Last year at Wimbledon, Serena Williams fell victim to a dangerously slippery court. During her first round match, she slipped on the grass, injured her right hamstring and had to withdraw from a major tournament for the second time in her career. She had had a productive season up to that point, highlighted by a semi-final appearance at the Australian Open, but she shut it down after that injury. She hasn’t played a match since. Almost all of her ranking points have expired in her absence, sending her out of the top 1000 and, it seems, towards her eventual retirement. (Her 2022 of hers has been divided between the promotion king richard and cryptocurrencies, and I definitely prefer his tennis to both). However, on Tuesday, the 40-year-old Williams announced that he would accept a wild card to play at Wimbledon. He will start his season next week at Eastbourne, a grass court tune-up tournament.
Williams won her last major, the 2017 Australian Open, while pregnant with her daughter Olympia, and took a year off from the tour. Her comeback kicked off what could be called the Late Serena era, in which she became much more demanding with her touring schedule, but she proved that she could still dominate the big events. In those 13 post-pregnancy majors, she reached four finals, losing to Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu, two semifinals and a quarterfinal. She has been a bit shaky in those finals, however she failed to win a set and as a result there is still one last record that eludes her. Adjusting for the time and quality of the competition, these feats are hardly worth comparing, but on paper her 23 major singles titles are within one of Margaret Court’s 24.
The WTA has changed significantly since Serena last competed. Meanwhile, we’ve seen the ups and downs of Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty’s surprise retirement, and the rise of World No.1 Iga Swiatek, who is putting together a winning streak not seen since Serena did it for herself. . It will be fascinating to see how the GOAT compares to the new blood. Absence from the court has been a defining characteristic of the Late Serena era, but it will be hard to write her off in a tournament where she has won seven singles titles.