Serena Williams' return: Why now? Can she win Wimbledon 2022? Will Patrick Mouratoglou be her coach? Doubles?
Serena Williams will make her return after a year out at Wimbledon, after playing doubles with Ons Jabeur at the Eastbourne International. We look at the key questions around Williams' comeback, including if she can win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at SW19, who her coach will be, and whether she will play doubles with sister Venus Williams.
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Williams has not played since suffering a leg injury in the first round against Aliaksandra Sasnovich at Wimbledon last year. It is not known if she will play only singles at Wimbledon or whether she will also play doubles.
While Roger Federer has entered events later this year and posted rehab updates as he plans his comeback, Williams has not teased much information over the last few months. There have been the odd soundbites about potentially playing Wimbledon, but nothing confirmed until now, less than two weeks before the start of the Grand Slam.
The timing is interesting as Williams could have entered Wimbledon using a protected ranking, which is reserved for players who have been out for over six months due to injury. However, that opportunity passed and she was not included on the entry list last week.
She was announced as a singles wild card on Tuesday along with Brits Katie Boulter, Jodie Burrage, Sonay Kartal, Yuriko Miyazaki and Katie Swan.
Williams is not on the initial women’s doubles wild card list but there are still three spots to be filled, while the mixed doubles wild cards will be announced on June 29.
What are Williams’ chances of winning?
Williams is a seven-time singles champion at Wimbledon and still has her eyes on a 24th Grand Slam title, which would equal Margaret’s Court all-time record.
But is it realistic to expect even one of the all-time greats to compete for a Grand Slam title after 12 months out? It would be one of Williams’ most incredible achievements if she did, and she has returned from time away with a bang before.
At the 2004 Miami Open she came back after eight months out due to surgery and won the title. At the 2007 Australian Open she was ranked No. 81 in the world after missing most of the 2006 season due to a knee injury. She beat six seeded players and thrashed Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-2 in the final. And in 2018 Williams made the final of Wimbledon and the US Open having only returning to the tour earlier in the year after becoming a mother the previous summer.
Even before the injury at Wimbledon a year ago, Williams was playing sparingly, putting most of her efforts into winning another Grand Slam title. That approach did not seem entirely successful as she only made two major semi-finals in 2020 and 2021, but her experience, especially on grass, would give her a better chance than most of making a successful return.
Williams’ last Grand Slam win was at the 2017 Australian Open when she was pregnant with daughter Olympia. She has since lost her last four major finals and her last WTA title was in Auckland at the start of 2020.
There’s also the chance that Williams has success in doubles, which is less physically taxing than singles.
She has won the women’s doubles title six times with sister Venus (who is also not entered so would need a wild card) and also played mixed doubles with Andy Murray in 2019.
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What about her coach?
Patrick Mouratoglou has been a regular sight in Williams’ box over the last decade as her long-time coach, but he is unlikely to be alongside the seven-time Wimbledon champion this summer.
Mouratoglou announced in April that he would be working with former world No. 1 Simona Halep on a full-time basis, bringing to an end his relationship with Williams. Speaking about the decision recently, Mouratoglou said: “I wanted to be fair to her and not be disappointed at the end of my career.
“I went to ask her what she was going to do. It wasn’t very clear to her. I asked her if she wanted to go to Roland Garros. She told me she didn’t know. It was six weeks before the [WTA] Tour. I told her I was waiting for her on Monday for training and if she didn’t come I would consider myself free.”
Simona Halep of Romania talks to coach Patrick Mouratoglou of France during practice at Roland Garros on May 21, 2022 in Paris, France
Image credit: Eurosport
It appears as though Williams be working at Wimbledon with sister Venus’ coach Eric Hechtman.
Hechtman shared Williams’ comeback post on Instagram and wrote: “So pumped for this trip with the [goat emoji].” He also reposted a story from the Ballymena Lawn Tennis Club saying: “The @serenawilliams comeback is on! And with none other than @ericechtman in her camp.”
Why now for Williams?
Presumably because Williams fancies her chances on grass as much as anywhere else.
It always seemed likely she would skip the clay season given it has not been her most successful surface, while the faster courts at Wimbledon have suited her game far better.
Returning at Wimbledon also gives her the chance to build fitness ahead of a crack at the US Open, which starts on August 29. Williams hasn’t lost before the semi-finals of her home Slam since 2007 and made the final in 2018 and 2019. Last time out in 2020 she was beaten by Victoria Azarenka in the semi-finals.
Will Williams be one of the favourites at Wimbledon?
Despite her lack of competitive action, Williams will still be fancied to beat most players on grass. Her big serve and strong groundstrokes could still be among the most punishing on tour and she will be well supported by the SW19 crowd. As she builds her fitness she may also benefit physically from the typically shorter points on grass.
Whether her fitness is good enough to carry her through a two-week tournament remains to be seen, plus as a wild card she can be drawn against anyone, so could face any of the top players, including world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, in the first round.
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But aside from Swiatek there aren’t many obvious strong contenders.
Jabeur might be fancied as she seems comfortable on grass and last year’s runner-up Karolina Pliskova has the game to go deep again. Coco Gauff is one to watch after her run to the French Open final, but if Williams can avoid a few dangers in the draw she could go far.
What will Williams play after Wimbledon?
Williams’ post-Wimbledon plans have not yet been announced.
The second half of July is mainly clay events before the tour moves to North America with the Citi Open in Washington DC starting on August 1. Then there’s back-to-back WTA 1000 events as the National Bank Open takes places in Toronto on August 8 and the Western & Southern Open is played in Cincinnati the following week. The US Open starts on August 29.
Since the 2019 US Open Williams has only played three WTA events on home soil, the Top Seed Open, Western & Southern Open and US Open, all in 2020.
What about Venus Williams?
It is not yet known if Venus Williams will play Wimbledon.
The 41-year-old, ranked at No. 571 in the world, has not been on tour since August 2021. She recently teased a return with a picture on social media of her on a tennis court, but she is not on the initial list of wild cards for Wimbledon.
Venus is a five-time Wimbledon singles champion and last won the doubles with Serena in 2016.
Venus and Serena Williams
Image credit: Getty Images
What have players said about Serena’s return?
Jabuer says she is “over the moon” to play with the 23-time Grand Slam champion in Eastbourne.
"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."
World No. 59 Andrea Petkovic said: “Good for her, bad for us!
“No, but generally I think it’s great for the women’s tour…great news for women’s sports. I’m looking forward to seeing her around again. I, however, hope I don’t get her in the first round.
“I think that’s awesome there’s still trying and playing and I’m sure she’ll come back super fit, because I don’t think she would try with half fitness to come to Wimbledon. So she must have been working really hard in the past few weeks.”
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Watch daily highlights from Wimbledon at 10pm on Eurosport 2 and discovery+ from June 27, as well as the two singles finals live on July 9 and 10.