What Serena Williams has done during her year away from tennis

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
The 23-time grand slam champion is looking to make it No.24 as she gets ready for Wimbledon after a year away - AP
The 23-time grand slam champion is looking to make it No.24 as she gets ready for Wimbledon after a year away - AP

One year is a long time to be off the tennis court for any player. That year is a lot more significant when it coincides with your 40th birthday, a feeling Serena Williams will become familiar with as she returns to the circuit on Tuesday.

After almost 12 months on the sidelines, Williams is reigniting her aim to win a 24th major title at Wimbledon next week. She is starting by playing doubles with world No 3 Ons Jabeur in Eastbourne, in what she will hope to be a jolly warm up as she eases herself back into competitive tennis.

It is a world she has been entirely absent from and extremely quiet about while on the periphery this past year. Where other players dip their toe in punditry or commentary slots during long stints out through injury, or even post sporadically on social media about significant results, Williams' attention has been elsewhere.

Williams the businesswoman has been working at full pelt. The LA women's football club she invested in, Angel City, finally took to the field. She raised $111 million to launch her venture capital fund, Serena Ventures, which will invest in founders with diverse points of view. And she was linked as an investor in a failed bid to buy Chelsea FC. All that alongside running her existing eponymous fashion brand, dabbling in NFTs, plus promoting the Oscar-winning film 'King Richard', which profiled her family's life story.

And yet, still there remains a drive to play tennis again. There were fears she was on the brink of retirement earlier this year, in particular in April when her coach of 10 years Patrick Mouratoglou left her camp to take over former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep's training. But Williams got the tennis world talking last week, when she announced her sudden return to the court. She is working with Eric Hechtman - a coach to sister Venus - as she prepares for her cameo during the height of the tennis calendar.

Serena Williams posted a video of her training on her Instagram account last week - INSTAGRAM
Serena Williams posted a video of her training on her Instagram account last week - INSTAGRAM

A year on from the dramatic scenes on Centre Court, where she slipped and injured herself and was forced to retire from her first round match, there is some scepticism in the locker room about how well she can do at SW19 this time. "It is a long time and she is not the youngest any more so I suppose the body also takes some time to get back into shape," 2021 Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova said on Monday. "Playing matches at tournaments is still very much different to just practising... I think it will be difficult, super difficult for her no matter which kind of player she is because this is a thing where you still need some time. But of course, she is an amazing player, she achieved so much and still a number of players will be super scared to play her."

Jabeur, who has known about her partnership with Williams since before the French Open, was more confident in the seven-time Wimbledon champion's ability to snap back. "Many players were jealous because I'm playing with her," she said. "Honestly, Serena is Serena. She is a legend and always will be. She did a lot for our sport and I really respect her, respect her story, respect everything that she's been through. I hope I can learn even like 2 per cent from it."

Jabeur and Williams will face Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova on Tuesday evening, and to Jabeur's mind, even the title is within reach: "I'm really pumped, I want to win this doubles and why not win the title here, you know?"