Serena Williams' shock confession after return to competitive tennis

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·Sports Editor
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Serena Williams, pictured here revealing she had doubts about whether she'd ever return to tennis.
Serena Williams has revealed she had doubts about whether she'd ever return to tennis. Image: Getty/WTA

Serena Williams has revealed she had doubts about whether she'd ever return to competitive tennis amid her 12-month absence from the WTA tour.

Williams played her first tour-level match in 356 days on Tuesday, teaming with Ons Jabeur in doubles to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova at the Eastbourne International.

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It marked the first time Williams had played since she retired hurt in the opening round at Wimbledon last year, nearly 12 months ago.

The 40-year-old's lengthy absence from the tour had many speculating that she'd never return and opt to retire instead.

And while speaking in her post-match press conference in Eastbourne on Tuesday, the 23-time grand slam champion admitted to having the same thoughts.

"Did I ever doubt I would return? Absolutely, for sure," she said.

"I would be dishonest if I said it wasn't (on my mind) 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 practise and now it seems like it is clicking."

Serena Williams and Ons Jabeur, pictured here after their win over Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo in Eastbourne.
Serena Williams and Ons Jabeur celebrate their win over Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo in Eastbourne. (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)

Williams was offered wildcards to play in Eastbourne and at Wimbledon next week.

However, she refused to be drawn on how long she intends to play on despite being just one grand slam title behind Margaret Court's all-time record of 24.

"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," she said.

"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."

Serena Williams, pictured here in action in doubles at the Eastbourne International.
Serena Williams in action in doubles at the Eastbourne International. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

Serena Williams' successful return after 12 months

Williams hasn't won a grand slam since claiming her 23rd at the Australian Open in 2017.

She has since played in four grand slam finals - including at Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019 - but failed to win any of them.

The American champion won the seventh and most recent of her seven Wimbledon singles titles in 2016.

Although she was far from her vintage best on Tuesday, Williams will be encouraged by her first outing for 12 months.

In the match-deciding tiebreak, Williams squandered a match point on her serve with a wayward forehand at 9-8 and Jabeur wasted another at 10-9.

But the pair saved a match point from Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo at 10-11, reeling off the last three points to clinch a dramatic victory.

Meanwhile, there were some major shocks in the women's singles as last year's Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova lost 6-1 4-6 4-6 to Katie Boulter.

Spanish top seed Paula Badosa was also beaten 6-4 6-3 by British wildcard Jodie Burrage.

with agencies

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