Serena Williams could yet win a title in her comeback event.
The American star moved into the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Eastbourne International by partnering Ons Jabeur to a 6-2 6-4 win over Shuko Aoyama and Chan Hao-ching on Wednesday.
And, ahead of playing in the singles at Wimbledon next week, there were signs that the 40-year-old Williams is regaining some sharpness after nearly a year out.
Like the back-to-back pick-up shots off her toes early in the first set. Like the three straight aces on break points in the second game of the second set.
Indeed, Williams’ serve – the biggest 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 out the match.
On the five break points she faced, she sent down four aces and one unreturnable serve.
Overall, her performance was more polished than Tuesday’s, when Williams and Jabeur won a tiebreaker to advance in the grass-court tournament on England’s south coast.
Williams was keen to deflect any praise toward her partner.
“I think we played together much better today,” she said, “although I think we played really good together yesterday, too.
“But Ons really helped me out today. She was playing so good. I was just looking at her, like ‘Wow, this is great’.”
Jabeur still appears star-struck alongside Williams.
“I’m getting used to this, really,” the Tunisian player said, laughing.
Then, she turned to Williams and said: “Do you want to play US Open?”
In the semi-finals, Williams and Jabeur will face Magda Linette and Aleksandra Krunic, who dispatched the second-seeded pair of Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos 6-1 6-3.
In the women’s singles, Beatriz Haddad Maia stayed on course for a third grass-court title in three weeks by ending the hopes of British wildcard Jodie Burrage 6-1 6-2 in the second round.
Jelena Ostapenko continued the defence of her title by also advancing to the quarter-finals after Madison Keys retired, having lost the first set 6-3.
Other players into the last eight were two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Camila Giorgi.
Meanwhile in the Bad Homburg tournament, champion Angelique Kerber maintained her perfect record to reach the quarter-finals with a win over Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti.
The 2018 Wimbledon champion won 6-2 6-3 and is still unbeaten in the second edition of the tournament, with seven wins.
On Thursday, she will meet Alize Cornet from France in the quarter-finals.
Canada’s former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu will meet top seed Daria Kasatkina in the quarter-finals after a 6-4 6-4 win over Briton Katie Swan.
Fourth seed Simona Halep also made the last eight with 6-0 6-3 victory over Tamara Zidansek and will meet Amanda Anisimova, who beat Ann Li 6-0 6-2.