Maternity leave will soon be over for Serena Williams; After almost four months since giving birth to her first child and almost a year of not playing competitive tennis, she is ready to make her comeback.
This Saturday, the 36-year-old tennis champion and the world's highest paid female athlete will play an exhibition match against defending French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.
It will mark Serena's first competitive game since she won her record 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open in January—when she was nine weeks pregnant with her and now-husband Alexis Ohanian's daughter Alexis Olympia.
"I am delighted to be returning to the court in Abu Dhabi for the first time since the birth of my daughter in September," Williams said in a statement to ESPN on Sunday. "The Mubadala World Tennis Championship has long marked the beginning of the men's global tennis season and I am excited and honored to be making my comeback as part of the first women to participate in the event."
Serena's rep had said in April that the tennis star would take maternity leave after giving birth and take time off from tennis until 2018. News of Serena's daughter's birth was made public on September 1. She and her husband wed in November. He had also taken paternity leave to bond with their child. Over the past few months, the two have posted sweet photos and videos of baby Alexis.
The Mubadala World Tennis Championship is expected to be part of Serena's preparation for an Australian Open title defense, ESPN reported.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told reporters earlier this month that Williams was "very likely" to play in the first Grand Slam of 2018, which begins Jan. 15.
"She's got her visa, she's entered, she's practicing and she's probably just got to find a bit more space for a bigger entourage," he said, according to the Herald Sun.