Tennis fans have been left gutted after dynamic doubles duo Serena Williams and Ons Jabeur were forced to withdraw from the Eastbourne grass-court tournament due to injury.
The pair impressed on their way to the semi-finals of the event but a knee injury to Jabeur saw the Tunisian pull out of the event, presumably with one eye on next week's Wimbledon grand slam.
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The unfortunate situation means Williams has been denied much-needed time on court, having only just returned after almost 12 months out.
Williams, 40, played her first two competitive matches at the Wimbledon lead-up event since limping out of the All England Club slam in tears last year with a hamstring problem.
The 23-time grand slam champion and Jabeur made it through to the semi-finals with a narrow victory over Maria Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo and then a more convincing one against Shuko Aoyama and Chan Hao-ching.
Jabeur asked Williams if she wanted to pair up again for the US Open later in the year, and the setback at Eastbourne gave fans a glimpse that it could be on the cards.
Williams was quick to wish her partner a speedy recovery, tweeting: "Hoping you heal fast! #Onsrena forever!"
The tennis world also took to social media to express their disappointment that Jabeur and Williams couldn't contest their semi-final.
Serena Williams’ return to tennis action has been cut short after doubles partner Ons Jabeur withdrew from the Eastbourne tournament because of a knee injury.
The WTA event had seen tennis great Williams, 40, play her first two competitive matcheshttps://t.co/lrNYf0Rnuj pic.twitter.com/150UIU7AqR
— Overtnews (@Overtnewsng) June 23, 2022
I just found out that Serena and Jabeur withdrew from their SF match tomorrow at Eastbourne due to a knee injury!!! Get well soon Ons!!! I really had fun watching you play along a legend like Serena!!! @serenawilliams @Ons_Jabeur
— Novak Djokovic 🇷🇸 Mexican 🇲🇽 fan (@MexicanDjokovic) June 23, 2022
Wishing you a speedy recovery. I was so enjoining your partnership with Serena the Legend- sadly it was not to be. 😢
— Jenny Noble (@Jennife60808073) June 23, 2022
I think it’s a preventative measure, which is best for her. I hope she has time to recover. I’m happy she had fun playing with Serena though.
— TheRealOne (@FOmo38710828) June 23, 2022
Ons 🇹🇳 we love you our 🌟 star I hope to back more stranger and get well soon the next week ❤️ serena 🔥 you unbelievable of course so happy to see you again on the court
— Haifa Ayari (@HaifaAyari5) June 23, 2022
There had been signs that the 40-year-old Williams was regaining some sharpness after such a lengthy spell out of the game.
Williams' serve - the biggest the women's game has ever seen - has been increasingly impressive when under the pump during her and Jabeur's previous victories.
But the American will now turn her attention to a much greater test at the All England Club next week, where she has taken a wild card into the women's singles as she continues her pursuit of a record-equalling 24th grand slam title.
Speaking after Wednesday's match, Williams said: "I feel good. As good as one can feel after having such a long time off.
"It was actually good match play and match practice, which is exactly what I needed and what I wanted to do coming here, so I couldn't have asked for more."
Williams, who is unseeded at Wimbledon, will find out who she faces in the first round when the draw is made on Friday morning.
Jelena Ostapenko on track in Eastbourne title defence
In the Eastbourne women's singles, Beatriz Haddad Maia stayed on course for a third grass-court title in three weeks by ending the hopes of British wildcard Jodie Burrage 6-1 6-2 in the second round.
Jelena Ostapenko continued the defence of her title by also advancing to the quarter-finals after Madison Keys retired, having lost the first set 6-3.
Other players into the last eight were two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Camila Giorgi.
Meanwhile in the Bad Homburg tournament, champion Angelique Kerber maintained her perfect record to reach the quarter-finals with a win over Italy's Lucia Bronzetti.
The 2018 Wimbledon champion won 6-2 6-3 and is still unbeaten in the second edition of the tournament, with seven wins.
On Thursday, she will meet Alize Cornet from France in the quarter-finals.
Canada's former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu will meet top seed Daria Kasatkina in the quarter-finals after a 6-4 6-4 win over Briton Katie Swan.
Fourth seed Simona Halep also made the last eight with 6-0 6-3 victory over Tamara Zidansek and will meet Amanda Anisimova, who beat Ann Li 6-0 6-2.
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