Serena Williams’s comeback at Eastbourne came to an abrupt end on Thursday after her doubles partner Ons Jabeur was forced to pull out of the semi-finals with a right knee injury.
Williams had opted to play doubles with world No 3 Jabeur, in her first tournament after nearly a year out through injury.
The withdrawal, though bad news for Jabeur, is not the worst news for Williams. At Eastbourne, she was simply looking for a place to ease herself into getting back on the court, before turning her attention to the tougher test of playing singles at Wimbledon. With two matches under her belt she did that, and the 23-time major champion will no doubt be cheered by her performances.
After shaking off the rust in her first match on Tuesday, Williams, 40, had looked like her former self in parts during yesterday’s quarterfinal. In the second set of her and Jabeur’s 6-2 6-4 win over doubles specialists Shuko Aoyama and Chan Hao-ching, Williams saved break points with three consecutive aces in a vintage display.
“I feel good, as good as one can feel after having such a long time off,” she said on Wednesday night. “It was actually good match play and match practice, which is exactly what I needed and what I wanted to do coming here, so I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Though the physical challenge of a couple of doubles matches is an entirely different test to a fortnight at Wimbledon, the rest of the women’s draw will have been taking note of her ability to seamlessly bounce back.
Williams enters the Championships as a wildcard, and is unseeded for the first time since her debut in 1998. Despite currently being ranked outside the top 1000, wherever she lands will cause huge disruption to the balance of the draw because she remains such a threat.
Jabeur’s injury meanwhile will be a worry considering she was one of the hot contenders going into Wimbledon, especially after winning the title in Berlin on grass.