Struggling with an injury, Serena Williams skipped all the action after the last year's Wimbledon. After almost a year, the 23-time Major singles winner is back on the court, entering the Eastbourne doubles draw with world no.
3 Ons Jabeur. Playing alongside each other for the first time, Serena and Ons faced Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribles Tormo and scored a 2-6, 6-3, 11-9 win in an hour and 33 minutes. Williams and Jabeur saved a match point at 10-11 in the match tie break and sealed the third match point at 12-11 to emerge at the top and reach the quarter-final.
Serena was pleased with the victory, praising her partner and saying she enjoyed the match against strong rivals. Competing for the first time after such a long break, Williams did not look good on the court in the opener, losing serve once and struggling to find the rhythm.
She and Jabeur raised her level in the second set to challenge the opponents and emerge at the top after a lot of drama.
Serena Williams and Ons Jabeur are off to a winning start in Eastbourne.
Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo played a flawless opening set, barely losing a point on serve and breaking both Serena and Ons for 6-2 and a boost.
Williams and Jabeur experienced another break at 1-1 in the second set to move closer to the exit door. They pulled it back, and the rivals traded more breaks in games five and six to stay neck and neck. Serena and Ons served well in the closing stages and grabbed a break in game eight to take the set 6-3 and force the deciding match tie break.
Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo saved the match points at 8-9 and 9-10 (Jabeur's terrible forehand) before creating their own at 11-10. Marie placed a lob long to squander the opportunity, and Serena and Ons claimed three straight points to seal the deal and move into the last eight.
"It was so fun to play with Ons. It was great; we had a lot of fun, and our opponents played amazingly! We were trying to stay in there after the first set. I caught some fire behind me, so it was good; I needed that after such a long break.
I take it one day at a time, with no long-term plans. I took my time with my hamstring injury, so I'm just not making a ton of decisions after this. I felt good out there, and I was talking with Ons in the first set and said, 'We're not playing bad, but our rivals were better.'
Getting more balls back and playing a bit more made us feel better on the court from the second set. It felt reassuring; it's clicking in practice, and now it seems like it's clicking in official matches too," Serena Williams said.