Fans across the world finally got to witness the indomitable Serena Williams in action once again, almost an entire year after she hobbled off the Wimbledon centre court with a hamstring injury.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion partnered up with Ons Jabeur in doubles at the Eastbourne International to test her match competitiveness in a relatively more comfortable environment rather than diving straight into singles. The pair's opener took place on Tuesday against Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova in front of an unexpectedly packed centre court.
As soon as the stadium announcer uttered the words "Representing the United States of America, Serena Williams!" the spectators broke into rapturous applause to welcome the former World No. 1 back.
The cheers rang out for what felt like an eternity, with some of the fans even standing up to show their respect for the 40-year-old for all that she has done for the sport over the years. Jabeur herself could contain her joy, flashing a cheeky grin as she walked beside her partner on her comeback journey.
Unfortunately, the Tunisian-American pair did not experience the same fortunes once the match kicked off. The first set went 6-2 in favor of Sorribes Tormo and Bouzkova, with Williams' serve getting broken once. The second set is currently underway
Serena Williams' singles journey to begin at the upcoming Wimbledon Championships
Serena Williams' most anticipated return to action, however, will take place at the 2022 Wimbledon Championships, where the American has been granted a wildcard for the singles main draw.
The former World No. 1 is a seven-time winner at the tournament, two short of Martina Navratilova's record haul of nine. The former World No. 1 is also on the lookout for her record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, currently held by Magaret Court. In the Open Era, however, no player has won more Majors than the 40-year-old.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion will be a dangerous opponent for anyone in the draw in the early rounds despite spending a long time on the sidelines, a sentiment shared even by the WTA players themselves.
World No. 4 Paula Badosa and World No. 5 Maria Sakkari revealed in recent interviews that they were hoping someone else would draw Williams in the first round. They were of the opinion that the American was a threat irrespective of how much match time she had under her belt,
Of course I don't want to play against her," Badosa said. "I hope the draw goes for another player, because of course no one wants to play against Serena and less on grass. So let's pray for that."
"I'm sure that everyone wants to avoid her, especially if she wins a few matches," Sakkari said. "She will start feeling good about her game, and she is Serena Williams. She is the greatest female athlete of all time."
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