Ons Jabeur eager to learn from Serena Williams in doubles

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Ons Jabeur is eager to learn from Serena Williams when they pair up for doubles at the Rothesay International Eastbourne but the 23-time grand-slam champion did cancel her scheduled on-site practice session on Monday.

The 40-year-old caught the tennis world cold on Tuesday when a return to Wimbledon was unexpectedly announced after she had been awarded a wild card despite not playing since she injured her right leg at SW19 last summer.

Williams is set to step up preparations for the All England Club by playing in Eastbourne, but is yet to step foot inside Devonshire Park having trained at a local club over the weekend while her planned on-site practice on Monday was called off at 30 minutes notice.

Jabeur and the American great are expected to begin their doubles campaign on Tuesday against Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova.

“I’m a good secret keeper! Yes, I’ve known before the French Open,” new world number three Jabeur revealed after arriving fresh from winning in Berlin on Sunday.

“Many players were jealous because I’m playing with her. Honestly, Serena is Serena. She is a legend and always will be.

“The fact that she returned and I get to be part of her journey, it’s really unbelievable. She did a lot for our sport and I really respect her, respect her story, respect everything she’s been through.

“I hope I can learn even like two per cent from it.  Now I’m joking with other doubles players, I was like, if you have minus 20 grand slams, don’t even ask me to play doubles with you any more.”

Jabeur’s Bett1 Open success only increased the belief she is one of the leading contenders to win at Wimbledon this year after she made the quarter-finals in 2021.

The Tunisian was set to play singles at Eastbourne but after her exploits in Germany she will now only be involved in the doubles at the WTA 500 event.

It was Eric Hechtman, who is set to coach Williams in the wake of her split from Patrick Mouratoglou, that first made contact over the potential doubles partnership last month.

“Not a second to think about it. It’s an obvious yes,” Jabeur insisted.

“But I cannot wait to see her, I haven’t seen her yet.  Hopefully we will get together and talk a little bit and see, because I’m really pumped. I want to win this doubles and why not win the title here, you know?

“She’s such an inspiration and the fact that we’re playing doubles together.  It’s huge news for me and it’s unbelievable.

“I honestly never expected her to pick me or even to play doubles after a long time, but I feel like I’m going way back and all the memories of watching her winning a lot of grand slams.  I hope it’s not going to make me too nervous, standing next to her.”

Williams’ old sparring partner Karolina Pliskova did warn the veteran her time out of the court will make any hopes of a good run at SW19 very tough.

Last year’s Wimbledon finalist added: “I don’t know how long it has been since she has played. Has it been a year? It is a long time and she is not the youngest any more so I suppose the body also takes some time to get back into shape.

“Playing matches at tournaments is still very much different to just practising and from what I understand she is not playing (singles) here, she is just playing doubles.

“I think it will be difficult, super difficult for her no matter which kind of player she is because this is a thing where you still need some time.

“But of course, she is an amazing player, she achieved so much and still a number of players will be super scared to play her. This is her advantage but let’s see the level. I cannot really say.”

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