Limping off Centre Court with a torn hamstring while fighting tears is not how Serena Williams wants to remember Wimbledon.
Williams has not been featured in a competitive singles match since she suffered that injury in SW19 in 2021, but the 23-time grand slam champion is making her comeback at the All England Club.
The 40-year-old has seven Wimbledon singles titles under her belt, the most recent of which came in 2016, while she reached the final in 2018 and 2019, only to lose to Angelique Kerber and Serena Halep.
Now, having put her hamstring issue behind her, Williams is determined to create a new lasting memory in London.
“Yeah, it was a lot of motivation, to be honest,” she told reporters on Saturday (yesterday) when reflecting on how her previous Wimbledon campaign ended.
“It was always something since the match ended that was always on my mind. So it was a tremendous amount of motivation for that.
“You never want any match to end like that. It’s really unfortunate.”
Williams returned to competition last week, playing doubles with Ons Jabeur in Eastbourne, and makes her highly anticipated return to Wimbledon facing Harmony Tan, a 24-year-old from France who is ranked 113th.
Despite being just one short of Margaret Court’s long-standing record haul of 24 majors, Williams is not making any lofty predictions as to how far she can go at Wimbledon.
“I have high goals, but also… I don’t know,” she said. “We’ll see.”
If she beats Tan, Williams might then face Sara Sorribes Tormo, and if she can get past her, she would likely then play sixth seed Karolina Pliskova, the former world number one, who was the runner-up to Ash Barty at last year’s Wimbledon and also a finalist at the 2016 US Open.
Williams was hoping to play at Flushing Meadows last year but needed more time to heal mentally and physically.
“I felt like last year was tough,” she said. “I felt like I was injured for most of the year. Then I ripped my hamstring. That was tough. I don’t think anyone ever wants to do that. So, in general, the whole experience was rough.
“Then, from there, I still tried to make New York. I gave everything I could, just every day getting ready or trying to make it. But then it’s just like: I’m not going to make it, hung up my racquets for a little bit until I could just heal.”
The thought of retiring never entered her mind during her time away from the game, however. In addition to recovering, she spent the last year getting in the right frame of mind.
“I didn’t retire,” Williams said. “I just needed to heal physically, mentally. And yeah, I had no plans, to be honest.
“I just didn’t know when I would come back. I didn’t know how I would come back. Obviously Wimbledon is such a great place to be, and it just kind of worked out.”