Serena Williams’ return to Eastbourne came to an end on Thursday after her doubles partner Ons Jabeur was forced to withdraw from 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 with injury.
The withdrawal, while bad news for Jabeur, isn’t the worst news for Williams. At Eastbourne, she was simply looking for a place to easily get back on the court, before focusing on the tougher test of playing singles at Wimbledon. With two matches under her belt, she has done it, and the 23-time Major champion will no doubt be encouraged by her performances.
After shake off the rust in his first game on Tuesday, Williams, 40, looked partly like herself in yesterday’s quarter-final. In the second set of Jabeur’s 6-2 6-4 win over doubles specialists Shuko Aoyama and Chan Hao-ching, Williams saved break points with three straight aces in a vintage display.
“I feel good, as good as one can feel after such a long absence,” she said Wednesday night. “It was actually a good match play and a good practice, it’s exactly what I needed and wanted to do coming here so I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Although the physical challenge of a few doubles matches is an entirely different test from a fortnight at Wimbledon, the rest of the women’s draw will have taken note of her ability to bounce back seamlessly.
Williams enters the Championships as a wild cardand is unranked for the first time since her debut in 1998. Although she is currently ranked outside the top 1000, wherever she lands, this will significantly upset the balance of the draw as she remains such a threatens.
Jabeur’s injury will meanwhile be of concern given that she was one of the hottest contenders at Wimbledon, especially after winning the title in Berlin on grass.