For a year it has been quiet about Serena Williams. The forty-year-old American seemed to be silently disappearing from the tennis world, until the 23-time Grand Slam winner suddenly announced two weeks ago that she was taking part in Wimbledon. “She will want to decide for herself how to end her career.”
Paula Padusa doesn’t have to think twice when asked in the run-up to Wimbledon if she hopes to duel with the world’s number 1204. “Of course I don’t want to play against Serena,” says the world number four. “I hope to meet someone else, because no one wants to run into Serena on the grass.”
Williams’ comeback has been the talk of town in (women’s) tennis for weeks. A year ago, the former world number one stopped crying in her first Wimbledon match after slipping on the grass. She tore her hamstring, hasn’t played any official matches since and dropped to number 1204 in the WTA rankings.
For a year, Williams seemed to have disappeared from the tennis court. She even suddenly announced her comeback in a short Instagram post earlier this month: “SW and SW19, we have a date. See you there,” she wrote. SW19 is the zip code for Wimbledon.
“I was almost shocked when I heard the news of her comeback,” former tennis player and TV commentator Marcela Mesker says in a conversation with NU.nl. “There was no sign of her life in tennis. Now that she’s making a comeback is very bold.”
Serena Williams burst into tears at Wimbledon due to a hamstring injury.
Williams goes to the court record at the Grand Slam
With Williams’ return, she resumed her pursuit of the record for the most women’s Grand Slam titles. That’s now with 24 final victories in the name of Australian Margaret Court. Since 1998, Williams has topped one of the top four tennis tournaments 23 times.
Her last title dates back to 2017, when she defeated her sister Venus Williams in the Australian Open final. In the same year, she gave birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian. After maternity leave, the tennis icon returned to the court in 2018. Since then, she has reached four Grand Slam finals (twice at Wimbledon and twice at the US Open), but lost all of them.
“Maybe the nerves and pressure to equal that record, she didn’t even win at the time,” says former tennis player Kristi Bogert, who once ranked 29th in the world rankings. “Those few clicks on the nose may have ensured that she is now a little more relaxed. If it doesn’t work, then you can.”
Masker hopes it won’t blind Williams’ record. “It’s not at all realistic to think that she’ll win a Grand Slam when she comes back. But if anyone can do that, it’s Serena Williams.”
Venus and Serena Williams after the 2017 Australian Open final.
Williams is still in the first category.
Williams will start her 21st appearance at Wimbledon on Tuesday with a match against France’s Harmony Tan, ranked 113th in the world. In the third round, the wildcard holder could already face a duel with Czech sixth seed Karolina Pliskova, who lost last year’s final.
“If she’s self-confident and shares the rhythm of the championship, she’s still out of the league,” Mesker said of Williams’ fortunes in London.
Boogert: “Her service is great, of course, but we don’t know what she looks like at all. Serena isn’t the type to make a mistake, so she must have done everything she could to be well prepared.”
Williams already played twice in the Eastbourne WTA Championships last week in preparation for Wimbledon. The American confirmed in the English seaside town that she looks at her tennis career from day to day and doesn’t know what her future looks like.
“The way you had to get out of Wimbledon last year is not the way you want to say goodbye to this sport,” said Bogert, who lost to Serena and Venus Williams in the 2000 Olympic doubles final. “She’s someone who’s often in the publicity and always talked about. She’ll want to decide for herself how to end her career.”
Serena Williams trained on the center court (indoors) at Wimbledon on Friday.
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