“While this is never an easy decision to make, I am not where I need to be physically to compete,” Serena Williams had said at the top of the season concerning her non-participation at the 2022 Australian Open. She bowed out gracefully from the ‘Down Under’ championships until the right time and place had come. It’s the passion, perhaps a lot of prodding and the thought of what could happen that led the 23 Grand Slam winner to return to the WTA’s playing field after a leg injury at last year’s Wimbledon.
The wild card has significance and a lot of power and has caused many a player to do well in professional tennis. It was in 2001, the ATP’s Goran Ivanisevic was awarded a wild card and managed to win the singles title at Wimbledon; the only male player to do such a feat. Today he is Novak Djokovic’s coach. But on the women’s side, WTA’s Sabine Lisicki was given a wild card at the 2011 Eastbourne and won the singles title. Later she continued onto Wimbledon and went through to the semifinals before losing to Maria Sharapova. Lisicki was returning after an ankle injury missing five months. A year on Serena’s part may be a big compromise.
Serena will have a wild card for the singles at Wimbledon but start off with one in doubles at next week’s Eastbourne, partnering with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur. The big hitting Jabeur says when chosen by Serena: “When I got the news, I was over the moon…such a privilege for me…” It will be interesting to see how far Serena and Ons can go in the doubles and then again how far Serena can go in the singles after a year’s absence off the court.
This time around Serena will be facing serious mad competitors. There are also the young ones hungry to get a grand slam or just a defeat off of an icon. The idea of starting off in doubles is a good thing. But the components are still the same: physical stamina, mental ability, strategies, they will all be a challenge. But as Serena had said before “I’m playing just for me…”