EASTBOURNE/STARNBERG, June 21, 2022
Twenty-three-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams from the United States made a triumphant return to tennis at the Rothesay Eastbourne International, as alongside her partner Ons Jabeur of Tunisia defeated Marie Bouzkova from the Czech Republic and Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo 2-6, 6-3, 13-11 in a thrilling match tie-break on Tuesday.
Serena and Jabeur dropped the opening set, yet came roaring back to force a champions tie-break. Both teams traded match points, until Jabeur converted their team’s third to win.
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“It was so great; we had a lot of fun. I called her [to play], she’s playing so well and she’s always been so nice on tour. It’s been a while but it was good to feel the court again,” Serena said.
“When she called, I couldn’t believe it. I was a little bit nervous coming out before, but she made me believe. I’m really happy that we played together,” Jabeur added.
In the singles draw, Katie Boulter’s dream grass-court swing continued as she toppled the World No. 7 Karolina Pliskova in three sets 1-6, 6-4, 6-4. The British player has shattered her best win by ranking, previously set last week at the Rothesay Classic Birmingham when she defeated World No. 35 Alison Riske to book a place in the last-16.
In her maiden Eastbourne appearance, Boulter has beaten the two-time Rothesay International champion and added a seventh top-100 victory. The 2021 Wimbledon runner-up had won the opening five games of the contest, yet the Leicestershire native battled back to reach her second-ever WTA 500 third round.
“It’s something I’ve been waiting for, my first top 10 win. It means a lot because I’ve worked so hard over many, many years and to actually get some reward back for it feels great. I’ve got a lot more to do and a lot more to work on but it’s a start and it’s hopefully going to continue. I want to be there week in week out and If I am I’ll progress my ranking quicker and better,” said Boulter.
There was also a great win for Surrey’s Jodie Burrage as she upset World No. 4 Paula Badosa from Spain in straight sets as she claimed the biggest win of her career, 24 hours after her previous best. Prior to this season’s grass-court swing, Burrage’s career-best win by ranking was World No. 171 – beating that record six times in three weeks. Despite playing seven matches in seven days, Burrage stormed her past the No.1 seed and completed the job after one hour and 13 minutes.
Brits advance in men’s draw
The British success continued in the ATP 250 event, as Ryan Peniston captured the spotlight again after he defeated the No. 8 seed Holger Rune from Denmark on Centre Court as he rallied from a set down to win 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-1.
The World No. 28 was three points away from his first tour-level grass-court victory, but the man from Essex fought back to earn the second-best ranking scalp of his career. The win comes a week after Peniston made his ATP tour-level debut at Queens where he defeated world No. 5 Casper Ruud of Norway. All of his top five wins, by ranking, have come this grass-court season on British turf.
“Really happy with it. To back up a couple of wins last week feels really good,” said Peniston. “I’m happy with how I fought even though after losing the first set, managing to pull through at the end was good. It’s been madness to be honest. A couple of weeks ago it was a lot different.”
Warwickshire’s Dan Evans returned to winning ways on Eastbourne soil as he defeated Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in straight sets 6-4, 6-3. The British No. 2 claimed the Rothesay Open Nottingham Challenger title at the beginning of the grass-court swing and has lost one of his seven matches on the surface – dropping just two sets. The Frenchman reached the semi-finals at ’s-Hertogenbosch two weeks ago and won the title there in 2019. Yet, Evans remained unphased and will face US-American Maxime Cressy in the second round.