Her serving wasn't as fast, her groundstrokes weren't as crisp and her movement—well, everyone's a little sluggish after the holidays, right? But after 336 days, it was a pleasure to see any version of Serena Williams, the all-time great tennis player, back on the court.

And truth be told, Williams and her opponent, French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, played an exhibition match that was worthy of its billing, giving the crowd at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship an enjoyable and competitive contest. It went the Latvian's way, 6-2, 3-6, 10-5 (supertiebreaker in place of a third set), but the focus was rightly on Williams, who began 2017 in Australia and ended it in Abu Dhabi—and, in between, won her 23rd Grand Slam singles title, had her first child and got married.



More on Serena, and from Serena, from the Associated Press:

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Serena Williams lost on her return to competitive tennis after giving birth, going down to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in an exhibition in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.

Williams struggled with her serve and Ostapenko won 6-2, 3-6 and then 10-5 in a super tiebreaker, but the American still impressed to take a set off the No. 7-ranked Ostapenko after nearly a year away from tennis.

Williams said after the 67-minute match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship that she is still undecided on her title defense of the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 15, but delivered a warning to rivals.

"I don't know if I am totally ready to come back on the tour yet. I know that when I come back I definitely want to be competing for championships," Williams said. "I am definitely looking forward to getting back out there.

"I am taking it one day at a time. I am going to assess everything with my team before deciding."

The 36-year-old Williams took time off after winning the Australian Open last January while pregnant. She gave birth to her first child, a girl named Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., on Sept. 1. She married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in November.

Williams broke Ostapenko in the first game of her comeback but her own problems with her serve gave the Latvian a way back into the match.

Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, a record for the professional era.



HIGHLIGHTS: Serena Williams loses exhibition return match to Ostapenko

HIGHLIGHTS: Serena Williams loses exhibition return match to Ostapenko


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Starting with January …  gear up for the Australian Open with 6 LIVE tournaments in the lead up to AO, exclusively on Tennis Channel Plus

  1. Mubadala – Abu Dhabi

  2. Hopman Cup

  3. ATP Sydney

  4. Fast 4 Sydney

  5. World Tennis Channel – Adelaide

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