ABU DHABI • Serena Williams has not made up her mind about defending her Australian Open title and will only travel to Melbourne Park if she believes she can lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
The 36-year-old made an encouraging return to tennis on Saturday after maternity leave, taking a set off French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.
In an exhibition match featuring a super tie-break and lasting 1hr 7min, Ostapenko won 6-2, 3-6, 10-5.
"I missed playing, I missed competition, I missed the crowd, the atmosphere so much. It was really nice to be back," said Williams after her first competitive match in close to 11 months.
Her last match was the Australian Open final, which she won despite being two months pregnant for her 23rd Grand Slam singles title.
"I don't know if I am totally ready to come back on the Tour yet. I know that when I come back I definitely want to be competing for championships," added the former world No. 1, refusing to commit yet to the Australian Open, which starts on Jan 15.
"I don't know, but I am definitely looking forward to getting back out there. I am taking it one day at a time. I am going to assess everything with Patrick (Mouratoglou, her coach) and my team."
NO ANSWER YET
I don't know if I am totally ready to come back on the Tour yet. I know that when I come back I definitely want to be competing for championships... I am taking it one day at a time. I am going to assess everything with Patrick (Mouratoglou, her coach) and my team.
SERENA WILLIAMS, currently the world No. 22, on how she is not sure if she is ready to return to the WTA Tour.
It was the first time Ostapenko had played against Williams, whom she described as her "childhood idol". The 20-year-old Latvian was born almost two years after Williams turned professional in September 1995.
Williams was clearly having problems with her serve and was broken five times in the 17 games.
The world No. 22 also stuck mostly to the baseline and only twice charged the net.
She started well, breaking Ostapenko's serve in the first game of the match. But her inability to get her first serve going, along with several unforced errors early in the match, allowed the Latvian to break twice and build a 4-1 lead before wrapping up the set 6-2.
Williams' problems with her serve continued in the second set but she was moving better and started hitting more winners.
"That's the really good thing. In the beginning, it felt a little tough. But, as the match moved on, I was less afraid," said the American.
"The more I played, the more confident I felt that I would be able to go for shots that I was afraid to go for in the first set.
"It was a wonderful opportunity for me to kind of test where I'm at."
The super tie-break was mostly a one-sided affair as Williams made unforced errors trying to be aggressive. She was down 2-8 at one stage and won the next three points, but Ostapenko held her serve twice to close the match.