Serena 'absolutely' had doubts about competing again

The 23-times major champion had not played competitive tennis since limping out of her first-round match at last year’s Wimbledon in tears due to a leg injury



Serena Williams (left) and Tunisia's Ons Jabeur in the Eastbourne International.
Serena Williams (left) and Tunisia's Ons Jabeur in the Eastbourne International.

By Reuters/AFP

Published: Wed 22 Jun 2022, 11:41 PM

Serena Williams returned to tennis after a year away with a doubles win at the Eastbourne International on Tuesday and while the American great reaffirmed her love for the game she said her future on the circuit remains uncertain.

The 23-times major champion had not played competitive tennis since limping out of her first-round match at last year’s Wimbledon in tears due to a leg injury, and the 40-year-old said there were times when she doubted she would ever compete again.

“Did I ever doubt I would return? Absolutely, for sure. I would be dishonest if I said it wasn’t and now my body feels great,” Williams said on Tuesday. “It felt good but I always try to stay semi-fit because you never know when you are going to play Wimbledon.”

Williams remains the last woman to successfully defend a Wimbledon title in 2016.

Williams, who has won seven Wimbledon singles titles, took a wildcard for the grasscourt major and kicked off her preparations with a doubles win with Tunisian Ons Jabeur.

“You know what, I’m literally taking it one day at a time,” Williams said about her plans.

“I really took my time with my hamstring injury so I’m just not making a ton of decisions after this.”

Williams won the last of her 23 Grand Slam titles at the 2017 Australian Open and remains one shy of equalling Margaret Court’s record for the most major titles.

She reached the final at four majors since returning to the Tour after giving birth to daughter Olympia in 2017 but lost in straight sets on each occasion.

Speculation about retirement gathered pace when Williams, who has slipped down the rankings to number 1,204, released her long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou in April to train Romania’s Simona Halep.

Asked if she saw herself playing into the next year, Williams said: “I don’t know, I can’t answer that.

“But I love tennis and I love playing, or else I wouldn’t be out here, right?

“But I also love what I do off the court, what I’ve built with Serena Ventures, it’s interesting.”

When she played her first Wimbledon in 1998, current world No.1 Iga Swiatek was still three years away from being born.

The 21-year-old Pole arrives at the tournament with a second French Open title secured and on a 35-match win streak.

That equalled Venus Williams’ 35 straight victories in 2000 for the longest winning run by a woman in the 21st century. It also bettered Serena’s mark of 34.

“Having that 35th win and kind of doing something more than Serena did, it’s something special,” said Swiatek.

Wimbledon will test her ability to keep the run going where last year’s fourth round was her best performance even though she was junior champion in 2018.

“Grass is always tricky. I actually like the part that I have no expectations there. It’s something kind of refreshing,” she said.

The women’s draw remains open with defending champion Ashleigh Barty having retired earlier this year.

Ons Jabeur reached the last-eight in 2021, Paula Badosa, like Swiatek, has yet to progress beyond the fourth round.

Second-ranked Anett Kontaveit and world number five Maria Sakkari have still to get past the last 32. The Wimbledon main draw kicks off on Monday.


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