Serena Williams loses her first match on her comeback but she’s happy to be back
Former world No 1 shows rustiness as she is beaten by Latvia’s French Open champion Ostapenko in exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi
Serena Williams is back in action. The American great was back on court on Saturday night for her first match after an almost one-year break – but it was not the result she was hoping for.
Returning after a maternity break, she was beaten by French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 3-6 and 10-5 in a “first-to-10-points” final set in an exhibition outing at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.
Playing her first match since winning the Australian Open in January, the 36-year-old former world number one – who became a mum for the first time in September – looked far from full fitness but that was understandable.
Ostapenko, 20, was just two-years-old when Williams won the first of her 23 grand slam titles in 1999 at the US Open.
Williams, normally a gritty fighter on court, was unfazed by the defeat in front of an appreciative crowd and was in a jovial mood in the interview after the match, which ended with Serena sending a backhand return wide.
“Motherhood is just phenomenal,” she said when asked how she felt about becoming a mother for the first time with baby girl Alexis Olympia. “I was a little worried out there, I was like Olympia [who was in the spectator stands] is she okay?’
“But it’s really good and I’m excited and it’s good to be back on the court. This was such a good time for me. It’s my first time playing in Abu Dhabi. Thank you guys. Thank you for the support. It was really cool. The first match coming back is always super, incredibly hard especially after having a baby but it’s great and I’m glad I could do it here.”
World No 7 Ostapenko, who enjoyed a superb 2017 season that included winning her first grand slam title at the French Open at Roland Garros, said it was amazing to play Williams.
“It’s pretty amazing to play Serena and it’s a great place to be here. I’m looking forward to the new season. I enjoy playing here,” said the Latvian.
Serena beat sister Venus in the 2017 Australian Open final to claim her seventh title in Melbourne.
Serena aims to defend her title when the Australian Open gets under way on January 15.