Venus Williams won in her comeback to the WTA on Monday, defeating 11th-ranked Andrea Petkovic 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 in the first round of a Wimbledon tuneup event in Eastbourne.
The seven-time Grand Slam champion, who turns 31 on Friday, hadn't played on tour since retiring against Petkovic in the third round of the Australian Open.
Now ranked No. 32 in the world and unseeded in Eastbourne, Williams drew a tough opponent in Petkovic, the big-hitting German who made it to the quarters of the year's first two Grand Slams. The quality of opponent and early rustiness with double faults weren't enough to slow Venus, though. She moved to 70-11 in her career on grass and, no matter what happens in the rest of Eastbourne, served notice to the rest of the WTA that she'll be a contender at Wimbledon.
How far can she go at the All England Club? As long as her body doesn't betray her, there's no reason she can't win. Venus' game is built for Wimbledon (see table above). She's won five times in the past 13 years and has advanced to the quarterfinals all but twice. Historically, it's been her tournament.
Venus will be 31 when the tournament starts and coming off a 13-month stretch in which the only four tournaments she's played were the Grand Slams. For any other player, this would signal certain Wimbledon doom. Not for Venus, though.
In fact, this year feels a lot like 2007, when Venus entered Wimbledon without expectations and amidst whispers that her game had abandoned her. She was forced out of the Australian Open that year with an injury and her spring season was mediocre. Her reward was a No. 23 seed in England. She struggled in the early rounds and then, in the final four rounds against the No. 2, No. 5, No. 6 and No. 18 seeds, Venus dominated. She lost a total of 22 games in those last four matches, en route to her fourth Wimbledon title. The next year, she'd go on to do it again.