Serena Williams described her comeback match in Abu Dhabi on Saturday as “perfect” and said she was proud of herself for stepping on court so soon after having her first child.
The American superstar lost a tight exhibition match against Jelena Ostapenko at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Saturday, less than four months after the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia.
Serena, one of the greatest tennis players to ever pick up a racquet, confessed to “trepidation” at the start of the match, and described how tough it is to get back to training after giving birth.
“I can’t rate my performance. I’ve had a lot of comebacks, from surgery, foot surgeries, knees, but I’ve never had a comeback from actually giving birth to a human being. So in my eyes I feel like it was a wonderful match for me,” the 36-year-old said in Abu Dhabi.
“For me it’s all about physical, how do I physically feel, how am I moving, how am I physically recovering, so for me that’s kind of more what it is for me. Rating wise, I can’t give myself a rating. I just am really proud of being out here, being able to play in Abu Dhabi, being able to just compete. I had a really tough few months and I’m just really excited to be out here.”
Serena was not moving well at the start of the match against the Latvian Roland Garros champion but that aspect of her game improved as the showdown progressed.
“Yes, that was a really good thing. In the beginning it was a little tough, I also think I had a ton of trepidation out there, but as the match moved on I was less afraid.
“I was like ‘I’m not going to fall over and break , I’m going to be okay’ and the more I played, the more confident I felt. And the more I was able to go for shots that I was afraid to go for in the first set.
“So I think that was really good and I feel like this was a wonderful opportunity for me to kind of test to see where I am. Not only physically but mentally, mentally you have to get over that hump of like ‘go for the shot, you’re going to be okay’. It’s a lot that goes through a female’s body after you have a baby so I think it was perfect.”
On her part, Ostapenko, the current world No. 7, was thrilled she finally got to face her idol, in a singles match, and praised Serena’s performance.
“I think she was playing pretty good for being out for a long time. I mean she’s such a great champion and such a talented player, so I think not many players can play at such a high level after being out for a long time,” said the 20-year-old.
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Serena assured she is “not done yet” with the sport while adding that she has nothing to prove. Still, she is just one Slam away from equaling Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles. Court won three majors after having a baby, in the 1970s, but Serena refuses to draw any comparisons with the Australian, noting the fact that Court competed in a completely different era, “a very long time ago”.
“Now I’m just taking it one day at a time for me. I think being a mom is something incredibly special and I’ve embarked on a really good journey. It’s probably the best journey of my life and I love it so much. It’s pretty awesome,” said Serena.
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