Serena Williams on Tuesday said she feared her storied career was over after a leg injury at last year’s Wimbledon forced her off tour for a year and saw her ranking plummet to no. 1,204 in the world.
“Did I ever doubt I would return? Absolutely, for sure. I would be dishonest if I said it wasn’t [on my mind] and now my body feels great,” Williams said.
The 40-year-old made a winning comeback when she teamed up with Ons Jabeur to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova 2-6, 6-3, 13-11 in the Eastbourne International doubles on Tuesday.
The pair were yesterday to face Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching and Japan’s Shuko Aoyama.
Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, was playing for the first time since a tearful exit at Wimbledon last year.
Before she made the surprise announcement of her return last week, rumors of retirement had swirled around her for several months.
However, with Wimbledon starting on June 27, she finally resumed her career, playing with Jabeur at the Wimbledon warm-up event.
Williams and Tunisia’s Jabeur, who is third in the WTA singles rankings, saw off Spain’s Sorribes Tormo and Bouzkova of the Czech Republic in the last-16 tie.
Although Williams was far from her vintage best, she is likely to be encouraged by her first outing in 12 months.
However, she refused to be drawn on how long she intends to play, despite Margaret Court’s record of 24 Slams being tantalizingly within reach.
“You know what I am literally taking it one day at a time. I really took my time with my hamstring injury so I am not making a ton of decisions after this,” Williams said. “I did a lot of non-training in the beginning obviously, and after I couldn’t play New York I went cold turkey of not working out.”
“It felt good, but I always try to stay semi-fit, because you never know when you are going to play Wimbledon,” she said. “I love tennis and I love playing, otherwise I wouldn’t be here, but I also love what I do off the court.”
Williams has been given a wildcard to play in the singles at Wimbledon, where she is a seven-time champion.
In another of Tuesday’s women’s doubles matches, Taiwan’s Latisha Chan and Australia’s Sam Stosur were beaten 6-2, 1-6, 10-12 by China’s Xu Yifan and Yang Zhaoxuan.
In the women’s singles, last year’s Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova lost 6-1, 4-6, 4-6 against Britain’s Katie Boulter, while Spanish top seed Paula Badosa was beaten 6-4, 6-3 by British wild-card Jodie Burrage.
In the men’s singles, Ryan Peniston also enjoyed an impressive victory on his home turf, beating French Open quarter-finalist Holger Rune 4-6, 7-6, (7/5), 6-1.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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