EXCLUSIVE: Eastbourne Tennis boss explains painful reason why Serena Williams withdrew ahead of Wimbledon

23-time Grand Slam champion forced to withdraw from pre-Wimbledon event at Devonshire Park

American great Serena Williams (left) has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles and 14 Grand Slam women's doubles titles
American great Serena Williams (left) has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles and 14 Grand Slam women's doubles titles

Serena Williams and her doubles partner Ons Jabeur have withdrawn from their semi-final match at the Rothesay International Eastbourne.

Williams, 40, was making her competitive return to tennis having not played for almost a year since sustaining an injury at the first round of Wimbledon last year.

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The 23-time Grand Slam champion made a winning return to action on Tuesday as her and Jabeur won 2-6 6-3 13-11 against Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo and Czech Marie Bouzkova.

The duo then powered into the semi-final at Devonshire Park on Wednesday as they defeated Shuko Aoyama and Hao-Ching Chan 6-2 6-4.

Williams and Jabeur’s partnership looked to be going from strength to strength as they stormed ahead in the opening set.

The newly-formed duo’s chemistry was clear to see as they booked their place in the final four after 65 minutes on Centre Court.

However on Thursday, tournament boss Gavin Fletcher told Sussex World that Williams and Jabeur have been forced to withdraw due to a right knee injury to Jabeur.

“They first called us abut a month ago to see about the possibility of a wild card into the doubles which we were able to facilitate.

"She played on the Tuesday and yesterday’s papers were full of Serena. She is probably the greatest living female athlete. When they get in touch you have to listen.

"We got an immense amount of publicity out of it and the crowd loved it.

"We had to put her fifth match, which isn’t always great, it’s a tough time of the day for players to go out an play but the spectators stayed.

"I think they liked it here and had a good experience and that would indicate in their post match interviews.

"She’s been great.

“Pity Ons Jabeur had an injury last night. I saw it happen on the TV. She went into the backboard for a deep shot and hit her knee.

"That’s a shame they had to pull out but that is life. Two good matches and off they go to Wimbledon.”

The team of Krunic/Linette will advance to Saturday's final.