Serena Williams reaffirmed her love for the game but said her future on the circuit remains uncertain after the American returned to tennis at the Eastbourne International.
Williams, who continues to chase a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title, has not played competitive tennis since limping out of her first-round match at last year’s Wimbledon in tears due to a leg injury. Retirement rumours gathered pace when long-term coach Patrick Mouratoglou started to work with Simona Halep earlier this year but Williams sprung a surprise last week when she announced her return.
Williams received a wild card into Wimbledon and said she would start preparations at Devonshire Park, where she teamed up with Ons Jabeur for a thrilling 2-6 6-3 13-11 doubles success over Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo on Tuesday evening.
The 40-year-old said there were times when she feared she would ever compete again, saying: “Did I ever doubt I would return? Absolutely, for sure. I would be dishonest if I said it wasn’t and now my body feels great. “I definitely felt good out there and I was talking with Ons in the first set saying ‘we’re not playing bad’ because they were just playing really good in that first set.
“But obviously winning, getting more balls and playing a little bit more made us feel a lot better. It definitely felt reassuring. It has been clicking in practice and now it seems like it is clicking. It is doubles but it still means a lot to both of us to be in it.”
Williams refused to be drawn on whether this was the beginning of a farewell tour after overcoming a rusty opening to show flashes of her old self during an entertaining encounter. Quizzed on her future, Williams insisted: “You know what I am literally taking it one day at a time. I really took my time with my hamstring injury so I am not making a ton of decisions after this.
“I did a lot of non-training in the beginning obviously and after I couldn’t play New York I went cold turkey of not working out. “It felt good but I always try to stay semi-fit because you never know when you are going to play Wimbledon. “I love tennis and I love playing otherwise I wouldn’t be here but I also love what I do off the court.” The chemistry between Williams and Jabeur improved as the match progressed and the admiration between the duo extended into the press conference.
“I am really happy we played together. It was fun and that drop shot at the end…” Jabeur started before her partner interjected. Williams added: “Oh my godness, I would never do that. Never.””Thank you guys! This is the shortest press conference I ever did, but I’m enjoying being next to Serena so I’m glad,” she said.