Serena Williams’ comeback to tennis is off to a smashing start, winning her first competitive match in nearly 12 months in a Wimbledon warm-up tournament.
Williams teamed up with Tunisian world no.3 Ons Jabeur to defeat Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova in three sets 2-6 6-3 13-11 at the Eastbourne Invitational on the south coast of England.
“I caught some fire behind me,” the 40-year-old Williams said. “I needed that. It was good.”
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The win means Williams will have at least one more competitive match before playing singles at Wimbledon as a wildcard entry.
It was at Wimbledon where Williams was last seen in competitive action in 2021. She was forced to retire from her first round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich when she slipped and injured her right leg.
With no competitive activity since then, she is ranked 1204 in singles.
“I love tennis and I love playing otherwise I wouldn’t be here but I also love what I do off the court,” Williams said.
Williams — sporting three black patches on her right cheek — made a slow start to the match alongside Jabeur.
She served first — her opening serve was clocked at 145km/h and earned the first point after Sorribes Tormo’s reply sailed long — and held to 30.
Williams struggled at times in the first set, and was exasperated after she was unable to get low enough to a shot by Sorribes Tormo. It took 25 minutes before Williams hit a winner as her smash flew into the North Stand, ensuring one spectator was able to leave with a souvenir.
Williams’ agility improved noticeably in the second set, though there were audible gasps from the crowd when she slipped rushing into the net.
She set up a set point with a backhand winner from the baseline and took the match to a tiebreaker with a 164km/h ace.
Williams showed desire to dive to her right to make a volley which could not be returned that set up one of the three match points. The win was clinched when Sorribes Tormo miscued a volley.
“It was so fun to play with Ons,” Williams said in an interview on the court. “It was great. We had a lot of fun and our opponents played amazing. We were happy to stay in there.”
When asked if she would return to the tour full-time next year if she felt fit enough, Williams remained coy.
“I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I love tennis and I love playing, or else I wouldn’t be out here, right? But I also love what I do off the court, what I’ve built with Serena Ventures. It’s interesting, so it’s a lot.”
Williams’ first round Wimbledon opponent will be determined when the draw is conducted on Friday, with the tournament getting underway on Monday.
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