The ATP and WTA decision to strip Wimbledon of rankings points due to the banning of Russian and Belarusian players was "very disappointing", given there was "no viable alternative".

That was the message from the All England Club's chairman Ian Hewitt in an interview with ESPN ahead of the third major of the year starting on Monday.

Numerous sporting and financial sanctions have been imposed on Russia for their ongoing invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, with Saint Petersburg stripped of the right to host the Champions League final and Russia removed from Qatar World Cup qualifying.

The All England Club followed suit by confirming Russian and Belarusian athletes would not be permitted to play at this year's championships, but the WTA and ATP responded by stripping the major of its ranking points.

Wimbledon's organisers stuck with their decision, questioning the punishment from those governing bodies, and Hewitt says the ban was justified for reasons outside the sport.

"One was a route to consider having personal declarations from players and, frankly, we did not think that was the right approach for a tournament of our kind," Hewitt said.

"We were not willing to put in jeopardy any safety of players, and we think that that route would have involved implications for players' safety or safety of their families, which really left no other viable alternative.

"But also, it was very important to us that Wimbledon, given the profile that we have, should not be used in any way by the propaganda machine which we know the Russian government employs in relation to its own people and how their position in the world is presented, and that would be.

"We just would not countenance Wimbledon success or participation in Wimbledon being misused in that way.

"So as a result of the combination of reasons, we were left with no viable alternative other than to decline entries; we hugely regret the impact on the individual players affected. 

"But we also hugely regret the impact on so many innocent people, which the tragic situation in Ukraine has caused."

The punishment of Russian and Belarusian stars meant world number one Daniil Medvedev will not feature at the grass-court major, and neither will Andrey Rublev, ranked eighth in the world.

Women's world number six Aryna Sabalenka was another to miss out, alongside 13th-ranked Daria Kasatkina and 20th-ranked Victoria Azarenka, but Hewitt stands by the call.

"In relation to the decision of the ATP and WTA to remove ranking points, yes, we are very disappointed with that, we believe it is a disproportionate approach and, frankly, we believe it is more damaging to the interests of a large majority of players, and we regret that decision of the ATP and WTA," he added.

"We respect that opinions do differ, but we would have hoped that there would have been a different way of tackling that in the interests of the players. 

"But as regards our decision, we certainly stand by our decision, and I'd say now our primary focus is to get on with the championships and prove that we are really a championship that is the pinnacle of the sport."

Pam Shriver says Serena Williams has built an "all-time great legacy" in tennis and expressed her relief that the legendary American will make her comeback at Wimbledon.

Williams has 23 grand slam singles titles to her name and is just one short of Margaret Court's all-time record as the 40-year prepares to return to The All England Club as a wildcard.

She has not played a singles match since suffering an ankle injury in last year's Wimbledon opener against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Seven-time Wimbledon singles champion Williams will face world number 113 Harmony Tan in the first round on Tuesday, hoping to prove doubters wrong once again.

Three years ago, Williams became the oldest player to reach the singles final at SW19 and in 2016 she became the oldest champion when she beat Angelique Kerber.

Shriver, who reached the last four at Wimbledon in 1981, 1987 and 1988, cannot wait to see Williams back on court at the grass-court major.

"It's fantastic. I mean a month ago, I said it in interviews during Paris [the French Open], it just didn't look likely, there were no signs that were pointing towards her coming back," Shriver told Stats Perform.

"She hadn't posted anything of her workouts, never said anything about it. She'd sort of hinted at it sort of playful way like with a post with Aaron Rodgers, one of our best quarterbacks here.

"And she had sort of put it out there that she was going to play Wimbledon, but then it was like, okay, but who are you working with? Where are you practising? How much are you? Or how much time are you putting into it?

"You're going to go 12 months without a singles match and just rock up at Wimbledon. But it is great news that our last sighting of Serena on the tennis court isn't her limping off Centre Court last year midway through a first set."

 

Williams' first major title came 23 years ago at the US Open and Shriver has hailed her compatriot's astonishing longevity.

"It's an all-time great legacy, starting in 1999 when she won her first major as a 17-year-old at the US Open, upsetting [Martina] Hingis on Arthur Ashe Court," she added.

"She was the first of the Williams sisters to win a singles major. She's been making history since the late 1990s.

"She is now entering her fourth decade of trying to make history on the court and I think it's been exciting to have watched most of it.

"[There are] little things that are so impressive, her Olympic record, incredible. The way she won the gold medal in London in 2012 was as dominant a performance I've ever seen on a foreign tennis court.

"She and Venus are 14-0 in major doubles finals. So look, if you compare her numbers to Martina Navratilova’s numbers, tournament wins-wise, then Martina blows Serena away.

"But that was back in an era where the intent was to play a lot more and there was more of an emphasis placed on tour titles. During Serena’s 20-odd-year career, the emphasis the entire time has been on how many majors can you win. And that's what she's been focused on, especially in the last 10 years."

Emma Raducanu's struggles after winning the US Open were predictable, according to Pam Shriver, who compared becoming a grand slam finalist at such a young age to "going through a trauma".

Raducanu begins her Wimbledon campaign against Alison Van Uytvanck on Monday, having endured an injury-plagued 2022 season after becoming the first qualifier to win a major in New York last September.

