I don't feel pressure; I don't feel like I have to win this.
"I don't follow tennis", the Italian said when the subject of Williams' return came up before today's quarter-final. "But I feel like I'm back". "I still have a long way to go to be where I was".
Williams missed last year's Wimbledon as she was pregnant with her first child.
That is going to change now.
It took Mannarino so much toil and trouble to win one game, saving four break points to hold to begin the second set.
Shrieking and clenching her fists after every key point that went her way, Serena let out a gutteral "C'mon" once she wrapped up the set. "'I'll just keep fighting", Williams said.
It also proved beyond doubt that she is the woman to beat in the women's draw, despite this being just her fourth tournament back since giving birth last September.
After five consecutive first-round defeats at Wimbledon, Julia Goerges is now one win from the final, though standing in her way in the formidable Serena Williams. The reprieve was only momentary for Hsieh, as Cibulkova regained her composure to break and take the first set 6-4.
Williams and Drake were first romantically linked back in 2011 after the "God's Plan" hitmaker was seen supporting her in the crowd at one of her matches.
She is unbeaten at the championships since 2014, winning the title in 2015 and 2016.
In the men's tournament, Roger Federer advanced to a record-extending 16th Wimbledon quarterfinal with a 6-0, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Adrian Mannarino of France.
Kerber and Kasatkina are the only two women to reach the second week at all three majors this year. A blistering forehand return gave her three break points in the third game, and she snatched the first with an outstanding off-balance backhand down the line.
Ostapenko played her usual aggressive style, compiling a 33-6 edge in winners.
Goerges and Bertens often go out for dinner together when they are playing at the same tournaments but there was no room for sharing any friendly banter as both eyed a place in the last four of the world's most famous tennis tournament.
Incredibly, Goerges had won only five matches in 10 previous visits to The All England Club - and none in the past five years - before arriving last week.