Serena Williams ready for comeback after 'ups and downs'

Serena Williams of the US returns the ball to Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship 2017 match in Abu Dhabi, on December 30, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Serena Williams ready for comeback after 'ups and downs'

ASHEVILLE, USA: Serena Williams has spoken out about the "ups and downs" she faced during her year away from competitive tennis but insists she's now focused and ready for her quest to once more dominate her sport.
Speaking ahead of her comeback at the Fed Cup in Asheville, North Carolina, where the United States will begin the defence of its crown against an unfancied Netherlands team, the 36-year-old said she had the benefit of a new outlook following the birth of her baby daughter Alexis Olympia in September.
"There's been a lot of ups and downs in the practice," Williams told reporters. "It also gives me another view, it's almost relaxing for me as I have nothing to prove. Again, just fighting against all odds to be out there again, to be competing again."
Some of that struggle was apparent during an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi in December, where she lost to French Open Champion Jelena Ostapenko.
Williams was beaten in straight sets and appeared a little slow on her feet, even as she played some fine shots.
She had initially targeted last month's Australian Open crown for a defence of her 2017 crown, but abandoned that goal after declaring she was not "where I personally want to be."
Perhaps wary of setting another ambitious target, Williams refused to be drawn on whether she had set her sights on the year's remaining Grand Slams -- the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.
For now, she appears to be easing her way in and was not named as the United States' first or second singles player in a powerful US team that includes elder sister, world number 17 CoCo Vandeweghe and world number 62 Lauren Davis.
That means she isn't scheduled to play in either of the singles matches on Saturday which are followed by reverse singles on Sunday -- though team captain Kathy Rinaldi did not rule out a change on the second day.
"As far as the lineup, we have the lineup set for tomorrow, then of course we'll wait and see how tomorrow goes, then we'll make our adjustments, if any," she said.
Williams' comeback run comes as another titan of the sport -- Roger Federer -- is enjoying a late-career resurgence, also aged 36.
With three singles Slam titles over the past two years, Federer is now intent on reclaiming his world number one ranking, and becoming the oldest man to do so.
"Roger Federer is a really great tennis player," Williams said of the Swiss great.
"I don't know any tennis player that has not been inspired by him. I definitely have. Yeah, just trekking on, we keep doing the same thing."
While Williams is bidding to emulate Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong and Kim Clijsters in winning a Grand Slam title after having a child, she acknowledged the path had not been straightforward and credited her sister with making it possible.
"I have a great partner and relationship with Venus. She's been really, really positive," she said.
"There's moments that have just been hard, getting back out there doing it every day. You have to get used to that, get in the rhythm of that."
Also credited for a newfound sense of zen was her family life with baby Alexis and husband Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit whom she wed in November.
"It's probably been the most fun of my life," she said.
And though she insists she has nothing left to prove, one professional goal eludes her -- Margaret Court's all-time record for Slam singles titles of 24.
"It goes unsaid 25 is obviously something that I would love, but I'd hate to limit myself," she joked.


‘Pride of Palestine’ Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady ready to kick and punch his way into record books at Brave 18 in Bahrain

Updated 15 October 2018
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‘Pride of Palestine’ Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady ready to kick and punch his way into record books at Brave 18 in Bahrain

  • 23-year-old set to make history as he battles it out with Lucas Martins for the Brave lightweight belt.
  • Fight to take place in Bahrain on Nov.16.

LONDON: History will be made in Bahrain next month when Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady becomes the first Palestinian to fight for a mixed martial arts championship title. The 23-year-old has been announced as the challenger to face interim lightweight champion Lucas Martins of Brazil in Brave 18’s main event on Nov. 16.
Al-Selwady has won nine of his 10 professional fights and remains undefeated since joining Brave Combat Federation in 2016. While his shot at the title was expected, the identity of his opponent was not. Ottman Azaitar was Brave’s last lightweight champion, but the Moroccan was stripped of the belt after refusing to face Al-Selwady. Martins then claimed the interim belt with victory at Brave 14 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, last April. 
“It is an honor and privilege to compete for the championship in Bahrain,” said Al-Selwady, who made his professional fight debut aged just 17 in Jordan. “I am humbled by the opportunity to represent Palestine as an athlete in the main event of the largest combat sports event ever hosted in Asia. I will (put on) the best fight in my career and will make the world that stood alongside me during all these years of struggle proud.”
While Brave 18 will almost certainly not outsell the 21,000 that filled the Saitama Super Arena in Japan for UFC 144 in February 2012, the chance to witness a Palestinian crowned champion in Manama will undoubtedly help sell tickets for the fight night at Khalifa Sports City Stadium. 
“The guy is the future of lightweight,” Brave CEO Mohammed Shahid said only last month. “I’ve never seen anybody that dedicated in his training; that talented and hard working. He is a complete athlete. One of the guys I tend to compare him to is Georges St-Pierre (because) every time I see him, it reminds me of a guy who is a perfectionist.”
Al-Selwady, known as the “Pride of Palestine,” fights out of Amman but is currently training in Texas ahead of next month’s bout. He entered the ring for his last fight against Britain’s Charlie Leary in March draped in a Palestine-Jordan hybrid flag and while the fight was taken to the judges’ scorecards for only the second time in his career, he won by unanimous decision.
“Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady is featured not because he is a Palestinian icon, but for being the athlete with highest number of wins in the division,” Shahid added. “This is indeed a matter of pride for Palestine. And to recognize, support and to nurture such an athlete is indeed an achievement for Brave Combat Federation.”
Brave was founded in Bahrain by Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa — the son of King Hamad — and is considered one of the fastest-growing sports promotions companies in the world. Over a little more than two years, it has held 16 events across 11 countries with four more events scheduled before the end of the year, including debuts in Pakistan and South Africa and a year-ending fight night in Saudi Arabia in December.
MMA’s reputation has come in for widespread criticism recently following the ugly scenes that took place at UFC 453 following Khabib Nurmagomedov’s championship victory against Conor McGregor in Las Vegas last weekend. Khabib submitted McGregor in the fourth round before leaping over the cage and attacking members of the Irish fighter’s corner. Simultaneously, McGregor threw a punch at one of the Russian’s staff inside the octagon.
Shahid said it is important athletes remember they are held up as role models by some fans and should act accordingly, adding that Brave tries to steer clear of trash-talking, and focuses on the positive impact of sport.
“Sport can make a difference in society,” he told Arab News. “Athletes have a strong influence over their fans and society at large. Our athletes have honored martial arts as a sport that showcases discipline, respect and commitment. We have successfully featured our open workout programs to motivate and support the upcoming generation. Our athletes have wholeheartedly supported such initiatives, setting aside their differences and treating their rivalry in a healthy way.”