Serena Williams makes a winning return to the court alongside Ons Jabeur

Serena Williams makes a winning return to the court alongside Ons Jabeur

Serena Williams made a triumphant return to tennis with a 2-6 6-3 13-11 doubles win with Ons Jabeur over Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova in the first round at Eastbourne.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t played since suffering a right leg injury at Wimbledon last summer.

That sparked retirement rumors, but a shocking announcement last Tuesday saw Williams reveal that she had been given a wildcard in SW19 and would begin her preparations by playing doubles at Devonshire Park.

The 40-year-old got off to a slow start but soon got into the groove and hit a winning streak sprinkled with a handful of aces.

“It was a lot of fun playing with Ons,” Williams said on the court. “It was great. We had a lot of fun and our opponents played very well. We were happy to stay there.

“I called Ons, she’s been playing so well and I knew I needed to play some games and she’s always been really nice to me on tour.

“Yeah, I caught fire behind me, it was good.”

Serena Williams was back in action

Serena Williams is back in action (Steven Paston/PA)

Williams came to Irene Cara’s What A Feeling for what was her third Eastbourne appearance, having previously played at the singles event in 1998 and 2011.

Sporting white Nikes and three black patches on her right cheek, she was predictably rusty in the initial exchanges but was well supported by a center court crowd watching the fifth game of the day.

The veteran served first and her 90mph effort earned an opening point after Sorribes Tormo’s response was lengthy. He was followed up by a notched forehand, but partner Jabeur was high-fived after an excellent play at the net ensured the pair started with a hold.

Williams was tested some more when Bouzkova’s wide serve proved too far out of reach and an excellent opportunity for a winner was begging when the American hit the net.

Serena Williams in action

Serena Williams in Action (Steven Paston/PA)

A break came in the third game of serve, with the seven-time Wimbledon winner reaching just after another volley kick landed well beyond the baseline.

Against a duo that recently won a tag team tournament in Istanbul, it was perhaps no surprise to see Williams and Jabeur fighting and the former let out a big scream after she couldn’t get down far enough for Sorribes Tormo’s kick.

When Bouzkova managed to split the duo with a winner soon after, a second break was sealed.

It took 25 minutes before Williams bestowed Eastbourne with a winner and his smashed volley to the ground landed in the north stands to ensure a spectator could walk away with a souvenir.

His next notable action was applauding Sorribes Tormo’s net play after the Spaniard’s shot ended the first set in just over half an hour.

The more experienced doubles duo managed to break again in the third game of the second, but Williams’ agility improved noticeably, despite a scream being issued after she failed to return a third volley in quick succession.

Sorribes Tormo’s double fault returned the set to serve, but the breaks continued.

A first ace from Williams couldn’t stop another break, but her excellent backhand goal at the net ensured they retaliated, minutes after audible gasps from the crowd as the 40-year-old slipped into the net.

It wasn't easy for the new team

It wasn’t easy for the new team (Steven Paston/PA)

With confidence flowing, another Williams volley winner took a huge hold and the power of her forehand was too much in the next game to give her and Jabeur the initiative.

Williams set a set point with an excellent baseline winning backhand after a big ‘I get it’ and leveled proceedings with a 102 mph ace.

A 10-point tiebreaker was needed to find a winner with a lot of empty seats now that the clock has passed 8pm.

The ones that remained continued to be noisy and were rewarded when Williams showed no unwillingness to dive to the right to make a volley that could not be returned and set up the starting point.

A dramatic back-and-forth tie-breaker ensued that saw Jabeur inexplicably find the net with the court at his mercy.

The Tunisian world number three made amends to set up another starting point with a deft shot and Sorribes Tormo missed his volley into the net to ensure the new team started with a win.

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