Simona Halep believes she is playing her best tennis since winning Wimbledon in 2019 after returning to the All England Club semi-finals.

The former world number one is enjoying her first SW19 campaign since that triumph three years ago, with the coronavirus pandemic and a calf injury delaying her return.

The final in 2019 was Halep's fifth at a major, but she has not been back to that stage since.

Now, having swatted aside Amanda Anisimova 6-2 6-4 in the last eight for a 12th consecutive victory at Wimbledon – the longest sequence since 20 straight Serena Williams successes between 2015 and 2018 – she is just one win away.

Halep explained after the Anisimova match that confidence was key, having proven her game was back at a high level in reaching six semi-finals in 2022 – second only to Iga Swiatek (eight) on the WTA Tour.

Three of those last-four appearances have now been on grass, with Johanna Konta in 2017 the last player to achieve that feat in a calendar year.

"Definitely I've played the best tennis [since 2019]," Halep said in her on-court interview. "I struggled a lot last year; now, I'm just trying to build my confidence back.

"The tennis is here, so I just have to believe. I've started to do that, and it feels good."

Asked how high her confidence was now, she replied with a smile: "It's good."

Halep has reached the last four without dropping a set, although that spotless record was briefly threatened by Anisimova, who was a double break down in the second set before breaking back and then leading 40-0 on the Romanian's serve.

Yet Halep dug in to serve out the match and avoid a decider against an opponent with a Tour-leading 12 three-set wins this season.

"I'm very emotional right now, because it means a lot to be back in the semis," Halep said.

"I played a tough opponent today; she could crash the ball in the end, and I didn't know actually what to do.

"But I just believed in myself and said that I had to stay there, strong on my legs – they helped me today – and I believed until the end that I could win."

Elena Rybakina sealed her first grand slam semi-final appearance in impressive fashion as she recovered from a set down to beat Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6 6-2 6-3 in Wimbledon's last eight. 

Rybakina was on the back foot after going a set and a break down on No. 1 Court, but the big-serving 23-year-old quickly shifted through the gears to claim a routine triumph and tee up a last-four clash with Simona Halep.

In doing so, she became the first female Kazakh player to reach a grand slam semi-final in the Open Era, with players from the country having lost on each of their previous eight major quarter-final appearances.

Tomljanovic made a terrific start, moving well and winning 85 per cent of first-serve points as she built on a third-game break to take the opener with an impressive showing.

But after being put under pressure by another Tomljanovic break, Rybakina came roaring back to level the contest, winning 11 consecutive points to clinch the second set as the momentum swung her way.

A reinvigorated Rybakina broke again early in the decider as she took seven successive games and, although she had to wait to seal victory after the duo traded breaks, eventually converted her second match point to continue her best Wimbledon run.

Data Slam: Rybakina serves up a treat

Rybakina came into this contest having served more aces than any other player on the WTA circuit in 2022 (197), and Tomljanovic was powerless to resist as she hit another 15 on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old has now made (44) aces at Wimbledon this year, more than any other female player.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Tomljanovic 14/21
Rybakina 34/28

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Tomljanovic 1/1
Rybakina 15/1

BREAK POINTS WON

Tomljanovic 3/9
Rybakina 5/9

Simona Halep's remarkable return to Wimbledon continued with a 6-2 6-4 win over Amanda Anisimova on Centre Court to reach the semi-finals.

Former world number one Halep took the title at the All England Club in 2019 but had not been back since, with coronavirus wrecking the 2020 grass-court season before she missed its entirety in 2021 due to injury.

But it is as if the 30-year-old – backed by new coach Patrick Mouratoglou – had never been away, with Anisimova the victim of a ruthless display on Wednesday.

Anisimova might have hoped the omens were positive, given her only prior quarter-final win in a major came against Halep at the 2019 French Open, but she could hardly have been surprised by her opponent's dominance on this surface; Halep beat Anisimova in the last eight in Bad Homburg last month.

The American soon bowed to the pressure generated by Halep's return, losing five games in a row after initially holding to love. Halep seized her first two break point opportunities as Anisimova twice aimed tired shots into the net from the back of the court.

A cross-court backhand from Halep fended off Anisimova's first opening, ensuring the Romanian eased through the opener before the second set followed a familiar theme.

Anisimova held comfortably to start but then again found Halep resolute, falling 0-40 down and eventually going a break behind with a wayward forehand. Once more it was a double break when an Anisimova drop shot fell some way short.

