It’s hard to miss at Wimbledon that Serena Williams is still an attraction in tennis. The now almost 41-year-old American is only number 1204 in the world rankings, but still enjoys the status of an absolute top player. Which is no surprise given her 23 Grand Slam titles and seven victories in Wimbledon alone. In London, she was even allowed to train on the sacred Center Court, which is only permitted to a select circle of professionals at all.
And yet Williams had mixed feelings when she was allowed to enter the lawn, which was also special to her, a few days ago. “I was super happy to have this opportunity,” she said at the pre-tournament press conference, before adding, “It was also good for me to somehow get that out of my system. Because the last moment I had on Center Court probably wasn’t my best.”
A year ago she had to give up injured in the first round, a tear in the thigh muscle has not allowed another single match at top level since then. And that’s why pundits and fans were already convinced that Williams would have ended her career. But now she is competing again at the most important tournament in the world. “I have not resigned. I just needed to get healthy physically and mentally,” she said. And: “I just didn’t know when and how I would come back.”
Last week she made her highly acclaimed comeback in doubles alongside Berlin winner Ons Jabeur in Eastbourne and played two games. “I’m gone and never thought I could be ready for a singles. I just wanted to play a bit of doubles and see how I feel,” she said, surprising herself: “It probably would have been enough for singles.” She will play her first tournament after a year’s break on Tuesday in space England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club vs France’s Harmony Tan.
Wimbledon has always been special for Serena Williams. Not only because of her many successes, but also because recent experiences were no longer exclusively good ones. The injury came in 2021, before that she lost twice as a favorite in the final in 2018 and 2019. After the defeat three years ago, she said: “I somehow have to find out how to win a final like this. And I also have to play a few tournaments without injuring myself in any way.”
She then made it to the final three more times on the tour and made the experiences that were almost obligatory for her. After Wimbledon she had to give up injured in the Toronto final in 2019 and then lost in the game for the title of the US Open, as before in Canada, to the young Bianca Andreescu. In 2020 she finally celebrated her 73rd and last tournament victory in Auckland.
Considering that she has been an official professional since 1995, the number seems almost small. But Williams was always careful not to play too much. “I think it’s subconsciously inside me. That I take care of myself and know how to do it,” she said, describing herself as a natural in this regard. This is probably the reason why she is actually competing again in Wimbledon. When asked about her chances for the tournament, however, she didn’t answer and only said: “I have high goals, but on the other hand – I don’t know.”
Williams has long been more than a tennis player anyway. Her company, Serena Ventures, which provides capital for founders, keeps her fully occupied. “If you have a company like this, you have to go all-in,” she said in London, making it clear that she really enjoys it. But: “It takes up practically all my free time. But now I won’t be in the office for the coming weeks. If you send me an email, you now get a nice out-of-office notice.”
Williams likes to flirt and so it is part of her that she does not make clear plans for her tennis future. Wimbledon could be her farewell performance, but she could also move on. She herself allegedly doesn’t know at the moment: “I can only say that I’m here now. And who knows where I’ll show up next.” The fact is: With Serena Williams, tennis is a good deal more exciting, what she’s really capable of in terms of sport, but it remains to be seen for the time being.
Her serve, at least, is still powerful and a real parade shot on grass. That was good to see in training these days, if that could be judged from a distance. Williams quickly declared her unit secret on one of the courts in Aorangi Park. She didn’t want to reveal too much about her form in advance.
This at least gave an idea of what is already clear to every observer: Serena Williams is no longer the fastest and if an opponent lets her run like Simona Halep did in the final in 2019, the great attraction of Wimbledon can quickly look pretty old.