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Fit Serena is raring to go

Dubai: World No. 1 Serena Williams has warned younger rivals she remains as potent as ever before her first competitive match in more than four weeks at the Dubai Championships, on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old has been sidelined by a back injury since a shock fourth-round defeat by Ana Ivanovic at January’s Australian Open. She withdrew from this month’s Qatar Open and has a wildcard to play in Dubai.

In fact, Serena says she asked for a wildcard to combat boredom once she believed that her back injury was on the mend.

“My back finally started to feel better but it wasn’t better in time for me to play Doha at the level I’d like to play,” said Serena. “So then it became more about what can I play next and this was next on the calendar.

“It gets boring to have to practice every day. I was like, ‘I don’t want to practice anymore. I want to play a match.”

Serena won the French and US Open singles titles last year, leading her coach Patrick Mouratoglou to say that this year his charge could become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to win a season Grand Slam.

Her Melbourne defeat, her first in 26 matches, put paid to that, but Serena’s enthusiasm for tennis remains undimmed despite nearly 20 years as a professional.

“I just have so much fun on court,” said Serena, who became the oldest women’s No. 1 when she reclaimed top spot last February. “I feel like I want to keep going I just want to enjoy myself on the court.”

China’s Li Na, who won the Australian Open and claimed the second position in the WTA ranking this week, also turns 32 next week.

“I think the game maybe is a little tougher now — there are more players with a bigger variety (of shots) — so it’s harder for young players to break through,” said Serena, who has 17 Grand Slam singles titles to her name. I give credit to technology, because shoes, rackets are better. You also know different things to do in the gym so you can have a longer career.”