Rothesay International Eastbourne 2022: Serena Williams makes winning return with Ons Jabeur
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The 23-time Grand Slam champion returned in style after a year out of action as her and the current world No.3, Ons Jabeur, attacked their first hurdle with a dramatic 2-6, 6-3, [13-11] win over Czech/Spanish pair Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo.
United to form one decorated double-act, Williams and Jabeur’s contrasting styles complimented one another perfectly – with the power that Williams yields and the distinctive style of Jabeur – these two are nothing if not a force on court.
“I love her game,” said Williams when asked about her decision to pair with the three-time tour level champion.
“I love her style of play – she has a great volley, clearly has a great drop shot, and she’s been having a phenomenal couple of years. So, it made a lot of sense…for me."
With thousands of eyes awaiting William’s greatly anticipated return to the grass, the narrative to unfold was sure to not disappoint.
Bouzkova and Tormo, seemingly unfazed by the cards they’d been dealt, went up a double-break in the first to comfortably close out the set against a gingerly-moving Williams and Jabeur.
However, it’s true that champions know when to ignite the spark as – slowly turning the screw – Williams and Jabeur shattered any seed of doubt as four consecutive breaks in the second prevented the reigning Istanbul champions from running away with the match. Per beautiful creativity and athleticism, it was the newly formed pair to clinch the upper hand as Williams released a powerhouse forehand that left little room for error.
With two sets apiece, a final shootout would decide the fate of both sides as they battled for a first round victory. A fight to the very last breath – with few and far between – a Serena special enthralled the crowds once again, with her impeccable length to find the baseline accentuating her class. Williams and Jabeur now inches away from victory; a wide shot from Torbo gifted them match point, booking them a place in the second round.
“It was so fun to play with Ons!” professed the former world No.1. “We had a lot of fun – our opponents played amazing.”
Overjoyed after her first win alongside Williams, Jabeur shared her immediate reaction to receiving a call up to pair with a legend of the game.
"I’m honoured that she picked me,” said Jabeur. “I was a little bit nervous before - playing with such a legend - but she made me feel good on court. Even when I made mistakes, she kept encouraging me.”
The two trailblazers will now go head-to-head with Shuko Aoyama and Hao Ching Chan for the first time later this afternoon as we enter day five of this year’s Rothesay International Eastbourne.
While neither are in the singles draw, Williams has accepted a wild card to play at Wimbledon, while world No.3 Jabeur will be one of the hot favourites after winning in Berlin last week.