Anisimova belatedly forced Halep back as she served for the match, taking the second of two break points and then remarkably claiming a 40-0 lead against the serve next time out.

However, Halep, having briefly lost control, recovered her composure and was able to celebrate when Anisimova blasted wide.

Data slam: Anisimova helpless against Halep on grass

Anisimova has won 12 matches in three sets this season, the joint-most on the WTA Tour, but a fightback always appeared unlikely against her imperious opponent.

After almost three years away from competitive grass-court action, Halep has returned in formidable form. In three tournaments on grass in 2022, she has reached three semi-finals. The last player to make a trio of such appearances in a single calendar year was Johanna Konta in 2017.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Halep – 11/6
Anisimova – 13/28

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Halep – 3/1
Anisimova – 0/1

BREAK POINTS WON
Halep – 4/6
Anisimova – 1/8 

Ons Jabeur fought back from one set down to reach her first grand slam semi-final in impressive fashion, beating Marie Bouzkova 3-6 6-1 6-1 in the pair's Wimbledon quarter-final contest.

The second seed recovered from an error-strewn start on Centre Court to see off the 23-year-old Czech in quick time, recording her 10th consecutive grass-court win and her 21st victory in her last 23 outings. 

Jabeur also became just the second African player to reach the final four at Wimbledon in the Open Era, and the first since Yvonne Vermaak in 1983, after dominating the last two sets.

Bouzkova, whose second-round exits in each of 2022's previous slams represented her previous best major performances, showed no signs of nerves when breaking in just the fifth game of the opener.

Jabeur's frustrating start eventually saw her succumb to a second break, dropping the first set, when she followed a double fault with two errors 41 minutes in, but she stepped up in remarkable fashion to take the match away from her opponent thereafter.

The world number two needed just over half an hour to take the second set 6-1 before forcing Bouzkova into a decisive backhand error to claim an early break in the decider.

That was the first of three successive breaks for the Tunisian, who hit a powerful backhand to go 4-0 up in the third before doing likewise after Bouzkova managed to hit back with a break of her own.

Jabeur then confidently served out the contest to love, and after setting up a last-four clash with world number 103 Tatjana Maria, will be widely considered the favourite to clinch the title.

Data Slam: In-form Jabeur demonstrates grand slam credentials 

When Iga Swiatek was dumped out by Alize Cornet in the third round on Saturday, most onlookers immediately looked to Jabeur as the new favourite to take the Wimbledon crown.

After a shaky start, Jabeur lived up to that billing with an imposing performance in the last eight. Only Swiatek (44) has posted more wins than Jabeur's 35 on the WTA Tour this year, while no female player can match her tally of 83 wins since the start of the 2021 campaign.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

- Bouzkova 14/17

- Jabeur 30/27

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

- Bouzkova 0/1

- Jabeur 0/2

BREAK POINTS WON

- Bouzkova 3/5

- Jabeur 6/9

Wimbledon surprise package Tatjana Maria said she was living out a dream after reaching her maiden grand slam semi-final.

Maria also matched a feat achieved by Serena Williams and only two other players since 1984 – Mirjana Lucic (1999) and Zheng Jie (2008) – in reaching the last four at Wimbledon as a player ranked outside the top 100 on the WTA list.

The 34-year-old German, who beat compatriot Jule Niemeier 4-6 6-2 7-5 on Tuesday, is ranked 103rd, and despite her efforts at Wimbledon she will not soar in the standings after the WTA's decision to strip the grand slam of ranking points.

Yet that will matter little for the mother of two, who knew she would face either Marie Bouzkova or Ons Jabeur in her first slam semi-final.

"I have goosebumps everywhere. It was such a tough match against Jule. I think today we made Germany really proud after our match," said Maria in her on-court interview.

"My two little girls, it's a dream to live this with my family, to live this with my two girls. Almost one year ago I gave birth, it's crazy.

"Ons [Jabeur], I mean it would be really nice to play her [in the semi-final]. She is part of my family, she loves my kids, she is playing with them every day.

"It would be great to play her, we never know. But I am only happy that I am in a semi-final now."

Tatjana Maria's late-career Wimbledon charge continued into the semi-finals after she rallied past Jule Niemeier in the last eight on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old's best grand slam run before last week had taken her only as far as round three at the All England Club in 2015, but she is now one win away from a Centre Court final after edging Niemeier in an entertaining 4-6 6-2 7-5 triumph.

