Williams hits her straps in Eastbourne doubles after year out
US player and partner Ons Jabeur beat Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova in the women’s doubles
London — Serena Williams made a winning return to action at the Eastbourne International on Tuesday as she and partner Ons Jabeur came from a set down to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova 2-6 6-3 (13-11) in the women’s doubles.
The former world number one had not played competitive tennis since limping out of last year’s first-round match at Wimbledon — where she has won seven of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles — in tears due to a leg injury.
Back on court and on the grass again, Williams stepped up preparations for Wimbledon, where the main draw starts next Monday, having been granted a wild card to enter, alongside Tunisian Jabeur in the opening round at Eastbourne.
Looking rusty with some loose early shots, 40-year-old Williams, who has slipped to 1,204th in the singles rankings, saw her serve broken in the fourth game and there was no way back as Spaniard Sorribes Tormo and her Czech partner took the opening set.
Williams, who was sporting black tape on her face to help with a sinus problem, had no answer as Sorribes and Bouzkova made three successive breaks at the start of the second to help put them in a commanding position.
However, a ferocious volley from Williams helped her and Jabeur hold serve to make it 4-3, before the American showed further signs she was starting to find her rhythm with a booming forehand down the line to break their opponents’ serve.
Williams served out the next game to take the match to a final set tiebreak, which swung this way and that, with both pairings having match points before Sorribes Tormo missed a volley at the net to gift her opponents victory.
“It was so fun to play with Ons,” Williams said. “We had fun. I caught some fire behind me. I needed that. It was good. We’re just taking it one day at a time.”
At the same time Australian Nick Kyrgios pulled out of the Mallorca Championships on Wednesday ahead of his last 16 match due to pain in an abdominal muscle.
The 45th ranked Kyrgios came back from a set down to beat Serbia’s Laslo Djere 5-7 7-6(1) 7-6(1) on Tuesday and was scheduled to play Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut next.
“I’m really sorry I’m going to have to withdraw from tonight’s match here in Mallorca,” Kyrgios said in a statement released by the organisers. “I have been playing a lot of great matches lately and unfortunately I woke up with a pain in my abs. I went to see the tournament doctor right away and he advised that I don’t play tonight.”
The tournament doctor said Kyrgios was suffering from pain in his abdominal muscle on the left side due “due to the accumulation of matches in recent weeks and the effort of yesterday’s first-round match”.
The mercurial Australian, 27, skipped the clay court season to prepare for grass and earlier said he considers himself a top-five, top-10 level player on the surface.
Kyrgios reached the semifinals in Stuttgart and Halle in recent weeks but will be unseeded when the main draw of the grass court Grand Slam starts on Monday.