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Serena Williams returns to tennis with exhibition loss in Abu Dhabi

Williams called it a “wonderful” match despite the defeat.

Serena Williams hits a forehand against Jelena Ostapenko

Serena Williams hits a forehand against Jelena Ostapenko during an exhibition match at the World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 30, 2017. Photo Credit: Martin Dokoupi/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Serena Williams lost in her return to tennis after giving birth in September, beaten by French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in an exhibition Saturday and still unsure if she will defend her Australian Open title.

Williams called it a “wonderful” match despite the defeat — she took the second set in a score of 6-2, 3-6 and 10-5 in a super tiebreaker.

The Australian Open, the year’s first Grand Slam tournament and where she is the defending champion, begins Jan. 15. “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. I am definitely looking forward to getting back out there,” Williams said. “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 the rest of the year off after the Australian Open which she won while in early pregnancy. 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 struggled with her serve in the 67-minute match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. But, after nearly a year away from the game, she did win a set against the world’s No. 7 player.

“I don’t think I am going to rate my performance,” Williams said. “I have plenty of comebacks, from injuries, from surgeries, but I’ve never had a comeback after actually giving birth to a human being. So, in my eyes, I feel it was a wonderful, wonderful match for me.”

Williams insisted she has a lot more tennis to play. “Knowing that I have won 23 Grand Slam titles and several other titles, I don’t think I have anything more left to prove,” she said. “But I am not done yet.”

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