Serena-led duo advances to semis at Eastbourne

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EASTBOURNE, England — Serena Williams might yet win a title in her comeback event.

The American star moved into the semifinals of the women’s doubles at Eastbourne by partnering with Ons Jabeur in a 6-2, 6-4 win over Shuko Aoyama and Hao-Ching Chan 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 compared to Tuesday, when Williams and Jabeur needed to win a tiebreaker to advance in the grass-court tournament on the south coast of England. They started much quicker against Aoyama and Chan, winning the first set in 25 minutes.

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 [the] US Open?”

So, Williams’ competitive preparation for Wimbledon will take in at least one more match. In the semifinals, 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.

“I didn’t know we were in the semifinals — it’s super fast,” Jabeur said, “but it’s great for us.”

In women’s singles, Beatriz Haddad Maia stayed on course for a third grass-court title in three weeks by ending the hopes of British wild card Jodie Burrage 6-1, 6-2 in the second round. The Brazilian player is coming off winning the Nottingham Open and the Birmingham Classic.

Jelena Ostapenko continued the defense of her title by also advancing to the quarterfinals after her opponent, 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.

In the men’s event, defending champion Alex De Minaur beat Lorenzo Sonego 7-6 (3), 6-2, and second-seeded Jannik Sinner was eliminated, losing 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to Tommy Paul.

Fourth-seeded Diego Schwartzman was another big name to fall after a 7-5, 7-6 (3) loss to Jack Draper.

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