WASHINGTON, June 15, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)
Serena Williams is one of the greatest champions in any sport. However, last year’s Wimbledon Championships is a fortnight she would just as soon forget. That’s because her 2021 appearance at the summer grass-court classic lasted a mere six-and-a-half games – 34 minutes – before the No. 6 seed retired with a leg injury she suffered.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams, who has been chasing Margaret Court’s record of 24 major singles titles since returning to the WTA Tour in 2018 after giving birth to her daughter, Olympia, began her first-round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus on Centre Court, the scene of her many triumphs over the years, including seven Wimbledon singles titles as well as six women’s doubles titles – all of them with her older sister Venus – and a mixed doubles crown with Max Mirnyi.
Williams’ right thigh was heavily bandaged similar to what it was at the French Open a few weeks earlier. After taking a 3-1 lead, Williams promptly slipped on the grass court and soon after, she fell after injuring her right hamstring while trying to shift her direction during a rally at the baseline.
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Very visibly, Williams cried out in pain after she fell forward. She knew right away that she could not continue the match. There was a sense of both surprise and sadness permeating the 7,000 spectators who were witness on a night the roof was closed following rain that fell earlier in the day.
Later, Williams wrote in a post on her Instagram, “I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg. Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd today when I walked on – and off – the court meant the world to me.”
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Since then, Williams has been off the Tour, missing three consecutive Grand Slam events – the 2021 US Open, 2022 Australian Open and 2022 French Open. Her last Grand Slam title came at the 2017 Australian Open. She has not added to her career total of 23 major titles since returning from maternity leave. Williams twice was a Wimbledon finalist, losing in 2018 to Angelique Kerber and falling in 2019 to Simona Halep.
The stage awaits.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) June 14, 2022
On Tuesday morning, the 40-year-old Williams confirmed in an Instagram post that she is returning to action at Wimbledon this year, which begins June 27. The announcement included a picture of her Nike trainers and the words: “SW and SW19. It’s a date. 2022, see you there.”
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After being excluded from the entry list because of her current ranking, Williams’ inclusion will be as a wild card. She is currently ranked No. 1,208. To get ready, Williams will team with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur to play doubles at the LTA Rothesay International in Eastbourne, where they have received a wild card. That will give her some match play before Wimbledon. Williams will be coached by Eric Hechtman, who has worked with Venus Williams since 2019. Her former longtime coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, with whom she won 10 of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles, now coaches Halep.
“I am excited to return to the Rothesay International tournament in England and to be back on the grass – a surface that has been so good to me throughout my career. Eastbourne has a unique charm that you don’t see anywhere else on Tour and I’m looking forward to playing in front of the fans again,” Williams said in a statement released Tuesday by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).
Williams will be making her third appearance at the Rothesay International, having reached the quarterfinals in her debut in 1998 as a 16-year-old and the second round most recently in 2011 after returning from an injury.
She’s back. And back at Eastbourne. 👀
— LTA (@the_LTA) June 14, 2022
Gavin Fletcher, the Rothesay International tournament director, said: “On behalf of everyone at the LTA we are delighted to warmly welcome Serena back to the Rothesay International and the fabulous setting of Devonshire Park, Eastbourne. This year’s line-up is proving absolutely stellar, where having Serena here will be the icing on the cake and personally, I’m sure I speak for many in that we can’t wait to see her play again.”
Meanwhile, Jabeur, who is the top seed at the WTA 500 bett1 Open in Berlin this week, was asked about pairing with Williams. She remarked: “Still over the moon with the news. Really lucky that she picked me.. I cannot wait to play with her. Such a legend. I always loved Serena, the way she plays, the way she is on court and outside the court.”
— wta (@WTA) June 14, 2022
First wave of Wimbledon wild cards are revealed
On Tuesday, the All England Club revealed the first wave of wild cards for this year’s Wimbledon Championships, which begin June 27. Among those were awarded direct entry into the men’s main draw include: Three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, Rosmalen champion Tim Van Rijthoven and a quintet of British, Liam Broady, Jay Clarke, Alastair Gray, Paul Jubb and Ryan Penniston. In addition to the much-publicized wild card given to American Serena Williams, British women Katie Boulder, Jodie Burrage, Sonya Kartal, Lily Miyazaki and Katie Swan were also named as recipients.
