Serena is set to make her return
Serena Williams is returning to competition with an exhibition match Saturday in Abu Dhabi against French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.
Williams has not competed since winning the Australian Open last January while she was pregnant. She will face Latvia’s Ostapenko at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in the first year that women will be taking part, tournament organizers announced Sunday.
“I am delighted to be returning to the court in Abu Dhabi for the first time since the birth of my daughter in September,” the 36-year-old Williams said in a statement.
Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, a record for the professional era. She is expected to compete for her 24th at the Australian Open, the first major of the year.
Williams gave birth to a girl named Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. on Sept. 1. She married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in November.
“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,” Williams said.
The Australian Open starts Jan. 15.
Villanova still tops in AP poll
Villanova stayed comfortably at No. 1 in an AP Top 25 poll that offered little change at the top.
The top four teams stayed the same in Monday’s new poll , led by the Wildcats (12-0) receiving 43 of 65 first-place votes to stay at No. 1 for the third straight week. No. 2 Michigan State (12-1) was second and had 16 first-place votes, while third-ranked Arizona State (12-0) had six first-place votes to stay ahead of No. 4 Duke (12-1).
Those four teams won their six games last week by an average margin of 39.7 points, leaving their coaches to focus on tuning elements of their games before the bulk of conference play takes hold.
In the women’s poll, Stanford’s 17-year run in the Top 25 is over.
The Cardinal on Monday fell out of The Associated Press women’s basketball poll for the first time since the 2001 season, ending a streak of 312 consecutive ranked weeks.
The remarkable run started with the 2001-02 preseason poll and ended on Christmas. Stanford (6-6) lost at home last week to Western Illinois and Tennessee to fall to .500 on the season.
Only UConn, which remained the unanimous No. 1 team as voted on by a 32-member national media panel, has a longer active streak in the poll.
Russian union chief resigns
Vitaly Mutko, a Russian government official who has been dogged by allegations of involvement in doping, said Monday he would temporarily step down as president of the Russian Football Union.
It’s a move apparently intended to deflect international criticism as Russia prepares to host the 2018 World Cup.
Mutko said at a briefing that he would suspend his activities as president for half-a-year, and Alexander Alayev would serve as the acting head of the Russian Football Union.
Mutko would retain the job of deputy prime minister overseeing sports.