Serena Williams To Return To Tennis In Abu Dhabi Exhibition

Former world number one Serena Williams will make her much-anticipated competitive return with an exhibition match on the final day of the Mubadala exhibition event on December 30, tournament organisers announced Sunday.

The 36-year-old, who has won an Open-era record 23 Grand Slam singles titles, will take on reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Williams won the Australian Open 11 months ago but has not played since because of pregnancy and the birth of her first child, Alexis Olympia, in September. She has since fallen to 22 in the WTA rankings.

The American, who has never played the 20-year-old Ostapenko, will face the Latvian in the tournament’s first ever women’s match.

“I am delighted to be returning to the court in Abu Dhabi for the first time since the birth of my daughter,” she said in a statement on the tournament’s website.

“The Mubadala World Tennis Championship has long marked the beginning of the men’s global tennis season and I am excited and honoured to be making my comeback as part of the first women to participate in the event.”

Williams can equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles at Melbourne Park next month.

The six-strong men’s field in Abu Dhabi features former world number one Novak Djokovic, who will also be making his comeback.

The Serb has not played competitively since his quarter-final loss at Wimbledon in July because of an elbow injury.

The exhibition tournament, which starts December 28, had earlier lost a couple of star attractions, including multiple Grand Slam champions Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka.

AFP

Soon To Be Aunt Preparing For Serena’s Baby And US Open

Wimbledon and Australian Open runner-up Venus Williams is preparing this week for the US Open and to become a new aunt with sister Serena giving birth to a baby soon.

Ninth-ranked Venus advanced Tuesday to the second round of the WTA Cincinnati Open by eliminating US compatriot Alison Riske 6-2, 6-0 in 66 minutes.

But off the court, she’s doing some online shopping for Serena’s baby, and getting some valuable advice from her mother, Oracene Price, who has raised five daughters.

“I have a lot of things in my cart that I’m about to order,” Venus Williams said. “I talked to my mom yesterday. I’m like, ‘Mom, what do you really, really need?’ So she really gave me the low-down.

“So I’m going to get this stuff and as things progress I’ll see what I need after.”

Serena and her fiancee, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, have said they plan to keep the sex of the baby a surprise until birth.

Serena, 35, was pregnant when she beat Venus, 37, in an Australian Open final that was more all-Williams than either knew, winning a 23rd career Grand Slam singles crown, one shy of Margaret Court’s all-time record.

In April, Serena revealed on social media that she was pregnant. She is expected to give birth in about another month.

With Serena sidelined, seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus has picked up the family mantle and turned back the clock, making a run to the Wimbledon final last month, losing to Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in a bid for her first Slam crown since 2008.

Venus, who won five Wimbledon and two US Open titles, has been an aunt before, but not when she was old enough to do some serious spoiling and spending on the new arrival.

“This is the first time I’ve been an aunt as an adult,” she said. “So it’s a completely different experience than before when I was a child.”

After a third-round exit in Toronto last week, Williams hopes to put the final fine tuning on her game this week ahead of the year’s final Grand Slam that begins August 28 in New York.

“I just want to play free and feel confident. That’s important,” Williams said. “I need to play my best at all the big events.

“Today was about being measured and being patient and trying to just capitalize on the match.”

Williams, who won her 49th career WTA singles crown last year at Kaohsiung, said she doesn’t feel pressure to win the title this week.

“Not really, but I want to (feel that pressure),” she said. “I want to win every match. The aim is to get out there and be better every single time.”