Tennis

Serena ready for comeback after 'ups and downs'

Former world No. 1 easing in as part of the United States' Fed Cup team

Serena Williams has spoken out about the “ups and downs” she faced during her year away from competitive tennis but insists she’s now focused and ready for her quest to once more dominate her sport.

Speaking ahead of her comeback at the Fed Cup in Asheville, North Carolina, where the United States will begin the defence of their crown against an unfancied Holland team, the 36-year-old said she had the benefit of a new outlook following the birth of her baby daughter Alexis Olympia in September.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs in the practice,” Williams said. “It also gives me another view, it’s almost relaxing for me as I have nothing to prove. Again, just fighting against all odds to be out there again, to be competing again.”

Some of that struggle was apparent during an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi in December, where she lost to French Open Champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Williams was beaten in straight sets and appeared a little slow on her feet, even as she played some fine shots.

She had initially targeted last month’s Australian Open crown for a defence of her 2017 crown, but abandoned that goal after declaring she was not “where I personally want to be.”

Perhaps wary of setting another ambitious target, Williams refused to be drawn on whether she had set her sights on the year’s remaining Grand Slams – the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.

Easing in

For now, she appears to be easing her way in and was not named as the United States’ first or second singles player in a powerful US team that includes elder sister Venus, world No. 17 CoCo Vandeweghe and world No.  62 Lauren Davis.

That means she isn’t scheduled to play in either of the singles matches on Saturday which are followed by reverse singles on Sunday, but will instead play in a doubles tie with teammate Davis against Lesley Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs.

US captain Kathy Rinaldi did not rule out a change on the second day.

“As far as the line-up, we have the line-up set for tomorrow, then of course we’ll wait and see how tomorrow goes, then we’ll make our adjustments, if any,” she said.

Serena boasts a strong Fed Cup record, with a 13-0 singles mark that includes winning 26 out of her 28 sets as well as a 3-1 doubles record.

And though she insists she has nothing left to prove, one professional goal eludes her – Margaret Court’s all-time record for Slam singles titles of 24.

“It goes unsaid 25 is obviously something that I would love, but I’d hate to limit myself,” she joked. – AFP

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