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.


Stubborn Roshen Silva inches Sri Lanka past England in Kandy

Updated 15 November 2018
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Stubborn Roshen Silva inches Sri Lanka past England in Kandy

  • The hosts, down 1-0 in the three-match series, were bowled out for 336 in reply to England’s 290
  • Silva built crucial partnerships including a 56-run ninth wicket stand with Akila Dananjaya as the hosts edged past England’s total

KANDY: Roshen Silva hit a stubborn 85 to guide Sri Lanka to a 46-run first innings lead over England in the second Test on Thursday.
The hosts, down 1-0 in the three-match series, were bowled out for 336 in reply to England’s 290. England’s Rory Burns and tail-ender Jack Leach had to see out one nervy over before the end of the second day in Kandy.
After Adil Rashid struck twice to England’s tourists’ hopes of securing a lead on the turning pitch, Silva built crucial partnerships including a 56-run ninth wicket stand with Akila Dananjaya as the hosts edged past England’s total.
Dananjaya frustrated England’s spinners before falling to Moeen Ali leg before for 31. Stand-in skipper Suranga Lakmal was unbeaten on 15 at the end.
The visitors were yet to open their account after nightwatchman Jack Leach faced six balls from Dilruwan Perera in the final over of the day. Rory Burns was accompanying Leach at close of play.
“We had a chat upstairs — a little bit disappointed that they’ve got a little bit of a lead,” said Leach, who also took three wickets in Sri Lanka’s innings.
“We’re very much feeling good about the fact that we’re bowling last on that wicket. We feel if we can put pressure on tomorrow with our batting and get a good total, we feel that we can win the game,” he said.
England had made inroads into the Sri Lankan middle order through some brilliant fielding by Ben Stokes before lunch but Silva frustrated the opposition bowlers for the rest of the day.
Dimuth Karunaratne, who made 63, put on 96 for the third wicket with Dhananjaya de Silva, who hit 59, to steady the innings after they had slipped to 31 for two early in the day.
But Stokes, who on Wednesday had failed with the bat as England’s new number three, broke the partnership when he pounced to run out Karunaratne with a direct throw from gully.
The star all-rounder then took a stunning one-handed catch low to his left at first slip to dismiss Kusal Mendis for one off the slow left-arm spin of Leach.
“We got a 46 runs lead, its a huge score for us when they play in the second innings. We can put them under pressure if we can get a couple of wickets early morning,” said Karunaratne.
“If we can get England before 250 it will be a gettable target for us,” he added.
England’s first innings total was 285 but Sri Lanka were docked five runs after the umpires deemed that Silva did not ground his bat properly while taking a run.
According to international cricket rules an umpire can dock five runs if he feels the batsman ran a short run deliberately.
“I don’t think Roshen did it deliberately. He thought the ball had gone for four he came back to his partner to give a high five,” said Karunaratne.
“Those things can happen its part of the game we don’t blame him. We are not so worried about the five runs.”