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.


Sorry, mum and dad — Indian shooting star bans parents from foreign trips

Updated 18 August 2018
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Sorry, mum and dad — Indian shooting star bans parents from foreign trips

  • The 16-year-old has brought home World Cup and Commonwealth Games gold medals this year
  • The Asian Games promises to be the toughest field yet for her

PALEMBANG, Indonesia: Teenage shooter Manu Bhaker said she’s told her parents not to accompany her to tournaments abroad as she struggles to adapt to life as one of India’s best known sportswomen.
The 16-year-old has brought home World Cup and Commonwealth Games gold medals this year in a sudden rise to fame, and is one of the favorites at the Asian Games in Indonesia.
But she is finding that success comes at a price, with a tough training schedule and a restrictive lifestyle that means less time with friends and a one-hour daily time limit for using her mobile phone.
Bhaker said she had resorted to banning her parents from her overseas trips as she tries to carve out a slice of freedom.
“They make limits for me, like, ‘Eat that, eat this, don’t go there, do this, don’t do this, don’t use your phone, don’t do this now, go to bed,’” she tells AFP before a training session in Palembang, which is co-hosting the Asian Games along with Jakarta.
“It’s a bit too much.”
Bhaker’s day kicks off at 5am with yoga and meditation, and ends with a jog and bootcamp-style workout.
But perhaps most punishing of all, she and the other ‘juniors’ on the Indian team are only allowed one hour with their phones each day.
In spite of her age, Bhaker is competing at senior level for the 25m sports pistol and both the individual and mixed team 10m air pistol.
She is proud of her achievement but, yes, the unfairness does grates when she sees older members of her team.
“They’re seniors. They’re free. They can do anything they want,” she says wistfully of her team-mates. “They can use their phones any time.”
Bhaker swept to fame at the beginning of this year by becoming the youngest Indian to win a gold medal at the World Cup, a feat she achieved the individual 10m air pistol and the mixed team event.
She then climbed back on the podium once again at Australia’s Gold Coast in April, setting a Commonwealth Games record of 240.9 points for the 10m air pistol.
The Asian Games promises to be the toughest field yet with the world number nine taking on fourth-ranked Ji Xiaojing of China.
Life on the road takes its toll too.
Bhaker says she has spent fewer than 10 days at her home in Haryana state since February and knows her studies have suffered in spite of some tuition on the road.
She also admits she feels lonely sometimes.
“Your friends are like, ‘No, we can’t have fun with her. She’s a Commonwealth gold medallist — we must respect her,’” she says. “Your friend circle decreases.”
Her coach Jaspal Rana agrees the cycle of competitions and training camps is tough for youngsters who often crave normality.
But they need to decide what they want out of life, he says.
“People come and go. But there are few people who become real champions, real heroes — so you need to work for that.”