Serena Williams, who ranked a modest 1204th in the world and hasn’t made a singles match in 12 months, will head to Wimbledon, aiming for what will be her greatest triumph.
The seven-time All England Champion will also be in contention for a record 24th Grand Slam title.
The odds have rarely been so great against a great American who could become the first unseeded woman to win Wimbledon.
Just three months before her 41st birthday, Williams hasn’t played a singles tournament since leaving Wimbledon in tears in the first round against Alexandra Sasnovich in 2021.
“Hopefully I won’t be the last player to beat her at Wimbledon,” Sasnovich told AFP at the French Open last month.
“She’s a great champion and I want her back.”
Sasnovich may not be in the All England club due to the ban on Russian and Belarusian players, but at least she has the desire to bring Williams back.
The American star has been disappointed in 23 Slams since winning her seventh Australian Open in 2017 while pregnant.
She placed second at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 and 2019 as Margaret Court’s record of 24 majors remained out of sight.
Do you doubt that I will return? Absolutely’ –
“Did I ever doubt that I would return? Absolutely. I’d be dishonest if I said it wasn’t and my body feels great now,” Williams said on Tuesday following his doubles comeback victory in Eastbourne.
“It was good, but I always try to stay in half form, because you never know when you will play at Wimbledon.”
Williams remains the last woman to successfully defend her Wimbledon title in 2016.
When she first played at Wimbledon in 1998, current world number one Iga Swiatek was still three years away from her birth.
– “Something special” –
The 21-year-old Pole arrives at the tournament with a second French Open title and a 35-match winning streak.
This equals Venus Williams’ 35 straight wins in 2000, the longest winning streak by a woman in the 21st century.
It also improved Serena’s score of 34 points.
“This 35th win and something more than Serena is something special,” Swiatek said.
Wimbledon will test her ability to continue a run where last year’s fourth round was her best performance despite being the junior champion in 2018.
“Grass is always treacherous. I really like the part where I don’t have any expectations. It’s something refreshing,” she said.
The women’s draw remains open as reigning champion Ashleigh Barty retired earlier this year.
Rarely a serious threat on grass, four-time major tournament winner Naomi Osaka withdrew due to an Achilles injury.
The Japanese star, the highest paid female athlete in the world, has already expressed doubts about participating.
She feared that Wimbledon had been downgraded to an exhibition tournament after being stripped of ranking points by the ATP and WTA.
This was in response to the ban imposed on Russian and Belarusian players after the invasion of Ukraine.
Thus, three of the top 20 women will miss Wimbledon: Arina Sobolenko, last year’s semi-finalist, 2018 quarter-finalist Daria Kasatkina, and Victoria Azarenka, 2011 and 2012 semi-finalist.
None of the top five made it to the semi-finals.
Ons Jaber reached the last eight in 2021, Paula Badosa, like Swiatek, has not yet advanced beyond the fourth round.
Second-placed Anette Kontaveit and world No. 5 Maria Sakkari have yet to reach the last 32.
dj / bsp