Serena Williams was involved in a bizarre exchange with the chair umpire as his return to tennis continued with a second straight win on Wednesday.
The American star advanced to the women’s doubles semi-finals at the Eastbourne International after team up with Ons Jabeur for a 6-2 6-4 win on Shuko Aoyama and Chan Hao-ching.
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Ahead of her return to Wimbledon in singles action next week, there were signs on Wednesday that the 40-year-old is finding some sharpness after almost 12 months of absence.
She produced back-to-back pick-ups on her toes early in the first set and landed three straight aces on break points in the second game of the second set.
Williams’ serve – the greatest the women’s game has ever seen – was increasingly impressive when under the pump, and it was the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion who served the victory.
But the match was not without a slight controversy when Williams asked the chair umpire about a seemingly missed call in an exchange that appeared to be dripping with condescension.
Williams and Jabeur won an extraordinary point at the end of the second set in which Jabeur collided with the back wall while recovering a blow.
At the switch, Williams appeared to believe Aoyama had tipped the ball with his racquet earlier in the point and questioned the referee about the rules.
“Question: if they tip the ball, the point is over, right? asked Williams.
After the referee replied that she hadn’t seen the tip in question, Williams said, “I just wanted to make sure. It’s been a while.”
Needless to say, the rule certainly didn’t change during Williams’ 12-month stint on the sidelines.
Serena Williams in the semi-finals at a comeback event
Of the five break points she faced, Williams sent four aces and an unreturnable serve.
Overall, his performance was more polished than Tuesday’s, when Williams and Jabeur won a decisive tiebreaker to advance in the grass-court tournament on the south coast of England.
Speaking after the match, Williams was keen to divert all the praise to his partner.
“I think we played a lot better together today,” she said, “although I think we played really well together yesterday as well.
“But Ons really helped me today. She was playing so well. I was just looking at her, like ‘Wow, that’s awesome’.”
Jabeur was still impressed with her playing alongside Williams.
“I’m getting used to it, really,” said the Tunisian player with a laugh.
She then turned to Williams and said, “Do you want to play the US Open?”
In the semis, Williams and Jabeur will face Magda Linette and Aleksandra Krunic, who dispatched second seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos 6-1 6-3.
In women’s singles, Beatriz Haddad Maia stayed on course for a third grass title in three weeks by ending the hopes of British wildcard Jodie Burrage 6-1 6-2.
Jelena Ostapenko continued her title defense by also advancing to the quarter-finals after Madison Keys retired after losing the first set 6-3.
Other players in the last eight were two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Italian star Camila Giorgi.
with the AAP
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