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WIMBLEDON, United Kingdom – Serena Williams knows her way around comebacks: After injuries, illness, pregnancy, the American has always managed to become the boss of the circuit again. But what will happen this time at Wimbledon, where she returns at 40 after a year without a game?
“I haven’t retired. I needed to heal myself physically and mentally, I didn’t have any plans, it’s just that I didn’t know when I was going to come back and what condition I was going to come back in,” said the player, who first left Center Court was round-out in 2021 due to a hamstring injury.
If she won seven of her 23 Grand Slam titles there and made four more finals there, the former world No. 1, now 1204th in the WTA rankings, earned an invitation to compete in this year’s Major on grass.
After a nearly 12-month absence from competition, Williams made a surprising return to the circuit on Tuesday at the WTA 250 tournament in Eastbourne in doubles with Tunisian Ons Jabeur (world No. 3 in singles).
Although her trip was cut short before the semi-finals due to Jabeur’s waiver, Williams assured that she “got exactly what (she) needed when she came to Eastbourne”.
In her career, which began in 1995, she had to take a break four times.
In August 2003, knee surgery interrupted a phenomenal streak: consecutive titles at Roland-Garros, Wimbledon and the 2002 United States Open, followed by the title at the 2003 Australian Open, then a half at Roland-Garros and a new title at Wimbledon.
When she returned to Key Biscayne in April 2004, she had been committed to winning the 24th of her 73 titles from the start. She then reached the final at Wimbledon in July but had to wait for the 2005 Australian Open to win a new major, the seventh.
In 2006, his left knee again caused him to miss six months. She had then fallen to 140th in the world and ended the year without a single title after playing just four tournaments. In 2007, she rose to 5th in the world with a new title at the Australian Open.
In 2010, the physical complaints, in particular a damaged foot from walking on broken glass, two operations and an emergency hospital stay in March 2011 after a pulmonary embolism, had returned.
His return to the summer turf didn’t stop him from another plunge in the world rankings in July to No. 175. However, in the hard court tournaments that followed, she had found a good gassing again by the time she reached the final at the United States Open.
“She walks on water”
Good years followed with ten new majors from Wimbledon 2012 to the Australian Open 2017 under the leadership of his new coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
“She won Wimbledon and the confidence that win gave her made her walk on water,” the coach recalled in an interview with AFP. Here she played the best tennis of her life, she was untouchable. »
Another break in April 2017, after winning her 23rd Grand Slam title in Melbourne, this time to give birth to her daughter Olympia in November.
Upon her return in 2018, she reached the finals at Wimbledon and then the US Open, and did the same the following year. Without ever equaling Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles.
Her new attempt at Wimbledon this year is a long way off, especially since she is no longer accompanied by Mouratoglou.
“Did I doubt that I could come back? Yes, of course,” admitted the person concerned, explaining that she had always kept “half in shape”.
As 2021 finalist Karolina Pliskova pointed out, Serena’s return to Wimbledon will be complicated because she “is not very young anymore” and the body needs time and the spirit of the games to return to its best level.
But as rusty as Serena is, “everyone wants to avoid her, especially when she wins a few matches,” admitted Maria Sakkari (5th in the world) ahead of the tournament. Then she’ll start to gain confidence… and she’s Serena Williams, the greatest athlete of all time.”