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Serena Williams victorious on return after 12-month absence… but face-tape mystery continues

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For Williams, it was “reassuring” to see how quickly she got a feel of things, considering there are just five days to go until Wimbledon begins. “Absolutely, I definitely felt good out there and I was talking with Ons in the first set and I said, ‘we’re not playing bad, they really played really good in that set,'” she said. “But obviously winning and getting more balls and playing a little bit more made us feel a lot better and it definitely felt reassuring, like, okay, it’s clicking in practice and now it seems like it’s clicking.”

If there were nerves ahead of the match, it was to be expected. It was her first match in a year, and on grass – the surface which had helped aggravate her hamstring injury last year when she slipped at Wimbledon. There were some erratic errors and a bit of awkward footwork at first, but so, too, were there flickers of her unmatched competitive zeal.

A couple of overstated overhead smashes in the first set showed Williams was keen to make her mark. Though they lost the first set, partly owing to their lack of intuitiveness, Williams and Jabeur fought back.

Jabeur, the world No 3, admitted afterwards that she was nervous at the prospect of playing with Williams, a giant of the sport who she only got to practise with a couple of hours prior. 

There was a nervy moment, too, when Williams slipped at the net. Later, Jabeur also slipped badly. But both of them rallied, fighting back from a break down twice in the second set.

On the most important points, it was Williams that rose to the occasion. Her cross-court backhand winner gave them set point in the second set and, then, a vintage 102mph ace down the ‘T’ pushed it to a match tiebreak. The length-of-court she found during the tiebreak showed the class that remains in her game, even without matches under her belt. To set up their first match point, Williams also defended the net at full stretch.

It would take until the third match point for the pair to clinch it and extend this unexpected summer of tennis for Williams.

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