TOMMY Paul of the US returns a shot to Italy’s Jannik Sinner during their second-round match of the Eastbourne International at the Devonshire Park Lawn Tennis Club.—Reuters
TOMMY Paul of the US returns a shot to Italy’s Jannik Sinner during their second-round match of the Eastbourne International at the Devonshire Park Lawn Tennis Club.—Reuters

EASTBOURNE: Serena Williams stepped up her comeback as the American star powered to a second successive victory in the Eastbourne doubles with her partner Ons Jabeur on Wednesday.

Serena and Tunisia’s Jabeur defeated Shuko Aoyama and Chan Hao-ching 6-2, 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the Wimbledon warm-up event at Devonshire Park.

Serena, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, is playing her first tournament since she made a tearful, injury-enforced exit from Wimbledon last year.

Serena, 40, had initially looked rusty on her first appearance for 12 months in Tuesday’s victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova.

But she grew into that match and was more like her old self in the second step on her comeback trail.

It took only two minutes for the American to send down an ace before several clinical volleys provided the first break.

The opening set was wrapped up in 25 minutes and another break inspired by Serena in the ninth game of the second set put them on the brink of victory.

One more ace for Serena’ tally helped get her and Jabeur over the line and they are now just two victories away from securing the title.

“I don’t know if you know the team name? It’s ‘OnSerena’!” Serena said of her partnership with Jabeur, who had never played with the American until this week.

“I have had some really good training leading up to Wimbledon and up to this tournament, really hitting the ball well. I feel like I have been serving well so that’s been really good.

“It was actually good match play and match practice, which is exactly what I needed. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Serena admitted on Tuesday that she had doubts if she would ever make it back after her injury lay-off, but her competitive juices are flowing again with Wimbledon on the horizon.

“I will always enjoy the competitive side. There is a part of me that will always miss it, no matter what happens,” she said. “I was just recovering and taking time off, just taking mental breaks. Now when I’m back, it’s like, especially this match in particular, OK, you really remember the competitiveness.”

WIMBLEDON WILDCARD

Before Serena made the surprise announcement of her return last week, rumours of retirement had swirled around her for several months.

But with Wimbledon starting on June 27, Serena has finally resumed her career.

She has been given a wildcard to play in the singles at Wimbledon as she restarts her history bid.

Serena is one Grand Slam crown away from equalling Australian Margaret Court’s record of 24 singles titles at the majors.

The last of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles came at the Australian Open in 2017.

Since then she has lost four Grand Slam finals, including at Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019.

Serena won the seventh and most recent of her seven Wimbledon singles titles in 2016. Serena has plummeted to 1,204th in the WTA rankings due to her period out of action.

Earlier on Wednesday, Petra Kvitova battled into the Eastbourne women’s singles quarter-finals as the former Wimbledon champion fought back to beat Britain’s Katie Boulter 5-7, 6-0, 7-5.

Fifth seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain lost to Italy’s Camila Giorgi, the 12th seed, 7-5, 6-3.

In the men’s singles second round on Wednesday, unseeded Tommy Paul of the US caused a major upset when he ousted second seed Jannik Sinner of Italy 6-3, 3-6, 6-3

In other second-round men’s matches, top seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain outplayed Brandon Nakashima of the US 6-4, 6-2; Maxime Cressy of the US downed Britain’s Dan Evans 7-6 (7-2), 6-4; Jack Draper of Britain overcame fourth seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 7-5, 7-6 (7-3); Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik outclassed John Millman of Australia 6-4, 6-2; third seed Taylor Fritz of the US beat Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro 7-5, 6-3 and Australia’s sixth seed Alex De Minaur defeated Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2022

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