Niemeier, at the opposite end of her career at 22, was making her main-draw Wimbledon debut and had looked on course to ride her momentum into the last four.

In only the third all-German grand slam quarter-final of the Open Era, Maria's nerves showed in the first set as she immediately dropped serve and was unable to recover.

But after quickly being broken again at the start of the second, the veteran seized control, battling back as Niemeier appeared to lose her composure.

The decider could have gone either way, with one crucial point going in Maria's favour as Niemeier dived headfirst after a drop shot at the end of a 13-stroke rally, yet experience told at the last.

Data slam: Mother Maria in fine company

Maria gave birth to her second daughter just 15 months ago, but she has returned better than ever and joined esteemed company with a semi-final appearance at 34.

She is just the sixth female player in the Open Era to make the last four at Wimbledon after her 34th birthday, alongside Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams and Venus Williams. Meanwhile, Mirjana Lucic (2017 Australian Open) is the only other European player to achieve that feat at any of the majors.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Maria – 26/37
Niemeier – 39/54

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Maria – 4/7
Niemeier – 3/11

BREAK POINTS WON
Maria – 5/7
Niemeier – 3/9

Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep claimed victories on Centre Court on Monday, a day on from celebrating the venue's centenary.

Nadal and Halep were among a host of champions, including Roger Federer and last year's winner Novak Djokovic, to stand on Centre Court on Sunday for a celebration of its 100th anniversary.

A day later, they were back at the venue to seal their respective progressions to the quarter-finals.

Halep, Wimbledon champion in 2019, defeated fourth seed Paula Badosa 6-1 6-2, while Nadal overcame Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4 6-2 7-6 (8-6).

Of female players still competing on the WTA Tour, only Serena Williams (14) and Venus Williams (13) have reached more Wimbledon quarter-finals than Halep (five), who will face Amanda Anisimova in the last eight.

Nadal, meanwhile, has now played 350 matches at grand slams – a total bettered only by Federer and Djokovic.

The 22-time grand slam winner was made to work for victory in the third set by Van de Zandschulp, but having overcome a wobble, went on to secure his 18th straight major match win of 2022.

Asked about being given the honour of taking to Centre Court on Sunday, Nadal said: "Yesterday was a beautiful thing sharing the court with legends of our sport.

"Centre Court for 100 years is something very special."

It was a sentiment echoed by Halep, who is looking to reach her first grand slam semi-final since the 2020 Australian Open and has not dropped a set so far at Wimbledon this year.

"Definitely it was a place I wanted to be today. I think I played a great match," she said. "It was a pleasure to be back on Centre Court with this great crowd supporting me.

"I missed it a lot, three years was a [long time].  Yesterday I was on the court with all the champions and it was amazing. I was more nervous than I was today."

Next up for Nadal is Taylor Fritz, who beat the Spaniard in their last meeting in the final of the Indian Wells Masters earlier this season.

While Nadal is into his eighth Wimbledon quarter-final – and his 47th at a grand slam, a tally that lags behind only Djokovic (53) and Federer (58) – Fritz has never reached the last eight of a major before.

"In a personal way, for me to be able to be in quarter-finals after three years, it's amazing for me, so I'm very, very happy," said Nadal, who is hunting the calendar Grand Slam in 2022.

"Every match is different," he added of his tie against Fritz, which he anticipates being tricky.

"He is playing well and having a very good year, including a first Masters 1000 title, against me by the way, but we will be in the quarter-final of Wimbledon, so what should I expect?"

Ons Jabeur urged the youth of Africa to believe they can make it all the way to Wimbledon as the Tunisian booked her place in the quarter-finals for a second successive year.

The 27-year-old is the new title favourite, following Iga Swiatek's third-round exit, as she chases a maiden grand slam title.

Jabeur was made to work hard for a 7-6 (11-9) 6-4 victory over Belgian Elise Mertens on Sunday, but she has still yet to drop a set.

Next for Jabeur is Czech player Marie Bouzkova, the world number 66, and she is relishing her role as a trailblazer for African and Arab women.

"I enjoy sometimes failing and succeeding after. It's amazing," Jabeur said. "I wish I could really give the message to the young generation, not just from my country but from the African continent.

"I want to see more players here, I want them to believe more in themselves and believe that they can be here. I don't come from a rich family, so you have to really stop finding excuses and go for it, just be yourself and enjoy playing tennis."

