DUBAI: Serena Williams’ bid to extend her phenomenal career into her 33rd year will take a tentative but crucial step forward when she unexpectedly lines up at the head of the field for the Dubai Open, which starts on Monday.
Tennis’ iconic female had planned to give the popular and lucrative tournament a miss until a back injury at last month’s Australian Open altered the shape of her year. She needs to prove that it won’t alter the shape of her career either.
Serena has already confounded countless predictions by recovering from a hematoma and a life-threatening pulmonary embolism, and improbably regaining the world number one ranking a year ago. But injuries at this age, especially back injuries, can be a cause for anxiety.
She is, however, making a decent job of trying to dispel that. She twittered a message this week precisely designed to show how vigorous she feels she is.
“Hit today with @pmouratoglou not sure if he will want to hit with me again cauz I’m Crazy intense on practice court,” it read, making a jokey reference to her French coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.
But practice is one thing and hard matches on hard courts after an absence are quite another. Serena will be seeking reassurance about her fitness, and, almost as vital, match practice.
Had she not accepted this last minute wild card and been prepared to travel to the Middle East she would have had gone two months without competition.