Serena Williams’ comeback cut short by Ons Jabeur injury at Eastbourne

The Guardian - Thu Jun 23 18:09

Serena Williams’s comeback tournament in Eastbourne came to an end on Thursday after her doubles partner, Ons Jabeur, withdrew from their doubles semi-final citing a knee injury. Jabeur slipped awkwardly in their first-round match, briefly touching her right knee, but she did not appear to be hampered by injury afterwards. It is hoped Jabeur’s retirement is merely precautionary with Wimbledon next week.

Having won the second biggest title of her career last week in Berlin, Jabeur is one of the tournament favourites in the women’s draw. Next week she will rise to a new career high singles ranking of No 2, making her the highest ranked African singles player in history.

An early end to their Eastbourne run was not bad news for Williams, who was merely competing for match practice after her one-year layoff and she was satisfied with her performances. Williams did not waste any time after their exit, travelling back to London and training at Wimbledon’s practice courts on Thursday evening for the first time since she was forced to retire from the tournament last year.

Later in the day, 20-year-old Jack Draper continued his efficient rise as he broke new ground at the top level, reaching his first ATP semi-final by defeating his fellow Briton, Ryan Peniston, 6-3, 6-3 in Eastbourne.

On Wednesday, Draper overpowered Diego Schwartzman to clinch the second top-20 win of his career. With his latest victory, Draper will rise to a career-high ranking of at least 94th. He will face the American Maxime Cressy for a spot in his first ATP final. Cressy edged out Cameron Norrie, the British No 1, 7-5, 7-5.

Jack Draper
Jack Draper beat his fellow Briton Ryan Peniston in the quarter-finals at Eastbourne. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images/Reuters

Peniston had a good start to the day himself, reaching a second ATP quarter-final in his second tournament, finishing off Pedro Martinez 7-6 (8), 3-6, 6-3 in a match postponed from Wednesday before he was taken out by Draper.

Harriet Dart’s run to her first WTA 500 quarter-final came to an end at the hands of Petra Kvitova, who defeated her 6-3, 6-4 to reach her first semi-final of the year. After a torrid season, two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova has given herself the opportunity to find some form that would make her a dangerous prospect at her favourite event.

Emma Raducanu will be in the Wimbledon draw on Friday as she continues her recovery from a side injury. She has been training at Wimbledon in recent days and her team is hopeful that she will compete, although her injury is being observed each day.

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In light of Williams and many other players slipping and falling on the lush grass in the first round of the tournament last year, which resulted in multiple injuries, Wimbledon has broken with tradition this year, allowing players to train on the top courts in order to break the grass in.

Traditionally, Wimbledon only allowed four female members of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) to briefly play on Centre Court before the opening day. On Thursday, however, Rafael Nadal and Matteo Berrettini opened up the showpiece court with a 45-minute training session, then Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic followed. Coco Gauff, this year’s French Open runner-up, trained on Court One.