World number two Jabeur is the only Tunisian ranked inside the WTA top 700. This is her fifth Wimbledon, and last year's run to the last eight was her best performance at that point, with Aryna Sabalenka preventing her going any further.

Now she has the title in her sights.

"It's amazing to be here and hopefully I can continue," she said in an on-court interview. "I love playing on grass. I love the connection between nature and me, so hopefully it will continue this way for me and maybe through to the finals."

Mertens beat former champion Angelique Kerber in round three, and against Jabeur on Court One she battled from an early 3-1 deficit to force the opening-set tie-break.

It was exhilarating at that point, and Jabeur was relieved to win the breaker, fearing she might not have the wherewithal to come back from dropping the set.

Mertens beat Jabeur in round three at the US Open last year, so the threat she posed was clear.

"She's a great opponent really. It's never easy to play her, and I had to dig deep, very deep, in the tie-break," Jabeur said. "I couldn't imagine myself playing three sets against her."

Heather Watson praised Jule Niemeier's "flawless" performance after seeing her best Wimbledon run ended by the German in a straight-sets last-16 reverse.

Watson was beaten 6-2 6-4 by Niemeier on the 100th anniversary of Centre Court's opening, as the home favourite fell short of a first career grand slam quarter-final appearance.

Niemeier's win set up a last-eight clash with compatriot Tatjana Maria, as two German female players reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals in the same year for just the fifth time since 1987.

In her post-match news conference, Watson lauded her opponent's display and said she will eventually look back on her run to the fourth round with pride. 

"Immediately after walking off the court, I was obviously extremely disappointed. I've taken every match here as a big opportunity and managed to take advantage of it until today," she said.

"But credit to my opponent. I felt like she played really well, especially in that first set. Very flawless tennis. 

"She served big, which was a big difference today, I felt like I was always reacting to her ball. I was not on the front foot like I was in my other matches.

"It's so soon after the match, I'm still deflated and disappointed, I saw today as a big opportunity and thought I would come through it.

"I've always felt good enough, I've won four WTA titles – that's not easy. I know when I light it up I can beat anyone on my day, and tennis is so up and down. 

"I'll look back and be proud of myself for this week, but right now I'm disappointed."

Niemeier became the fourth-youngest German woman to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals in the Open Era, with only Bettina Bunge, Steffi Graf and Sabine Lisicki doing so at a younger age.

The 22-year-old recognised the significance of winning on the day of Centre Court's centenary celebrations, after the likes of Roger Federer and Billie Jean King spoke during a parade of former champions, and even apologised to fans for eliminating a home hopeful.

"I didn't want to watch the show before the match because I was pretty nervous and I saw all the players, so I didn't want to see it. But of course, it's a special place, it's one of the biggest courts on Tour," she said.

"The court is so beautiful, and I feel honoured I had the chance to play on Centre Court.

"I just want to say sorry that I had to kick out a British player today!"

Surprise Wimbledon quarter-finalist Tatjana Maria joined an illustrious list of greats after defeating Jelena Ostapenko on Sunday.

Maria, a mother of two, returned from maternity leave under a year ago and came back from a set down to triumph 5-7 7-5 7-5 against the 2017 French Open champion. 

That sent the 34-year-old into the first grand slam quarter-final of her career.

With that achievement, the German matched a feat only six women had previously managed, as she became the seventh woman in the Open Era to reach the last eight of a major after turning 34.

World number 103 Maria, who salvaged two match points in the second set, joins the great Billie Jean King, Virginia Wade, Chris Evert, nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams and Venus Williams on that distinguished list.

Ostapenko was in a foul mood after seeing the match slip from her grasp, and received a frosty reception as she made her way off court.

It could take nothing away from a special day for Maria, who said in her on-court interview: "Oh my God, it makes me so proud to be a mum.

"That's the best thing in the world, I love to be a mum, I love my two kids. To be able to do this together, we practiced this morning with my daughter.

"Everybody has been so nice, supporting us and believing in me and our family, it makes it really special."

Next up for Maria is compatriot Jule Niemeier, who defeated Britain's Heather Watson in straight sets.

Martina Navratilova said she was "gutted" to miss Wimbledon's Centre Court centenary celebration after testing positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

The nine-time champion was absent from a parade of champions, and in a series of posts on social media she explained why she had to sit it out.

Past winners were introduced to the main show court's middle Sunday crowd, with the one-time champions going first, all the way through to eight-time Wimbledon king Roger Federer.

