New mom Serena makes return to tennis courts

New mom Serena makes return to tennis courts

Serena Williams will mark her post-pregnancy return to tennis next weekend with an exhibition match against French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in Abu Dhabi.

The 10th Mubadala World Tennis Championship officials confirmed the presence of the former world number one in what will be the first ever women's match at the event kicking off Thursday.

"I'm delighted to be returning to the court in Abu Dhabi for the first time since the birth of my daughter in September," the 36-year-old 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. I look forward to seeing the fans in Abu Dhabi at the 10th edition very soon."

Williams had vowed to return to the sport, she last played at the Australian Open last January, four months into her pregnancy.

Williams and Ostapenko will face off Saturday at the Gulf venue in her first meeting with the Latvian. The American won her last outing at the Australian Open, beating her sister Venus. The younger Williams owns seven Melbourne trophies and 72 overall. Ostapenko broke through with a surprise title at Roland Garros in June.

"I'm thrilled to be playing in Abu Dhabi, 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," Ostapenko said.

"Last season was really incredible for me and I cannot wait to continue the start of my new season at such an amazing event." The event runs from Dec. 28 to 30 and is regularly a men's pre-season competition, but could not apparently resist luring Williams after men's injury pullouts from Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, and Milos Raonic in quick order after all failed to recover fully from 2017 injuries. The trio was replaced in the court by the relatively low-key trio of Roberto Bautista Agut, Kevin Anderson, and Andrey Rublev.

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