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.
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.