Navratilova would have come out last of all, as the most successful singles player in Wimbledon history, but she was unable to take part. Including doubles, Navratilova won 20 slam titles at Wimbledon.

"Unfortunately I will miss it as I just tested positive this morning," she wrote on Twitter shortly before the ceremony. "Am so bummed!!!! I am gutted I can't be there."

Confirming she had the coronavirus, Navratilova wrote: "Yup, got it here for sure… oh well. So wanted to be on that court with so many champions of our sport."

Asked how she was feeling, the 65-year-old Czech-born American added: "Not too bad so far- wouldn't want to play tennis but ok… fingers crossed."

A host of greats of the game delighted the crowd, with stars of the women's tour including Navratilova's former great rivals Chris Evert and Billie Jean King, along with Margaret Court and Venus Williams, while Federer was joined by a field of fellow men's superstars that included Rod Laver, Novak Djokovic, Stefan Edberg, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

Three-time former champion Boris Becker was another notable absentee, after the German was jailed in April for offences relating to his 2017 bankruptcy. Seven-time winner Serena Williams also missed the event, after her first-round defeat.

Navratilova has been working at Wimbledon during the championships, notably appearing as a member of the BBC broadcast team.

Alize Cornet compared herself to a fine French wine as she left Iga Swiatek's Wimbledon dream in tatters.

Frenchwoman Cornet, who eight years ago produced a Wimbledon sensation when beating Serena Williams, delivered another show-stopping result when she won 6-4 6-2 against top seed and world number one Swiatek.

It happened on the tournament's middle Saturday and on Court One, just as the victory over Williams in 2014 had.

Swiatek had reeled off 37 successive wins, landing six titles in the process, including a second French Open crown. However, she has appeared far from comfortable on the grass in London, and it was clear she would be ripe for such an upset if her performance level from the first two rounds did not improve.

Cornet, who at the age of 32 is competing in a record-tying 62nd consecutive grand slam tournament, will face Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals.

In an on-court interview, Cornet said of her win: "It reminds me of the time I beat Serena on the same court eight years ago. I think this court is a lucky charm for me.

"I want to say I'm a huge fan of Iga. She is just so talented, and she's such an amazing player and such a nice ambassador of women's tennis, so I'm very flattered that I beat her today.

"I think this kind of match is what I'm living for and practising for every day. It really drives me, and I knew I could do it. Somehow I had this belief, even through she had 37 wins in a row.

"It was like, if there is a moment you can beat her it's now, on grass. She feels a little less comfortable than on other surfaces, so I was just believing very hard, very focused, and I have the best team by my side and the best crowd also.

"So I guess I like the upsets. It's a really nice feeling right now.

"I'm like a good wine. In France, a good wine always ages well. It's unreal, I'm playing one of the best seasons of my career. I feel great on the court. I'm having so much fun. Eight years later after my first qualification into the second week I can see I'm still there, I'm still so motivated, and I still have the fire in me."

Swiatek slumped from a 2-0 lead in the second set, dropping six successive games as the match slipped away.

The beaten Pole said: "I know I didn't play good tennis. I was pretty confused about my tactics. When I was practising I didn’t feel in the best shape. So I was aware this could happen.

"Usually when I'm coming back, I have some kind of a plan and I know what to change.

"Here I didn't know what to change. I was confused. On a grass court everything happens so quickly. I didn't tank it, but I just didn't know what to do."

Iga Swiatek's 37-match winning streak came to an end on Wimbledon's Court One as wily Frenchwoman Alize Cornet pulled off a sensational third-round victory.

Top seed and world number one Swiatek had not lost since February, when she was beaten by Jelena Ostapenko in Dubai, reeling off six successive tournament wins, including her second French Open title. It was the longest winning streak in women's singles in the 21st century, and now it is over.

The 21-year-old Polish player had not looked comfortable on grass in her opening two rounds at Wimbledon, and she was outsmarted on Saturday by the experienced Cornet, losing 6-4 6-2 in an hour and 32 minutes.

At the age of 32, Cornet is playing a record-tying 62nd consecutive grand slam, matching Ai Sugiyama's record. She is also enjoying her best year at the majors, reaching a slam quarter-final for the first time in Australia before getting to the third round at Roland Garros.

Crucially, Cornet already had a famous Wimbledon scalp behind her coming into this match. Eight years ago, on the equivalent first Saturday of the championships and on the same court, Cornet defeated Serena Williams.

