Serena Williams is going to play at Wimbledon, after all. The All England Club announced on Tuesday that Williams was awarded a wild-card entry for singles, marking her return to Grand Slam action after a year away.
The owner of a professional era-record 23 Grand Slam singles trophies, and as big a star as tennis ever has seen, is going to tune up by playing doubles at a smaller grass-court event first, teaming with Ons Jabeur at Eastbourne, England, next week.
Main-draw play at Wimbledon begins on June 27.
Williams has not competed anywhere since getting injured during the first set of her first-round match at the All England Club in 2021. And her name did not appear on the women’s singles entry list released by the grass-court Grand Slam tournament earlier this month.
But Williams was among a half-dozen women given a spot in the singles draw on Tuesday, along with five British players: Katie Boulter, Jodie Burrage, Sonay Kartal, Yuriko Miyazaki and Katie Swan.
Two other women will get invitations “in due course,” the All England Club said.
Seven of the eight men’s wild-card berths were also announced, including one for three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka.
Earlier in the day, Williams posted a photo of her white shoes on what appears to be a grass court and the message: “SW and SW19. It’s a date. 2022. See you there. Let’s Go.”
“SW” are her initials, of course, and “SW19” is the postal code for Wimbledon.
The 40-year-old American has won seven of her singles trophies at Wimbledon, the first in 2002 and most recently in 2016. Williams was the runner-up there in 2018 and 2019 (the tournament was canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic).
In 2021, Williams lost her footing on the slick grass and then her right leg buckled, leading to just the second mid-match retirement at any Grand Slam tournament of her career and first since 1998.
With the lack of activity since then, Williams — who first reached No. 1 in July 2002 — is 1,208th in the WTA rankings this week. That is why she was not automatically placed in the Wimbledon field.
While Williams has been sidelined, first Ash Barty and then Iga Swiatek stepped into the opening left by her extended absence. Barty won Wimbledon last year and the Australian Open this January to solidify her hold on the No. 1 ranking, but then abruptly retired at age 25 in March.
That allowed Swiatek to rise to No. 1, and she has backed up that new status with an ongoing 35-match winning streak that included claiming a second French Open trophy this month.
That unbeaten stretch exceeds by one a 34-match run Williams put together in 2013 and equals one by Williams’ older sister, Venus, for the longest since 2000.
Adding Williams to the bracket at the All England Club adds quite a story line for this year’s tournament, which as things stood was going to be filled with them, including the ban on players from Russia and Belarus because of the invasion of Ukraine, the subsequent removal of rankings points by the WTA and ATP tours, the 100th anniversary of the opening of Centre Court and the addition of scheduled play on the fortnight’s middle Sunday for the first time.