Serena Williams is back.
The tennis star confirmed to The New York Times' Christopher Clarey that she will make her return to the sport at a Wimbledon tune-up event beginning next Monday and plans to play the grass court major the following week.
Williams hasn't played since winning Wimbledon last July. Her 2011 debut will come in Eastbourne, the final tournament before the year's third Grand Slam.
Last year, one week after defeating Vera Zvonareva for her 13th major title last year, Williams cut her foot prior to an exhibition match with Kim Clijsters. She had two surgeries resulting from the injury and didn't play for the remainder of the 2010 season. Her comeback was delayed further when she suffered a pulmonary embolism in February.
The 29-year-old has been working with a new trainer over the past month in an attempt to prepare herself for the grass court season. Mackie Shilstone, who has worked with boxers Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones, says Serena isn't "there" yet but is "slowly but surely coming around."
A rusty Serena still would be considered one of the favorites to win at the All England Club when the tournament begins June 20. She's won four Wimbledons during her career, including last year's dominant run to the title in which saw her play some of the best tennis of her career. Serena didn't lose a set en route to the championship.
Because Wimbledon is the only tournament to seed players outside without full respect to the WTA rankings, organizers will have an interesting decision to make in regards to Serena's seeding. She's currently No. 25 in the rankings despite not having played for almost a full year (the 2,000 points she accrued from the Wimbledon win are enough to keep her in that spot). Chances are she'll be moved up at least a dozen spots, if not more.
In Serena's absence, Kim Clijsters won two majors, Li Na began to open tennis into a burgeoning Chinese market courtesy her French Open victory and young players like Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka have increased their presence in the game.
That's not to say the sport hasn't missed her. Serena continues to be the biggest female star in the game, driving headlines with controversial Twitter posts and attention-grabbing fashion choices during her injury. Her presence at Wimbledon, however brief it could be, is a tremendous boon to the tournament.
If Serena is healthy enough to play, she's healthy enough to be a contender, especially at a place that favors her power like Wimbledon.
- Serena Williams
- Kim Clijsters