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.


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

Updated 20 May 2018
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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 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.