December 27, 2018 is a date that will never be forgotten in Abu Dhabi’s sporting history as a sell-out crowd at Zayed Sports City got to witness tennis’ greatest sister act: Venus v Serena.
The Williams sisters faced off at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Thursday night and put on a high-quality, entertaining show for the 5,000 spectators in attendance.
It’s just the second year that women have been included in the MWTC lineup and what better way to introduce Abu Dhabi to the women’s game than to invite the legendary Williams duo?
In a clever move from the organisers, kids were allowed to enter the stadium for free on Thursday, and the venue was indeed buzzing several hours before the highly-anticipated showdown.
People were screaming ‘I love you Venus’ and ‘I love you Serena’ throughout the whole match, some asking for their shoes, others admiring Serena’s 15-month-old daughter Olympia, who quietly sat on her father Alexis’ lap the entire time, applauding every single point, whether it was won by her mother or auntie.
After a long rally that went Venus’ way, Serena was at the baseline near Olympia and spotted her daughter clapping. She immediately cracked up and told Venus on the other side: “She’s clapping for you”.
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) December 27, 2018
Cutiee clapping for mommy pic.twitter.com/lQDj6FIsFo
— LorenaPopa🕵️♀️ 🏆🥖👑 (@popalorena) December 27, 2018
Serena later said in her press conference that moment was the highlight of the match for her.
“That’s a classy baby you know, she applauds both mommy and my opponent who happened to be her auntie. That was the highlight, seeing her clap, it was so cute,” gushed Serena.
Venus added: “She was so cute in the stands, such a little person, she was so good, it was so cute, I tried not to get distracted, it was really hard.”
Cuties ❤️ pic.twitter.com/J6Z2P8cSbQ
— LorenaPopa🕵️♀️ 🏆🥖👑 (@popalorena) December 27, 2018
It was Venus who edged past her sister in a third-set match tiebreak and the seven-time Grand Slam champion is hoping the MWTC would soon introduce a tournament for the women, instead of it just being a stand-alone exhibition match.
“It was a lot of fun. They told us before it was a sold out crowd so then you’re like ‘okay I want to play well for these people’ and it’s your first match back and you never quite know how that’s going to go. So we both went out there and tested our games and it was pretty close ‘til the end,” said Venus.
“I wish I had a few matches here to be honest, maybe next year there’ll be kind of a women’s tournament format just to have more matches and more matches against the best players in the world, that’s really the best way to start the season.”
Serena Williams would not discuss the incidents that unfolded during the US Open final she lost to Naomi Osaka in September and is choosing to “move on to bigger and better things”, the American told reporters in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
In her first on-court appearance since that controversial final in New York, Williams lost an exhibition match to her sister Venus 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 in the UAE capital and will now head straight to Perth to compete in the Hopman Cup alongside her countryman Frances Tiafoe.
Asked if the US Open final is a topic she’d like to avoid as the new season kicks off, Serena said: “I don’t avoid anything. I just don’t have time to talk about that. I talked about it, everyone talked about it for months and months and months and it’s best to move on to bigger and better things.”
Bigger and better things are definitely on Serena’s mind as she admitted earlier in the day the significance of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles when it comes to her goals for 2019.
Williams twice missed out on a chance to tie Court’s mark in 2018, losing both the Wimbledon and US Open finals in the span of the last six months.
The 23-time major champion, who has played just seven events since her return from maternity leave in March, will be chasing history once again at the Australian Open in January.
“[The number 24] has always been significant since I got 22, then 23. It’s something that I clearly want but I have to be able to get there and beat a lot of good players to get it,” said Serena.
The 37-year-old looked in good shape in her tight defeat to Venus on Thursday and can take confidence from the high level they both showcased.
“My fitness, I feel like I’m pretty fit,” Serena said. “I was running and running and never got tired except for one point but then I got over it in 20 seconds, so I think that was really the highlight for me.”
Venus will begin her 2019 season at the WTA event in Auckland but will be without a coach having ended her 11-year collaboration with David Witt last month.
“I love everyone that I work with, and I still love them, so it’s just all love. I haven’t brought on anyone yet, so we’ll see what happens,” said Venus.
The 38-year-old wasn’t specific when describing what she’s looking for in a coach but said it was important “that they’re as easy as going as I am, that’s all that matters”.
*Provided by AFP
As he gets ready to launch yet another comeback from injury, Rafael Nadal explains how he maintains a positive perspective when it comes to dealing with the physical problems that have plagued his career since he was a young teen.
The Spaniard has sustained numerous injuries over the years, particularly to his knees, yet has always managed to return to his best, rising to the top of the rankings and adding to his Grand Slam titles tally.
At 32, he will attempt another comeback for 2019, after ending his 2018 season early due to a knee injury that forced him to retire from his US Open semi against Juan Martin del Potro, and an arthroscopic ankle surgery he underwent last month.
In Abu Dhabi this weekend for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, Nadal admits that the frequent battles with injury sometimes take a toll on him, but he revealed how he is still able to overcome it.
“Yes of course it’s tough, you get tired to have pain, and you get tired to be injured. But that’s it. At the end of the day you come back home and you put everything on a balance and the balance always the positive things are much heavier than the negative things and then you wake up the next morning with the passion for the game, with the passion for the improvement and for the daily work and that’s the only way that I’m able to find a way to be back at the level that I want to be,” said the world No. 2.
“Hopefully this time will be again a good comeback and knowing all the difficulties that that presents but I’m excited about it.”
Nadal got back on the court just two weeks ago, but feels confident he can be ready in time for the Australian Open (starts January 14, 2019). Asked to elaborate on the state of his knees and ankle, he said: “I’m happy the way that I improved with the things. Of course I need to prove myself when arriving the official competition. I think hopefully playing here helps me to do the first step and then in the official competition I just try to increase a little bit the intensity on the legs and everything and then we’ll know a little bit more where I am.”