The signs pointed to one of the greatest players of all time slipping quietly into retirement without the farewell she deserves.
But on Tuesday, Serena Williams made her return to the tennis court – almost exactly a year since her last competitive match and just weeks after many had predicted the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion would never play again.
At Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park, usually the hub of the sleepy Sussex seaside town’s cultural scene and home to a number of theatres, Williams took centre stage.
The 40-year-old American teamed up with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in the Eastbourne doubles and the pair won their opening match in an entertaining evening.
Next week Williams is hoping to play in the singles at Wimbledon, where she has won seven of her major titles.
Afterwards, she said she “absolutely” had moments of doubt about whether she would ever play again.
“You know what, I’m literally taking it one day at a time,” she said.
“I really took my time with my hamstring injury so I’m just not making a ton of decisions after this.”