match that lasted over three hours. Williams had the Centre Court crowd firmly on her side, but the rust prevailed over the flashes of brilliance and she wasn't able to close out the match.

"If you're playing week in, week out, or even every three weeks, every four weeks, there's a little bit more match toughness," Williams said after the loss to Tan I thought I played well on some of them, not all of them. I might have played better. If I were playing matches, I wouldn't miss any of those points.

Match toughness appeared to be back on Monday. Currently unranked and needing a wild card for entry, Williams proved she still belonged. She didn't back down and kept fighting. She needed four set points to win the opener, but she finished it off with an overhead smash.

pov: you're in the front row and get hit by a @serenawilliams smash to seal the first set 6-3 πŸ’₯#NBO22 pic.twitter.com/uNFMSZirml

β€” wta (@WTA) August 8, 2022

The second set took 76 minutes to complete. At times, it looked like the match would go the distance. Williams won the next two games after saving four break points in the first game.

Next up for Williams is the winner of Tuesday's match between Tereza Martincova and Belinda Bencic. In their rivalry, Osaka has a 3-1 record, including a victory in the US Open final, while Williams has a 0-1 record. Williams reached the final in Canada and the US Open in the same year.

Is history going to repeat itself this year? A victory over a tough opponent is a promising start and should give her a much-needed confidence boost. In the Monday match, Williams was broken once, saved seven of eight break points on the day, and recorded seven ace serves. Changing weather conditions, as well as an ever-adjusting foe across the net, she seemed to do so with relative ease.

At the Australian Open, Williams reached the semifinals, her last hardcourt major, and she still wants to win a 24th Grand Slam title. She is going to play in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati and the US Open later this month.

Williams appeared to be taking it one day at a time.

Williams said it was just one win. It takes a long time. It has been a long time since I won. I didn't remember what it was like.