Serena Williams is Back. Rusty, Getting Older, She. . .Hah! She’s Already Wimbledon Favorite

 

 

Serena Williams is back, and will play at Wimbledon after a quick warmup event. She’s 29 now, and surely rusty after being gone for a year. Who knows what kind of shape she’s in. It’s going to take some time and. . .

Oh please. Williams had to be watching the women’s tour these past few months thinking how easy it would be for her to own this game, even sick, even on a sore foot, even out of shape. Site unseen, Williams goes into Wimbledon as the huge favorite.

Venus Williams, who is also coming back after a long injury break, is among the favorites, too.

The truth is, Serena could have been dominating the tour for years. But maybe more than ever, it’s there for her taking, if she wants. No one took over while she was gone, though Kim Clijsters came closest. Maybe Li Na is about to. Caroline Wozniacki will drive Serena crazy if Williams can’t keep the ball on the court. Maria Sharapova could be an issue.

That’s about it. I expect Williams to step back in immediately and start winning majors again. She’s that great. The rest of the tour is not.

Williams has won 13 majors now, five short of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. Will she catch them? That’s going to come down to her health, age, commitment.

Here’s to hoping that all that time away made her miss tennis, though it might have worked the other way: Maybe a life scare will make her wonder how much she really needs tennis.

She hasn’t fully committed to tennis for years, and maybe that has kept her fresh and normal. But it’s hard to believe that she won the U.S. Open in 1999 – 1999! – and through her historically great career, still has managed to win only 13 majors. Total.

She has been gone since winning last year’s Wimbledon, after saying she hurt her foot stepping on glass in a restaurant in Germany. It’s hard to figure how to put that, honestly. I wrote “saying’’ because her story on the incident has not been consistent.

She told USA Today that she stepped on glass at a restaurant in Germany; her agent told me she didn’t step on glass. Serena said her doctor said surgery wasn’t necessary, and would merely leave her with a drooping toe. Then she said her doctor said it was necessary. Meanwhile, a reporter from Germany told me the media there have been trying to figure out what happened, but haven’t found any evidence of a foot injury at a restaurant.

Well, Williams said she had two surgeries on the foot. And this spring, doctors found blood clots in her lungs.

Those could be fluke things, but a tennis player just three months from 30 is bound to start having problems. Venus knows. Her body is breaking down. And Venus has more of a traditional tennis player body.

It’s not always going to be this easy for Serena. At least, not as easy as I think it’s going to be this time. I might be wrong. It has been a year, and who knows how hard she has actually been working on her fitness. If you follow her Twitter account, you know that she has been partying often.

Well, the game changes dramatically when Williams is back in. It livens up, raises to another level. Williams, who returns next week with Venus at Eastbourne, has been gone for a long time, but it’s still the other players who have to show that they’re at her level.

In some ways, she remained the focus of the sport even while she was gone. First came the mystery of her foot injury, then rumors about plastic surgery. Let’s see: a commercial for a video game that showed her in thigh-highs, grunting; her return to the practice court in a bright pink body suit; a Twitter avatar in bra, panties and high heels.

Even when Williams is gone, she’s never really gone. But it will be nice to mix a little tennis in with the talk about her.

 

 

 

About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at FoxSports.com and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

2 responses to “Serena Williams is Back. Rusty, Getting Older, She. . .Hah! She’s Already Wimbledon Favorite

  • Zech

    You know I never really can wrap my mind around how publicized her personal life has been and yet how little journalists seem to um credit that as a possibility to her “lack of major titles”. The years she hasn’t won many titles personal trama has been omnipresent: post Serena-Slam, knee surgery AND the death of her sister in a shooting; 05-06, multiple injuries and her parent’s divorce. These are not just minor occurrences. These can throw any person off any track no matter how talented in their profession. How these are never factored in is completely puzzling to me or even worse, when some journalist claims to take them into account and can still say “what is she doing with her life?” claims…as if they have any say in whether or not she has handled personal tragedies “correctly”.

    But otherwise, I have followed Serena since the 2007 Australian Open and watched her win, completely out of shape and almost despised by the tennis media. Those are not exaggerations. I had no knowledge of tennis prior to that and reading the articles I did about her was alarming. Watching her win was inspiring to say the least and led me to play and follow tennis myself but I did question her commitment to anything but the majors as far as fitness is concerned… until 2010. Somehow I just had a different sense about how she approached her fitness. Total speculation, but since the 2009 US Open (where I thought she looked great health wise) I haven’t ever questioned her fitness at any events, sparse though they may be. She doesn’t appear out of shape, even during all the time off. She looks great. Do you see a difference post 2009? Because somehow fitness is not what I’m concerned about (just her match toughness and strokes) and haven’t been for the past 2 years… I feel like that is a given with the “new” Serena. Thoughts?

  • Lita

    I’m looking forward to seeing what’s happening with her. I have seen a picture of her and she looks to be in fantastic shape. I have not seen her this lean since 2004 or so. Not feeling she can win Wimbledon since she’s rusty, but I can see her going 3 or so rounds. I say if all holds up, she should be good to go for the 2011 US Open.

    I haven’t seen Venus Williams though. I hope she’s in better shape than she was in Australia earlier this year.

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