Serena Williams' strange move ahead of return to competitive tennis

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Serena Williams, pictured here practicing near Eastbourne ahead of her return to competitive tennis.
Serena Williams practiced near Eastbourne ahead of her return to competitive tennis. Image: Twitter/Getty

Serena Williams has raised eyebrows among tennis fans after cancelling a scheduled practice session just hours before her return in Eastbourne.

The 23-time grand slam champion hasn't played since Wimbledon last year when she was forced to retire hurt with a leg injury after slipping on the wet grass in the opening round.

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After nearly a full year on the sidelines, Williams will make her return to competitive tennis on Tuesday when she teams up with Ons Jabeur in doubles at Eastbourne.

After the tune-up, the 40-year-old will return to Wimbledon after she received a wildcard from organisers of the grass-court grand slam.

Williams and Jabeur will take on Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzková in Eastbourne on Tuesday at the grass-court event that serves as a traditional lead-up to Wimbledon.

But fans and pundits were left somewhat surprised on Monday when it was revealed that Williams and Jabeur had cancelled their practice session at the last minute.

The news came to light just 30 minutes before Williams and Jabeur were scheduled to hit the court.

According to reports, the pair haven't practiced together at all ahead of their doubles bow.

On Sunday, Williams was spotted having a practice hit with fellow American Frances Tiafoe.

Ons Jabeur excited to team up with Serena Williams

Jabeur has pulled out of the singles at Eastbourne following her run to the title in Germany and will only play the doubles.

“I cannot wait to see her, I haven’t seen her yet,” Jabeur said of Williams.

“Hopefully we will get together and talk a little bit and see, because I’m really pumped. I want to win this doubles and why not win the title here, you know?

“Many players were jealous because I’m playing with her. Honestly, Serena is Serena. She is a legend and always will be.”

“Now I’m joking with other doubles players. I was like, 'If you have less than 20 grand slams, don’t even ask me to play doubles with you anymore'."

Jabeur revealed she knew she would be teaming up with Williams since before the French Open.

Serena Williams, pictured here in action at Wimbledon in 2021.
Serena Williams in action at Wimbledon in 2021. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

However not everyone is convinced about Williams' return, with Karolina Pliskova offering a brutal reality check for the 40-year-old.

"I don't know how long it has been since she has played. Has it been a year? It is a long time, and she is not the youngest any more, so I suppose the body also takes some time to get back into shape," Pliskova said at Eastbourne.

"Playing matches at tournaments is still very different to just practising and from what I understand, she is not playing [singles] here, she is just playing doubles.

"I think it will be difficult, super difficult for her, no matter what kind of player she is because this is a thing where you still need some time.

"But of course, she is an amazing player, she achieved so much and still a number of players will be super scared to play her.

"This is her advantage but let's see the level. I cannot really say."

with agencies

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