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WTA (Women's Tennis Association)

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

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 December, 2017, 11:07pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 December, 2017, 2:12am

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.