Initial wild cards announced for Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/llaxTjediS
— Michal Samulski (@MichalSamulski) June 14, 2022
While Russians, Belarusians will be allowed to play US Open, Djokovic still facing ban
The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) confirmed on Tuesday that there will be no politically motivated bans applied to the player field at this year’s US Open. It means that Wimbledon’s isolation on the issue of Russian and Belarusian players will deepen as a result.
Regardless, Novak Djokovic is still expected to be unable to play in this year’s US Open as a result of no plans to relax American immigration rules that currently require incoming travelers to have undergone vaccination for COVID-19. Djokovic was expelled from playing in the Australian Open last January for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The US Open (and other American tournaments, presumably) will allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete this summer.
As it’s unfolded, Wimbledon and the British federation (LTA) have been alone on their island when it comes to excluding those players from competing. pic.twitter.com/1kbOTuH9Te
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 14, 2022
According to reporting by Simon Briggs for Yahoo Sports, “A board meeting of the USTA earlier this week is understood to have heard arguments in favor of a Russia ban from certain delegates. However, the verdict came down against taking a political stance in the manner of the All England Club.
“One key difference is that there was no instruction from the U.S. government to limit Russian sporting propaganda opportunities. In the U.K., by contrast, sports minister Nigel Huddleston had expressed the government’s desire to avoid Russian victories at Wimbledon, for fear of handing positive public relations to Vladimir Putin.”
Ashleigh Barty: Named an Officer of the Order of Australia
— Craig Tiley (@CraigTiley) June 13, 2022
Ryan Peniston: What a day to remember!
Great Britain’s Ryan Peniston, ranked No. 180, made his ATP Tour main draw debut a memorable one. The 26-year-old from Southend, who played college tennis in the United States at the University of Memphis, beat French Open runner-up and current World No. 5 Casper Ruud in a pair of tie-break sets in the ATP 500 Cinch Championships at Queen’s Club in London on Tuesday afternoon. Penniston also received a wild card into the singles main draw at Wimbledon. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Fairytale stuff 💫
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) June 14, 2022
“I can’t really believe it. It feels like a dream,” Peniston said during his on-court interview. “I didn’t get much sleep last night ahead of the match and it doesn’t feel real. Casper is an unreal player, he did so well at Roland Garros. So, I knew it was a tough ask. I think you have to step on the court thinking you have a chance to win and I did that and that is all I could do.”
Jannik Sinner: Looking to play Eastbourne next week
Ciao everyone, sorry I’ve been a little quiet on here, it was really frustrating for me to withdraw from RG, but I wanted to update you that my knee is feeling better and I’m preparing with my team for Eastbourne. Excited to get on the grass 🇬🇧 #Forzaa https://t.co/9AINVSH7Ps
— Jannik Sinner (@janniksin) June 13, 2022
Monica Puig: She’ll always have Olympic gold in Rio
On Monday, Monica Puig, 28, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist who made history as the first gold medalist for Puerto Rico, announced her retirement from tennis citing injuries as the primary reason for her decision.
Gracias, @MonicaAce93 💜
Puerto Rico’s Puig, who won the gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games, announced her retirement from tennis and will pursue a career in broadcasting with ESPN.
— wta (@WTA) June 13, 2022
By the numbers
Not since 2003 has the ATP Tour Rankings not included one of tennis’ Big Three – Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – in the Top 2. This week, Djokovic dropped to No. 3, Nadal is No. 4 and Federer, who has not played this year while recovering from knee surgery, is currently ranked 68th.
“I know better what I want to do more than what comes up on Wikipedia after typing my name. But for sure winning all four Grand Slams would be nice.”
– World No. 1 Iga Swiatek on her next big goal, as told to Egyptian tennis writer Reem Abulleil.