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Serena gets rousing welcome

Serena Williams in action in the final day of the Manila leg of the International Premier Tennis League at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday. AJ Bolando/Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines – World No. 1 Serena Williams received a rock star welcome that is befitting her status.

But the American netter was caught by surprise that she is well-loved halfway across the globe.

The crowd went crazy when Williams stepped on the court to warm up in her only appearance in the Manila leg of the inaugural International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) tour.

“The reception has been amazing. Everyone was so nice. I mean, just walking out to the court to warm up and hear the crowd was spectacular and unexpected,” Williams said. “It’s really an honor to feel that.”

But Williams though took some time before she could show her spectacular shots that made her the best female tennis player in the world today.

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Williams was paired with LLeyton Hewitt and they fared miserably against world no. 6 Andy Murray and 45th-ranked Kirsten Flipkens in the mixed doubles.

Despite her early struggles in that lackluster 1-6 loss, Williams was cheered on by the Filipino fans even if she was playing against the home team.

“I’ve never played and never been here. So it feels good to come to countries like this because you realize that we have fans everywhere so it’s really a good time and great opportunity to play here,” Williams said.

Regarded as the best female tennis player in history, Williams got stronger as the night wore on. She bounced back from the mixed doubles loss with clinical 6-3 win over Flipkens in the women’s singles.

It proved to be the lone bright spot in the night for the still winless Singapore Slammers.

Williams will fly to Singapore and hopes to help the Slammers get back in the team-based tournament that offers $1 million cash prize.

“We don’t really have that sense of urgency. We just know that we want to do well in Singapore and win our matches. We’ll probably change some of our strategies and go from there,” Williams said. 

But win or lose, it looks like this will not be the last time that Phl fans will see Williams strut her wares here.

“I’m having so much fun. Pretty much all the top players are playing so I would love to give more time [to this tournament] in the future,” Williams said.

Attendance at the final day of the tournament was said to be greater than the first two days, something that can be attributed to Williams’ appearance.

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