Williams conquers 'doubts' to make return

LONDON • Serena Williams admitted on Tuesday that 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 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 her mind) but now my body feels great," said Williams, who turned professional in 1995.

The 40-year-old made a winning comeback, teaming with Ons Jabeur to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova 2-6, 6-3, 13-11 in the Eastbourne International doubles last 16 on Tuesday.

They faced Chan Hao-Ching and Shuko Aoyama yesterday with the results unavailable at press time.

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, played on Tuesday for the first time since her tearful first-round exit at Wimbledon.

Before she made the surprise announcement of her return last week, rumours of retirement had swirled around her for months.

But, with Wimbledon starting on Monday, she finally resumed her career, playing with Jabeur at the warmup event for the Grand Slam by the Sussex seaside.

After so long away, she soaked up the applause during a raucous reception from the crowd when she walked onto court in the early evening sunshine. Her husband, Alexis Ohanian, was also watching from the stands.

Williams and Tunisia's Jabeur, who is third in the WTA singles rankings, then saw off Spain's Sorribes Tormo and Bouzkova of the Czech Republic.

Although the American was far from her vintage best, she will be encouraged after shaking off the rust.

However, she refused to be drawn on how long she intends to play despite Margaret Court's record of 24 Slams being tantalisingly 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," she 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.

"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 wild card to play in the singles at the All England Club, where she is a seven-time champion.

The last of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles came when she was pregnant at the Australian Open in 2017.

Since then, she has lost four Slam finals, including at Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019.

Williams won the seventh and most recent of her seven Wimbledon singles titles in 2016.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2022, with the headline Williams conquers 'doubts' to make return. Subscribe