Serena Williams of the US returns the ball during her doubles quarter-final in on Wednesday. Image Credit: AP

Eastbourne: Serena Williams' return to tennis action has been cut short after doubles partner Ons Jabeur withdrew from the Eastbourne tournament because of a knee injury.

The WTA event had seen tennis great Williams, 40, play her first two competitive matches since she limped out of last year's Wimbledon in tears with a hamstring problem.

The American and Tunisian partner Jabeur made it through to the semi-finals with a narrow last 16 win over Maria Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo, before a more convincing quarter-final victory in straight sets against Shuko Aoyama and Chan Hao-ching.

Focus on Wimbledon

Williams will now focus on Wimbledon where she has accepted a wild card into the women's singles in a bid to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.

She will find out who she faces in the first round when the draw is made on Friday.

The American star moved into the semi-finals after she and Jabeur won 6-2, 6-4 against 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 Serena is regaining some sharpness after nearly a year out.

Like the back-to-back pickup 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, Serena’s 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.

Unreturnable serve

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 Serena 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.

Serena Ons
Serena Williams and her doubles partner Ons Jabeur celebrate a point during the Eastbourne quarter-finals against Shuko Aoyama and Hao-Ching on Wednesday. Image Credit: AP

“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’.”

Star-struck Jabeur

Jabeur still appears star-struck alongside Williams.

“I’m getting used to this, really,” the Tunisian player said, laughing.

Then, she turned to Serena and said: “Do you want to play US Open?”

So, Serena’s competitive preparation for Wimbledon will take in at least one more match. 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.

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

Beatriz Haddad Maia
Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia reacts during her second round match against Britain's Jodie Burrage. Image Credit: Reuters

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 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 defence of her title by also advancing to the quarter-finals 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, a big-serving Briton.

Jelena Ostapenko
Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia plays double-fisted backhand return during her win over Madison Keys of the US. Image Credit: AP

Kerber, Halep in Homburg quarters

Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep booked their places in the quarter-finals of the Bad Homburg Open on Wednesday while Sabine Lisicki continued her winning comeback.

Defending champion Kerber, seeded third, beat Lucia Bronzetti 6-2, 6-3 to set up a meeting with Alize Cornet, who won 7-6 (4), 6-4 against Tatjana Maria.

Kerber is now 7-0 in front of her home fans at Bad Homburg since the tournament made its tour debut last year.

Solid start to grass-court season

Halep powered past Tamara Zidansek 6-0, 6-3 to continue her solid start to the grass-court season after reaching the semi-finals in Birmingham last week. Next up for the Romanian player is Amanda Anisimova, who needed just 50 minutes to beat fellow American Ann Li 6-0, 6-2.

Former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu won 6-4, 6-4 against Katie Swan and next takes on top-seeded Daria Kasatkina.

Lisicki is making a comeback to the WTA Tour after knee injuries hampered her for a long spell. The former Wimbledon finalist reached the quarter-finals of a full tour event for the first time since February 2018 when she beat Greet Minnen 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.