April 18, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Wimbledon ’22 Preview: Serena Williams

WIMBLEDON – Which was more unexpected?

Serena Williams, 40, deciding to return to tennis after a year, taking a wild card into the singles and previewing it last week at Eastbourne in doubles with Ons Jabeur?

Or sister Venus, 42, rocking up over the weekend, hitting the practice courts and requesting a wild card into the mixed doubles with Brit Jamie Murray?

Either way, the sisters are back, for the first time in basically a year. And there’s no way to know how it’s all going to turn out.

Williams is here with Eric Hechtman, who has worked with her sister in recent years. Longtime coach Patrick Mouratoglou, with literally nothing to do on Team Serena, decamped to Team Halep a few months ago.

Something Williams said she had scarcely given a thought to, she said in her pre-tournament press conference.

Williams was loath to pronounce herself on … basically anything during that press conference. Which, of course, is her right.

It’s hard to know what motivated her to return for this event, and there’s no hint of what her plans may be beyond it.

But the champion that she is does not expect to go out in the first round to Harmony Tan of France today.

A year ago, a tearful departure

The last time Williams played tennis was a year ago, when she retired from a first-round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich at 3-3 in the first set.

Williams had already been sporting a big strapping on her leg. She slipped, re-tweaked it, and that was it. That was it for a year.

It seems she decided to return just before Roland Garros. And after looking at the roster of who was playing at Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon, had her people contact Ons Jabeur to see about doubles.

Jabeur, who had won the singles title in Berlin the previous week, withdrew from the singles but headed down to the seacoast town just to play doubles with the legend.

They came back from big trouble in their first-round match against Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo to win it. As rusty as Williams looked, with her movement sluggist and her net instincts dodgy, the champion in her came out as that match progressed.

It was almost as though she just made up her mind that they were going to win it. And they did.

Two wins, and a withdrawal

After winning their next match to make it to the semifinals, the pair pulled out of the tournament, citing a knee injury to Jabeur.

In truth, it was probably the easiest option after both had decided they’d done what they came to do. For Williams to pull out with some sort of injury would have created far to big a kerfuffle for something that happens on a regular basis (bailing out of a final tuneup event before a major).

The two seemed to have forged a bond. Indeed, they practiced together on Saturday.

Here’s what that looked like.

Williams return a tag-team affair

Open Court broke the news Monday night that sister Venus wasn’t just here as a spectator, or for the centenary celebrations.

She and Brit Jamie Murray have asked for a wild card into the mixed doubles.

The British media caught up this morning (Yes, can’t deny we love that).

A Centre Court Assignment

It’s no surprise that the seven-time champion got a slot on Centre Court Tuesday.

And how she performs against a lesser, but younger and fitter opponent will provide some intel as to her prospects.

She returns to the same court on which she slipped a year ago. And this early in the tournament, the grass is going to be very green and very slippery.

Will she be hesitant in her movement – not just because of last year, but because she has played no tennis at all, never mind on grass? Can she move well? Will the nerves hit.

It will be a fascinating watch.

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