On this occasion, Cornet swept to a swift double break against the former Wimbledon girls' champion, opening a 3-0 lead. Swiatek got back into the opening set by recovering one break, but she could not draw level.

Swiatek then had a chance to break in the second game of the second set, and a 2-0 lead was hers when Cornet went long with a forehand. Yet the lead was immediately squandered, a dazzling stop volley from Cornet saving game point before a looping backhand winner brought the set back onto serve.

From there, Cornet pulled away, Swiatek's belief fading as the match raced away from her. At her 15th Wimbledon, Cornet was able to celebrate another show-stopping moment.

Data slam: Alize in wonderland

This was a 24th career win for Cornet against a player ranked inside the top 10, and a fourth against a world number one – the previous three all came against Serena Williams, all in 2014 (including one by retirement). The world number 37, who reached a career-high ranking of 11th in 2009, was facing Swiatek for the first time and now goes on to tackle Ajla Tomljanovic for a place in the last eight.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Cornet – 16/7
Swiatek – 21/33

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Cornet – 1/2
Swiatek – 3/1

BREAK POINTS WON
Cornet – 5/6
Swiatek – 2/6

Harmony Tan produced a "breathtaking" display as the little-known Frenchwoman extended her remarkable Wimbledon run by thrashing British hope Katie Boulter.

A 6-1 6-1 victory on Court Two was achieved in just 51 minutes, a stark difference to the three hours and 11 minutes that it took Tan to fend off seven-time champion Serena Williams in round one.

The world number 115 is through to the fourth round now and assured of at least £190,000 in prize money.

She followed up the thrilling win over superstar Williams by taking out 45th-ranked Sara Sorribes Tormo in round two, but kept plenty in reserve for the clash with Boulter, emphatically dismissing the home player's challenge.

Boulter stunned last year's runner-up Karolina Pliskova in round two, but Tan was untroubled as her whirlwind Wimbledon debut reached new heights, making only five unforced errors in the match.

"I don't believe it yet. I think if I sleep a little bit tonight, tomorrow I will believe it, but it's amazing," Tan said in an on-court interview.

"I think I like grass. I've never played on that court, but I really like to play with some slice, volley, everything with my game, so I'm really happy.

"It was really emotional for the first round against Serena, and after that it was just playing match by match and today was really good tennis."

Former British number one Johanna Konta, speaking on the BBC, said: "That was breathtaking from Harmony Tan.

"I didn't expect it to be like that, that easy. Not at all. But there's tennis for you. I expect Katie would like to go and practise and come back and say, 'Can we play that again please?'."

Tan also made headlines in the opening week of Wimbledon when she pulled out of the doubles, citing injury, drawing an initially angry response from partner Tamara Korpatsch.

Venus Williams was "inspired" by sister Serena as she made a triumphant return to action in the Wimbledon mixed doubles alongside Jamie Murray.

The 42-year-old partnered Murray on Friday and rolled back the years with a 6-3 6-7 (7-3) 6-3 victory against Michael Venus and Alicja Rosolska in the first round.

That match marked Williams' first competitive action since last August's Chicago Open, with many questioning whether she would ever return to the court.

After showing some flashes of brilliance on Court One, Williams later revealed sibling Serena played a part in her decision to participate in this year's event at SW19.

Serena had herself returned from a year on the sidelines earlier in the week in the women's singles, only to go down to Harmony Tan in a three-set thriller.

"It was definitely super last minute. I was just inspired by Serena," Venus said. "It was amazing. I just was so happy to have so much help today.

"I've been trying to play with [Jamie] forever. He plays hard to get!"

All-time great Williams, who made her Wimbledon debut 25 years ago, is a five-time All England Club singles champion and has won the women's doubles on six occasions.

Williams and Murray will now face British wild cards Alicia Barnett and Jonny O'Mara in the second round, and the American says the fire is back in her belly.

"I had no plan to play but I saw the grass and I got excited," she said. "That's why I was asking [Jamie] last minute. He just had a baby, too, so I know there's a lot going on.

"I couldn't have guessed that I would be here right now, taking it at the last minute. I haven't played in a year, so you don't know what you're going to get.

"Practice is so much different from a match. It's not easy physically or mentally or anything. Just at the last it was like, 'Oh my God, wow.'

"I just not only played a match but won a match. I'm never like that kind of player. I always expect to win. 

"When I sat there, we wanted to win, but when I sat there at the end, it was real. Yeah, I felt something in my heart."

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