It was the first round of Wimbledon 2021. Serena Williams was on Centre Court, getting her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam tournament underway. She was facing Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round, and she had stepped out onto the court with heavy strapping on her thigh.
There were gasps when she slipped in the fifth game, and it looked like it was all over when she went down again two games later. She tried to play on after going off court for medical treatment, but continuing wasn’t possible. The 39-year-old retired from the tournament, and many wondered whether that would be the end of her career. The same leg injury kept her out of the US Open, and the Australian Open, and a comeback to professional tennis looked unlikely at times.
One of the greatest players of all time, Williams has always been a favourite of those who follow tennis on sites such as Betdaq. However, due to her inactivity, her ranking has fallen outside of the top 1,000. That being said, it seemed inevitable that, if she was available, there would be a space for her to return to the tour.
That’s exactly what’s happened, with Williams given a wildcard entry to the singles event at Wimbledon. It’s an exciting development, and tennis fans will be delighted to see the American back at one of the sport’s most prestigious tournaments. However, with Williams having been out of the sport for so long, many will be wondering what to expect.
After warming up for Wimbledon by competing in the doubles at Eastbourne, she should have blown away some of the cobwebs. Many will be happy to see Williams back on the court, and won’t be overly concerned with how she does in the tournament. Now 40 years old, it could well be one last dance for Williams, and if that’s the case then plenty will be hoping to get tickets for a chance to show their appreciation.
However, with 23 Grand Slam tournaments under her belt, Williams isn’t the sort who enters a competition just to make up the numbers. While not many will be predicting Williams to end up lifting the trophy, it’s not a possibility many will be looking to rule her out either. Women’s tennis is very competitive, and there are few players who can truly claim to be overwhelming favourites.
The fact that Emma Raducanu and Barbora Krejčíková both won a Slam last year just goes to prove that. While both are excellent players on their day, neither were tipped for glory before their victories. Iga Świątek certainly looks in unstoppable form, and will be the favourite for many but, beyond the Pole, there are few players who a fully fit Williams couldn’t trouble, even if she’s now past her peak.
In truth, fitness is what it all comes down to. The American has been away from the court for so long, focusing on activities other than tennis, that it’s hard to know what to predict. If she’s not ready for singles tennis then she may struggle to get past the first couple of rounds and, while training will have certainly helped, it’s no substitute for the real thing.
However, if Williams is fresh, and perhaps even refreshed from her time away from court, she could end up running deep into the tournament. If she’s still in contention at the start of the second week, expect to hear conversations about whether she has a chance of going all the way. If there’s anything we’ve learnt from her career to date, it’s that she should never be completely counted out.