Beaten Serena Williams unsure about Australian Open

Serena Williams reacts after losing a point to Jelena Ostapenko during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi. (AFP)
Updated 30 December 2017
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Beaten Serena Williams unsure about Australian Open

ABU DHABI: A slow moving Serena Williams made an encouraging return to tennis after maternity leave, taking a set off the French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in an exhibition match Saturday, but said she has not made up her mind about defending the Australian Open title.
In a match featuring a super tie-break and lasting one hour and seven minutes, Ostapenko won 6-2, 3-6, 10-5.
The 36-year-old American, winner of 23 grand slam single titles, was making a comeback after taking nearly 11 months off to have her first child.
Her last match was the Australian Open final, which she won despite being two-month pregnant.
“It was good to be back out there. I missed playing, I missed competition, I missed the crowd, the atmosphere so much. It was really nice to be back,” said Williams after the match.
“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,” she said, refusing to commit yet to the Australian Open, which starts in a little over two weeks.
“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,” she said.
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.
She 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 Williams’ 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, but she unleashed a few of her trademark double-handed shots on both sides to break Ostapenko twice at the start of the second set to go 3-0 up. By this time she was moving better and she 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,” explained Williams.
“I knew I was not going to fall over and break. 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 am at. Not just physically, but also mentally.”
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.


Saudi Arabia star gets to play against Cristiano Ronaldo as he makes debut against Real Madrid

Updated 8 min 19 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia star gets to play against Cristiano Ronaldo as he makes debut against Real Madrid

  • Salem Al-Dawsari plays 33 minutes against Real Madrid
  • He helps Villarreal come from two goals down to rescue a point

Saudi Arabia star Salem Al-Dawsari came off the bench on Saturday night to make his La Liga debut and help turn the game against Real Madrid on its head.
The winger has been waiting patiently for his chance since joining Villarreal on loan from Al-Hilal in February and he must have feared his time in Spain would finish end without a single minute of action, but he was surprisingly thrown on by coach Javier Calleja for the final 33 minutes and he made quite the impact.
Buoyed by scoring for his country against Greece in midweek, Al-Dawsari came on for Javi Fuego after 57 minutes and injected new energy into the Yellow Submarines’ line-up. Pitched out on the left wing, he linked up nicely with his teammates and grew in confidence as the match wore on. On 70 minutes, Al-Dawsari picked up the ball near the center circle, exchanged passes with Rodri, then with Pablo Fornals, creating space for the former to set up Roger Martinez for Villarreal’s first goal.
Al-Dawsari then saw fellow substitute Samu Castillejo score an 85-minute equalizer to grab a point that meant they finished fifth. Champions League finalists Real Madrid had been two goals up inside 32 minutes thanks to efforts from Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Fahad Al-Muwallad was the first player from the Kingdom to play in La Liga when he came on as a substitute for Levante against Leganes earlier this month. And the forward, who is nailed on to be in Saudi Arabia’s World Cup squad, got more top-level minutes under his belt on Saturday when he came on as a 75th-minute substitute in Levante’s 4-2 defeat at Celta Vigo.