January 22, 2018

By The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: December 24, 2017 02:34:54 PM

Serena to return to court in Abu Dhabi this week

Serena Williams is moving closer to her long-awaited return to competitive tennis and she has her eyes set on defending her Australian Open title next month.
Tournament organizers announced on Sunday that Williams is slated to face French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in an exhibition match on Saturday during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship at Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
The match will mark the first time Williams has played since winning last January's Australian Open while several weeks pregnant. She took a break from tennis and gave birth to a daughter in September and got married in November.
Williams and Ostapenko will also become the first women to play during the event -- which is for men.
"I am delighted to be returning to the court in Abu Dhabi for the first time since the birth of my daughter in September," Williams said in a statement. "The Mubadala World Tennis Championship has long marked the beginning of the men's global tennis season and I am excited and honored to be making my comeback as part of the first women to participate in the event."
Williams, 36, has entered the Australian Open and expectations are that she will officially confirm her plans to play in the event after the match with Ostapenko.
Williams has won 23 Grand Slam titles, one shy of the women's record held by Margaret Court. She defeated sister Venus in the 2017 Australian Open final.
The 20-year-old Ostapenko is a rising star after her standout 2017 campaign and the Latvian figures to give Williams a good gauge per where her tennis game and conditioning stand.
"I am thrilled to be playing in Abu Dhabi at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship," Ostapenko said in a statement. "This will be the first time that women have taken part in the event and it is a huge honor to be part of that history after watching the tournament for many years.
"Last season was really incredible for me and I cannot wait to continue the start of my new season at such an amazing event.