Serena Williams’ return to tennis action was cut short after her women’s doubles partner, Ons Jabeur, withdrew from the Eastbourne International because of a knee injury.
The WTA event had seen the 40-year-old star play her first two competitive matches since she limped out of last year’s Wimbledon in tears with a hamstring problem.
The American and Tunisia’s Jabeur made it through to the semi-finals with a narrow last-16 win over Maria Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo, before a more convincing quarter-final victory in straight sets against Chan Hao-ching and Shuko Aoyama.
Williams is now to focus on Wimbledon, where she has accepted a wild card into the women’s singles in a bid to win a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title.
She is to find out who she faces in the first round when the draw is made today.
On Wednesday, Williams and Jabeur defeated Taiwan’s Chan and Japan’s Aoyama 6-2, 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the Wimbledon warm-up event at Devonshire Park.
On Tuesday, in her first appearance in 12 months, Williams initially looked rusty in the duo’s victory over Sorribes Tormo and Bouzkova.
However, she grew into that match and was more like her old self in Wednesday’s match.
It took only two minutes for the American to send down an ace before several clinical volleys provided the first break.
The opening set was wrapped up in 25 minutes and another break inspired by Williams in the ninth game of the second set put them on the brink of victory. One more ace for Williams helped get her and Jabeur over the line.
“I don’t know if you know the team name? It’s ‘OnSerena,’” Serena said of her partnership with Jabeur, who had never played with the American until this week.
Before Williams made the surprise announcement of her return last week, rumors of retirement had swirled around her for months.
Wimbledon starts on Monday next week without Russia’s world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev and Belarus’ former top-ranked Victoria Azarenka, but the grass-court Grand Slam will hardly feel like an exhibition event, despite no ranking points being on offer.
This year’s edition of the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament will be held without points after organizers banned Russian and Belarusian players from participating following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The men’s ATP and women’s WTA, which do not govern the four tennis Grand Slams, called the move discriminatory, while stripping Wimbledon of ranking points that determine a player’s ability to enter tournaments and receive seedings.
Britain’s Andy Murray said he feels Wimbledon “will never be an exhibition and will never feel like an exhibition,” with or without ranking points.
“I follow golf very closely and have no idea how many ranking points the winner of the @TheMasters gets,” the 35-year-old wrote on Twitter last month.
“Me and my friends love football and none of us know or care how many ranking points a team gets for winning the @FIFAWorldCup. But I could tell you exactly who won the World Cup and the Masters,” he wrote.
Novak Djokovic, who lifted the men’s singles trophy at the past three editions, is to lose the 2,000 points he earned at last year’s Wimbledon, and the Serbian is among many players who are to be affected and drop down the rankings due to the decision.
Four-time major winner Naomi Osaka was the highest profile player to express doubts over participating at Wimbledon due to the lack of ranking points, but last week the Japanese former world No. 1 cited a left-Achilles injury when pulling out.
While US Open champion Medvedev and Azarenka, who won back-to-back Australian Open titles in 2012 and 2013, are to be among a host of names barred from competing, the players’ field does not reflect anyone missing in protest.
ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi hoped that all of the different governing bodies could sit down at the end of Wimbledon and decide on a united path for such situations in the future.
“We don’t want to find ourselves again in this difficult position,” he said.
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