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Mother Serena Returns to Tennis … in Abu Dhabi

December 25th, 2017 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Fifa, Tennis, UAE

It is an exhibition, not a tournament. Something just north of hitting on a practice court.

No matter.

Serena Williams‘s return to a tennis court with an elite opponent on the other side of the net, with paying fans in the stands and someone keeping score … may be the biggest sports story in UAE history.

Serena on Saturday will play Jelena Ostapenko, the 20-year-old Latvian who won the French Open, at the International Tennis Centre in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital.

It will mark Serena’s first competition since her marriage in November and her first child’s birth in September and her championship last January, when she won the Australian Open while two months pregnant.

It is much more than a sports story. It also is about famous people, rich people, motherhood, celebrity children, society, fashion, aging, female athletes …

And it is this other stuff that will drive global interest in Serena taking to the court in Abu Dhabi at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Sports-first people will be thinking, foremost, about Serena ramping up her preparations for the Australian Open, next month, where she could win a 24th major tournament and draw even with Margaret Court for most grand-slam championships. And can she climb back up to No. 1 in the world, after her 36th birthday, after delivering by Caesarean section?

Non-sports people will be paying attention to everything else.

What Serena is wearing. Looking for her three-month-old daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, in the stands, and what the baby is wearing and who is looking after her. Looking for father and husband Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the website Reddit.

Organizers of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship tournament, which for its first nine editions featured six of the planet’s best male players, has had this global event dropped into its final day, with the championship match coming after Serena is good and finished.

For a day, Abu Dhabi will be mentioned in all the gossip websites and magazines, and the paparazzi will be tailing the little family into the 5,000-seat arena, at Zayed Sports City, and back out.

(Organizers no doubt have received dozens, if not hundreds, of credential requests from media far and wide for what historically has been a fairly low-key, three-day event.)

How much baby weight Serena, 36, has lost will be discussed, and the interaction of Serena, her husband and baby will be studied. As will be crowd reaction.

Making this semi-fevered is Serena’s months out of the public eye. Photos were released after the birth of the baby and then of her wedding last month, photos of which were splashed across the web. Meantime, she has made only one public tennis appearance, in Washington D.C., earlier this month, and no one was keeping score.

So, yes, a big deal. In terms of how many people will follow this appearance, as compared to other big sports events held in the UAE. Like three Fifa Club World Cups or the Fifa Under 17 World Cup or any golf or tennis tournament held in Dubai or Abu Dhabi …

This is bigger. Because it pulls in so many people who do not care about tennis, in particular, or sports, in general — but will pursue news on celebrities all day long.

Brace yourselves, Abu Dhabi.




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