Tennis: Serena Williams says good to be back, despite loss to Jelena Ostapenko in Abu Dhabi exhibition

Former world No. 1 admits it will take time for her to get up to speed after pregnancy break

ABU DHABI • Serena Williams may have lost on her comeback from a maternity break but she declared that she was happy to be back on court, as she takes baby steps towards getting herself fit to possibly defend her Australian Open title next month.

The 36-year-old fell 2-6, 6-3, 5-10 to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko yesterday in the "first to ten points" final set at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

Williams looked far from full fitness just four months after the birth of her first child, and the former world No. 1 admitted it was not easy for her as she was constantly worried for her baby.

"I'm excited. It's good to be back on the court," the American said after the match, as reported by ESPN.

"It's my first time playing in Abu Dhabi... first matches back are always super incredibly hard, especially after having a baby.

"But it was great and I'm glad I could do it here.

"Motherhood is phenomenal. I was a little worried - I looked at my camp and asked, 'Is (my daughter) Olympia OK?' But it's really good to be back on the court. This was such a good time for me."

Although the American has not officially confirmed that she will play at the Australian Open, Williams remains registered for the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne, where she won while she was pregnant the last time round.

Andy Murray, meanwhile, will make his long-awaited return to the ATP Tour in the Brisbane International which starts today, after nearly five months out through injury.

Nervous organisers were buoyed by news yesterday that the two-time Wimbledon champion was on a flight to Brisbane following the blow of losing world No. 1 Rafael Nadal for the lead-in tournament to the Australian Open.


Serena Williams returning against French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi yesterday. She has yet to confirm her participation at the Australian Open. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Murray has been dogged by a hip complaint and showed the effects of his time away from the court during his 6-2 defeat by Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

But he is pressing on with his plans to play in the Australian Open, which starts on Jan 15.

"I felt better as it went along but I'll need to keep improving for sure," Murray told reporters in Abu Dhabi.

"Obviously, a bit slow at the start. When you haven't competed for a long while, it takes time to get back up to that pace."

Murray was a late replacement at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship for Novak Djokovic, who also withdrew from next week's Qatar Open yesterday due to his elbow problems.

"Unfortunately, the situation with the elbow has not changed for the better since yesterday," said Djokovic.

"I still feel the pain. Therefore, I will have to withdraw from (the) ATP tournament in Doha. Only when I'm 100 per cent ready to play, I will be able to come back."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 31, 2017, with the headline 'Williams rusty on return to the court'. Print Edition | Subscribe