A year on from exiting Wimbledon injured and in tears, Serena Williams is preparing to make an unexpected comeback at the tournament.
The American, a winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, declared her intention on social media earlier in June that she would make her competitive return to singles tennis in SW19. It followed wide expectation that she would call time on her career at the age of 40 after struggling with a leg injury.
Williams made a surprise appearance in a doubles match alongside Tunisian Ons Jabeur at the Eastbourne International on Tuesday, the pair progressing after taking victory over Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo. Having received a wild-card invitation to Wimbledon, Williams is scheduled to compete in a first-round match at the beginning of next week.
Away from the court
Rumours of retirement gathered pace after Williams’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou began working with Romanian player Simona Halep earlier this year, while Williams turned her attention to projects away from the court.
As well as bringing up her four-year-old daughter Olympia, Williams has been involved in several enterprises unrelated to tennis, including founding a venture capital fund called Serena Ventures. The firm was created to invest in businesses run by women from diverse backgrounds and launched with an initial $111m fund earlier this year.
Williams also joined other high-profile names in backing the new LA-based women’s football team, Angel City FC, which began playing in March 2022.
Alongside that, Williams was promoting the Oscar-winning movie about her family, King Richard, before its release late last year, as well as developing her fashion brand, called S by Serena, as well as a jewellery range.
‘Significant obstacles’ in tennis future
Williams said she “can’t answer” whether she’ll play tennis into next year, reported The Guardian, adding that her ventures off the court are “a lot.”
Despite her long absence from the court and the tennis spotlight, attention will be on whether Williams can find the form again to claim a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title. The “new depth on the tour” combined with her time away will “create significant obstacles” in achieving that, said the Los Angeles Times.
The 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova said it will be difficult for Williams on her return to the grass court, explaining that “the body takes time to get back in the shape of playing matches” and that competitive play is “very different” to practice matches. There are some players though that will be “super scared to play her” because of her career, Pliskova added.
Williams has remained coy about her future tennis plans, and with one Grand Slam remaining this year after Wimbledon, the US Open, Eurosport speculated it “may be a better setting if she does decide to bow out”.
“I’m literally taking it one day at a time,” Williams said after safely making it through the Eastbourne first round injury-free. “I love tennis and I love playing, or else I wouldn’t be out here.”