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Serena Williams impresses in doubles win on return after year out through injury

The 23-time Grand Slam champion looked better and better as she partnered Ons Jabeur to victory in their first-round doubles match

Serena Williams with Ons Jabeur, Eastbourne 2022 Serena Williams with Ons Jabeur, Eastbourne 2022 © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Serena Williams made an impressive return after a year out through injury as she and Ons Jabeur won their opening-round match at the WTA event in Eastbourne on Tuesday evening.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion played better and better as the match wore on and the pair clinched a 2-6, 6-3, 1-0 (11) victory.

“Oh my god it was so much fun to play Ons. Our opponents played amazing, we were just trying to stay in there after the first set. But it was good, though.”

Rusty at first, the best at last

Williams, in her first competitive outing since she limped off court at Wimbledon last summer with a leg injury, looked rusty at first but was the best player on the court in the closing stages as they closed out victory against a top partnership.

“Caught some fire behind me, so that was good,” Williams said. “I needed that.”

Jabeur said Williams had been the ideal partner. “Honour that she picked me. I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I was a little bit nervous playing with such a legend. She made me feel really good on the court, she was encouraging even when I made mistakes.”

Williams received a warm welcome as she stepped out onto court shortly before 7pm local time.

The 40-year-old Williams began with a hold of serve and if anything, it was world No 3 Jabeur who looked the more nervous in the early stages, the Tunisian missing a few uncharacteristic mistakes.

Sorribes Tormo and Bouzkova won a title together earlier this year, in Istanbul, and the pair were by far the better in the first set, breaking Jabeur for 2-1 and Williams for 4-1 as they wrapped it up in half an hour.

Williams lifts her game

Williams’ body language was good, though, and despite losing Jabeur’s serve for 2-1 again, they hit back to level. Williams dropped her serve in the next game but then upped her game to level at 3-3.

Finding rhythm on her returns, the American forced another break, for 5-3 and then, at 30-30, she hit a brilliant backhand pass and an unreturnable serve to take the set.

Sorribes Tormo and Bouzkova moved up an early mini break at 2-0 but Williams pulled them level and forced a first match point at 9-8 with a superb volley at full stretch.

Jabeur could not put a volley away on the match point and then missed an easy forehand on the second one but third time proved lucky as Sorribes Tormo missed an easy volley at the net to send Williams and Jabeur into the quarter-finals.

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