Serena Williams rolls back the years in dramatic win after returning from injury | Tennis | sport

Serena Williams has made a nervous and error-strewn return to competitive tennis. But her tireless spirit somehow brought her back to victory in a thrilling tie-break. The 23-time Grand Slam champion and partner Ons Jabeur started slow but eventually found his rhythm to beat Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo 2-6, 6-3, 13-11 to the surprise and delight of the home crowd. Eastbourne International.

It was a victory based as much on reputation, will and bloody spirit as on the electric tennis with which she lit up the sport for more than two decades. She’s back, though – and while nothing else will face her in the singles draw at Wimbledon next week, nothing will be taken for granted.

When Williams’ left foot slipped in the very first round last year against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, no one imagined it would be nearly a year before she would play competitive tennis again. She couldn’t have chosen a softer reintroduction. People usually come to this part of the Sussex coast precisely because they’re ready to retire – not to prove otherwise.

“What a sensation!” played over the PA system at a socially acceptable level as Williams and his partner entered center court to hearty applause. Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo had won the toss and put Williams on duty – if there was ever going to be any rust clinging to that arm of lightning, it would be today.

The opening serve may have only been 90mph, but Williams duly stood in front of an oddly nervous crowd. Although it soon became clear that she was not yet the strength of old. Crashing backhands into the corner with a Jurassic roar, or slamming overhead into the lush grass hard enough to forge a second Channel Tunnel, it was as if Williams had never been away.

But it was battleships against cruisers – and the much more maneuverable Czech and Spaniard on the other side of the net were able to anticipate every cannon shot wisely and put away volleys.

A missed overhead from Williams cost an early break; a second followed and the first set had been abandoned in just 31 minutes with another deft volley that left Williams once again rooted to the spot.

In fairness, the task of filling the shoes of Williams’ lifelong partner Venus also seemed to weigh heavily on Jabeur, who had been in top form in singles action in Berlin last week but was missing as many shots as Williams today. today.

The Tunisian slammed a forehand into the net to concede the first break of the second set. Two double faults from Sorribes Tormo got Williams back, and a 114mph ace showed the fight was still there somewhere.

Another throwback as Williams turned to his favorite tool – even more aggression – and the other pair duly faded. The 10-a-side tie-break – the tennis version of a penalty shoot-out – was going to be a matter of nerves, but also who had the most to lose.

Bouzkova and Sorribes Torres had freedom but world number one. 3 Jabeur and Williams have had experience.

Two match points eluded them, but a terrible missed volley from the Spaniard ultimately decided the game and offered one more chance to dust off those cobwebs before Williams headed for SW19.



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