Tuesday, June 14, the tennis world is in turmoil after the publication of an Instagram post by Serena Williams, at midday. In this photo, the American’s white shoes tread the turf with an explicit caption: “SW and SW19 [the postcode of Wimbledon]. It’s a date. 2022 see you there. Let’s go. »

The rumor of the return of the former world number 1 was confirmed a few hours later by the organizers of the London tournament (from June 27 to July 10), who granted him an invitation (wild-card). His current ranking (1,204th in the world) no longer allows him to enter the final table of a Grand Slam or even the qualifications.

“We haven’t seen her evolve or train at all lately, so I was a little surprised to see her come back,” admits Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier, former world number 40 and consultant for Amazon Prime Video during Roland Garros. But if there was a place [to do it], it was at Wimbledon. »

The story of Serena Williams is closely linked to that of Wimbledon, where the American won seven of her twenty-three Grand Slam titles. But her last appearance on the London lawn turned tragic: on June 29, 2021, injured in the hamstrings of her right leg, the younger sister of Venus had to give up in the first round of her first round against Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, and leaves the center running in tears, under the garnished ovation of the public.

A few months later, she withdrew from the US Open before leaving fans and observers with no news related to tennis. At almost 41 years old (she will be on September 26), Serena Williams seemed to be approaching the end of her career, fulfilled with her 4-year-old daughter and her many extra-sporting activities. “Given her age, I thought it seemed complicated for her to make her comeback,” says former French player Camille Pin, consultant for Amazon Prime Video during Roland-Garros.

A lenient draw

“Did I doubt I could come back?” Yes of course. I wouldn’t be honest if I said that I didn’t think about it, “confided the person concerned on June 21, before clarifying her thought, Saturday, from London: “I have not retired. I needed to heal myself physically and mentally, I had no plans, it’s just that I didn’t know when I was going to come back and in what state I would come back. »

What can the American expect from her return to Wimbledon? A 24th Grand Slam title, Margaret Court’s ultimate record, behind which she has been chasing since her victory at the Australian Open in 2017? “I think the expectations have fallen in relation to the record,” said Camille Pin. But if she doesn’t have too bad a picture in the first round, she can very well go for a second week [the round of 16]. »

Precisely, on Friday, Serena Williams benefited from a rather lenient draw, inheriting the French Harmony Tan (113th in the world) in the first round, potentially the Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo (40th) in the second, then the Czech Karolina Pliskova ( 7th).

“I think these athletes, when they decide to go, they’re ready. They are really there to win. You can have a nice surprise, ”believes Pauline Parmentier. And listening to Ons Jabeur, the American’s doubles partner last week in Eastbourne, her return to competition had been scheduled for several weeks. “I know how to keep secrets, I knew from Roland-Garros,” laughed the Tunisian, second in the WTA rankings since Monday, June 27, at a press conference.

Serena Williams has therefore chosen to play a doubles tournament first to regain the rhythm of the competition before appearing at Wimbledon. “It’s a great discipline to get back into. You have to be very precise, focused, and it doesn’t require too much juice, so it’s ideal for getting back into the rhythm,” analyzes Camille Pin. The pair won their first two meetings before forfeiting the semi-finals with Ons Jabeur’s right knee injury.

Obviously, the main unknown lies in the physical condition of Serena Williams, who sometimes seemed to lack a bit of speed at Eastbourne. ” I feel good. I feel as good as can be after going so long without playing,” she reassured after her second game in two days.

A game adapted to grass

Above all, the right-hander with seventy-three WTA titles has serious arguments to make on the grass. “On this surface, it’s played in a few racquet strokes, that’s really Serena’s game pattern. I wouldn’t say the same thing at Roland-Garros, but on grass, with her serve and her return, she doesn’t let you play, insists Camille Pin. We are completely passive in front of it, and it is multiplied by ten on the grass. »

The other question concerns his historic coach. Since 2012, Serena Williams worked with the French Patrick Mouratoglou, but this one evolves, since April, alongside the Romanian Simona Halep. “She knows how to surround herself, and I don’t feel she is lost in relation to that”, puts Pauline Parmentier into perspective. “The absence of Patrick Mouratoglou can be detrimental if she plays against Simona Halep”, continues Camille Pin.

But the two players will not be able to face each other before a possible semi-final. Regardless of the opponent, Serena Williams will have made a successful return to the highest level if she manages to slip into the last four at Wimbledon. To write a little more his legend.