"I definitely felt good out there" - Serena Williams on playing first match in close to a year
Williams had been out of action since Wimbledon 2021, where she was forced to retire in the first round due to a hamstring injury. After much rehab and speculation, the WTA legend announced her entry for this summer's Wimbledon. The American opted to pair with Jabeur in the doubles event at Eastbourne, in an effort to get some competitive play before participating at the All England Club.
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Williams and Jabeur rallied from a set down to secure a 2-6 6-3 (13-11) victory over the team of Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo, saving a match point in the match-tiebreak to advance after an hour and 33 minutes.
"It was so fun to play with Ons," Williams said on court, after the win. "It was great, we had a lot of fun, and our opponents played amazing! We were just trying to stay in there after the first set."
"It was so much fun," Jabeur said on court. "I was a little bit nervous before, playing with such a legend, but she made me really good on the court, and even when I made mistakes, she’d keep encouraging me."
It was Williams's first doubles match since she and now-retired Caroline Wozniacki made it to the Auckland doubles final in January of 2020. The 23-Grand Slam champion and the newly-minted World No.3 now face a second-round clash against Shuko Aoyama and Chan Hao-ching.
"I'm literally taking it one day at a time," Williams said in the post-match press conference, when asked about her upcoming plans. "I really took my time with my hamstring injury so I'm just not making a ton of decisions after this.
"I definitely felt good out there and I was talking with Ons in the first set and I said, 'We're not playing bad, they really played really good in that set.' But obviously winning and getting more balls and playing a little bit more made us feel a lot better and it definitely felt reassuring, like, okay, it's clicking in practice and now it seems like it's clicking."