She's back: Serena Williams returns to tennis with win in Eastbourne
Playing a professional tennis match for the first time in 357 days on Tuesday, Serena Williams was victorious. At the Rothesay International Eastbourne, a WTA 500-level grass-court tuneup event for Wimbledon, Williams and world No. 3 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia were winners in doubles against Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic and Sara Sorribes Tormo from Spain in a match tiebreak, 2-6, 6-3, [13-11].
Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo led by a set and a break before Jabeur and Williams rallied for the first-round victory. The deciding match tiebreak, where the first team to reach 10 points or lead by two after that wins, was packed with drama as both teams were a point from victory. Jabeur and Williams won the match on their third opportunity, while Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo had a chance to win at 11-10 after saving two match points.
Read more at usta.com: Serena Williams announces return to tennis
"It was so fun to play with Ons ... our opponents played amazing, and we were just trying to stay in there after the first set," Williams said after the match.
"I caught some fire behind me, so that was good. I needed that. They played really well in that first set. They were jamming, and we were just like, 'Okay, we got this.'"
Williams' last competitive action came nearly a year to the day of her comeback victory, when she suffered a leg injury against Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round at Wimbledon and was forced to retire from the match. In the interim, Jabeur has become one of the WTA's top players, and arrived in Eastbourne at a career-high ranking on the back of winning her third career WTA singles title in Berlin, Germany last week.
"I called her!" Williams said with a laugh when asked how their partnership came about. "She's been playing so well, and I knew that I needed to play some matches ... She's always been so sweet to me on tour, so I was like, 'It'd be fun to play.'"
Jabeur added: "It's an honor that she picked me to play with her. I couldn't believe it ... It was so much fun. I was a little bit nervous before, playing with such a legend, but she made me really good on the court. Even when I made mistakes, she kept encouraging me."
Only five players other than her sister have played doubles alongside Williams in her career: Jabeur joins Martina Navratilova, Alexandra Stevenson, Alison Riske and Caroline Wozniacki in the exclusive club. Williams is only playing doubles this week in Eastbourne and is expected to make her singles return next week at the year's third Grand Slam, where she was awarded a wild card.
In a 16-team draw, Jabeur and Williams will next face Japan's Shuko Aoyama and Chan Hao-ching of Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals. Williams is bidding for her 24th career WTA doubles title while Jabeur is in search of her first.
All photos by Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images and Glyn Krik/AFP via Getty Images.
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