After nearly a year away from the court, Serena Williams returned to competitive tennis Tuesday at Rothesay International in Eastbourne, England. After a rough start, the tennis legend and her partner, Ons Jabeur, won 2-6, 6-3, 13-11. The grass court tournament is a warm up for The Championships 2022 at Wimbledon, where Serena has received a wild-card entry and will play her first major since injuring herself in a fall at last year’s Wimbledon.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion specifically chose Jabeur, and called her up to see if they could team. Although Ons doesn’t have a lot of doubles experience, no one passes up a chance to play with the G.O.A.T.
The pair played Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova, close friends who have played doubles together before, so they know each other really well. Their chemistry was on full display in the first set as they cruised to a 6-2 win. It wasn’t that Serena and Ons played poorly, it was just clear they were still figuring out how to be a team.
Things evened up in the second set, with the seven-time Wimbledon champion finding her serve and taking over at the net. Williams and Jabeur bounced back, winning the second set 6-3. This sent things into a match tie-break, where the first to 10, with a margin of two, wins the match.
A few strong points from Jabeur, who looked tentative throughout the match, sent Serena and Ons into an early lead. However, Sorribes Tormo and Bouzkova stormed back to even things at 6-6. From there, it was a back and forth prize fight of great shots. With neither team giving an inch, there was some truly spectacular tennis being played in this tie-break. Unfortunately, it ended on an unforced error when a shot from Sorribes Tormo and Bouzkova went wide, giving the win to Williams and Jabeur.
Overall, this was a great return for Serena. It took a little time for her to get comfortable, but once she did, there was no sign of rust on her game. With a strong women’s doubles field, no one is expecting a new team like Serena and Ons to go far, but this isn’t about winning, this is a tune up. If the real goal is to be in top form by Wimbledon, then the G.O.A.T. is off to a great start.
Rothesay International Eastbourne continues through June 25, and airs on Tennis Channel. The Championships 2022 at Wimbledon begin June 27 and air live on the ESPN networks.