Serena Williams returns to Eastbourne tennis tournament tonight after year out
Serena Williams is returning to tennis after a year out in a comeback appearance in Eastbourne tonight (Tuesday, June 21).
The tennis star, 40, has not played since June 29 last year when she injured her right leg in a first-round tie against Aliaksandra Sasnovich at SW19.
Her doubles match with Ons Jabeur has been scheduled last on Centre Court at the Rothesay International.
Williams has practised at Meads Tennis Club during the past few days but will be back at Devonshire Park tonight to play her first match in close to a year.
The 23-time grand-slam champion stunned the tennis world seven days ago when she announced a wild card had been awarded to her for Wimbledon.
She also revealed she would play at the Rothesay International Eastbourne in the doubles’ competition to prepare for her latest All England Club appearance, but their match against Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova is unlikely to get under way until 6pm.
Despite an absence of almost 12 months, the return of Williams has put fear in some of the best players on the WTA Tour - with doubles partner Jabeur joking she would rather not face the seven-time Wimbledon singles champion at the third major of 2022.
Tournament Director Gavin Fletcher is excited the match is back in full force after the event was hit by the pandemic
The veteran has appeared at Eastbourne twice before, first back in 1998 and most recently in 2011.
With four matches due on Centre Court before Williams and Jabeur take to the grass, the doubles clash is unlikely to start until the early evening.
The one week of the year where Eastbourne gets national attention for its tennis tournament has also coincided with mass train cancellations as the country sees the biggest rail strikes for 30 years.
Tournament bosses say they have taken measures to alleviate the strike affecting visitors.
Tournament Director Gavin Fletcher told ITV Meridian how the event has responded to the train strikes
Tournament Director Gavin Fletcher said: "It's not great as you can imagine, it doesn't really help us very much.
"I'm sure some people would justify the reasons for the strike but from a pure operational point of view, what we did is work with the council.
"We went out and secured some additional parking facilities - which I do apologise - it doesn't help the LTA's focus on sustainability.
"So more people are going to drive down, we've got more parking spaces and we're operating some park and ride from those locations.
"We've listed all of that on the LTA website just to try and give our customers a bit of a helping hand. Think about your journey, maybe you'll have to leave home a little earlier and make sure you know where you're going to try and park."
People visiting the event told ITV Meridian how the strikes affected their plans
People visiting the event told ITV Meridian how the strikes affected their plans.
One person said: "Going back we've got an issue, a train was cancelled no drivers, so we've had to get the coach. But that's Friday so we're okay."
Another said: "We thought about getting the train initially but then with everything that's been going on, we were like yeah we can't deal with the hassle."
"So we drove down and it was actually a pretty straightforward drive, so glad we did."
One pair said they decided to stay an extra night.
"We were going to stay for one night, then we suddenly realised that there was a train strike on, so we didn't want to risk it so we just stayed an extra night at the hotel - which was lovely sea views and excellent weather!"