Ons Jabeur said she “cannot wait” to work with Serena Williams at the Eastbourne International on Monday, as the American star prepares to return to tennis after almost a year.
Williams, a 23-year-old Grand Slam winner, was given a singles wildcard entrance to Wimbledon last week, which begins on Monday. The 40-year-old hasn’t played since sustaining an injury in a first-round match at Wimbledon a year ago, and her global ranking has dropped to 1,204th.
The seven-time Wimbledon singles winner plans to boost her All England Club preparations by competing in a grass-court competition in Eastbourne. Still, her Monday practice session has been cancelled.
Tunisia’s Jabeur and Williams will play Sara Sorribes Tormo, and Marie Bouzkova in their first doubles match on Tuesday.
“I’m an excellent secret keeper,” Jabeur, the new world number three, said after winning in Berlin on the grass on Sunday. “Yes, I was aware of it before the French Open.
“Many players were envious that I was playing with her. Serena is, after all, Serena. She is and always will be a legend.
“It’s incredible that she’s back and that I get to be a part of her journey.”
Jabeur was supposed to play singles in Eastbourne, but her exploits in Germany have forced her to focus on doubles.
She stated she didn’t think about joining up with the Americans for more than a “second.”
“She’s such an inspiration, and the idea that we’re going to play doubles together is great news for me,” she remarked.
“I honestly never anticipated her to select me or even play doubles after such a long period, but I feel like I’m going back in time, remembering all the Grand Slams she’s won. Standing close to her makes me anxious, so I’m hoping it won’t bother me too much.”
Wimbledon is regarded as Williams’ greatest opportunity to match Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
Last year’s Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova, though, cautioned the veteran that her time away from the court would make any chances of a strong showing at the All England Club difficult.
“I believe it’ll be tough, really difficult for her regardless of what sort of player she is because this is something that takes time,” she remarked.
“But, of course, she is a tremendous player who has accomplished so much, and many players will be terrified to play against her. This is her advantage, but let’s see how far she can take it. I’m not sure what to say.”