The 19-year-old lasted just 36 minutes when making her first grass-court appearance of the year at the Nottingham Open earlier this month, with a side strain the latest in a series of niggling injuries to befall Raducanu.

Fellow British star Andy Murray said on Sunday that Raducanu's rapid rise to stardom had been "difficult to navigate", a view shared by Shriver, who was just 16 years old when she reached the 1978 US Open final, going down to defending champion Chris Evert in straight sets.

Shriver, whose best singles Wimbledon runs saw her reach the last four in 1981, 1987 and 1988, says the monumental nature of Raducanu's achievements always made a difficult year likely.

"I put it down to the fact you won the US Open. It was life-altering, turn-you-upside-down," Shriver told Stats Perform.

"I mean, I didn't know it as far as being a teenage winner, but I was 16 years and two months old playing my second major when I got to the finals, beating [Martina] Navratilova in the semis. It was my home major. 

"I had a tonne of headlines, I had to play Chris Evert in the finals, who was the most famous female tennis player of that moment. It changed my life, and I didn't even win it. 

"I had a hard time winning matches the next 12 months, it took me 18 months to kind of get back on track. It really shakes you. It's almost like going through a trauma, you need some help to get your orientation, your footing. 

"She went from like [number] 350 in the world to like winning a US Open in a few months, so it doesn't surprise me she's struggling."

Raducanu has an 8-11 singles record in 2022 and has attracted media attention for making repeated changes to her coaching team.

A series of coaches including Nigel Sears, Andrew Richardson and Torben Belts have left Raducanu's team since Wimbledon 2021, and Shriver thinks the 19-year-old's coaching merry-go-round has contributed to her challenging season, along with a lack of fitness.

"First off, she just had way too many injuries," Shriver added. "Short term, if she's not healthy enough, that's going to be tough right there. If she can't last at four-all in the third, maybe she should just play singles, not play multiple events. 

"I really would like to see her get a team around her that is consistent, that stays for a couple of years. I don't think this many transitions, especially when you come off what she's come off, winning a major, is good. 

"I think it's proven to not have been good, even though you can say, 'oh, she's mature, she can take this from this coach and this from that coach, and then she can weave it together'.

"I can't do that, and I'm almost 60 – it's much harder. It's much easier said than done, right? She needs to find a coach who is a really experienced coach, who can help navigate this difficult part of her career."

Five-time singles champion Venus Williams showed up at Wimbledon on the eve of the championships, sparking speculation over what role she will play.

The 42-year-old American has played just one tournament since losing to Ons Jabeur in the second round at Wimbledon last year.

That lone appearance came at the Chicago Open in August, when she was beaten in her opening match by Hsieh Su-wei.

Williams has not made a retirement announcement, and it may be that she intends to play an active part in Wimbledon, although she has not entered the women's singles or women's doubles.

The American great has seven grand slams among her 49 career singles titles and has won six Wimbledon doubles crowns with sister Serena Williams, among their 14 slams as sport's greatest sister act.

One avenue that may be open to Venus is mixed doubles. She was not listed on Wimbledon's entry list for the invitational doubles, an event for veterans. The mixed doubles line-up has yet to be revealed.

Williams was pictured at Wimbledon by a Getty photographer at the All England Club, carrying a red sports bag, and later in the evening posted on Instagram that she was at a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert at London Stadium.

Serena has entered the singles on a wildcard, having made her competitive comeback on doubles duty alongside Jabeur at Eastbourne after being absent from the tour since last year's Wimbledon. She is a seven-time singles champion at London's grass-court grand slam.

Simona Halep is confident she would know how to handle a Wimbledon panic attack after her traumatic recent Roland Garros experience.

The former world number one is ready for her first return to action at the All England Club since landing the 2019 title, having missed out last year due to a calf injury.

With the 2020 championships cancelled due to the pandemic, it has been a three-year wait for Halep to make another SW19 appearance, and plenty has changed in her life since then.

She married last year and has a high-profile new coach in Patrick Mouratoglou, who helped to guide the career of Serena Williams for almost a decade.

Last month saw Halep suffer an on-court panic attack during a shock second-round defeat to Zheng Qinwen at the French Open, and she was quick to speak about the episode immediately after the match, determined it would be an important step in moving on.

"Hopefully it doesn't happen again because I didn't like it," Halep said in a news conference on Sunday, a day ahead of Wimbledon getting under way.

"It was coming from nowhere because I was leading the match. Probably just the pressure of the tournament, the fact that I struggled last year. I didn't believe that I'm strong enough, probably.

"But now I feel stronger, and I feel that if it's going to happen again, I will know how to handle it.

"It's never easy. It was really tough to handle it. But lately everyone goes through this, with all the situation in the world. I will not be hard on myself that I was weak in that match.

"I just take it as an experience and as a lesson, so next time I'll be better."

Halep has a tough Wimbledon opener against Karolina Muchova, an unseeded player who has reached the quarter-finals in the past two editions of the tournament.

That match will take place on Tuesday, but it will not open up play on Centre Court.

That is usually the honour afforded to the defending champion, but Ash Barty has retired since beating Karolina Pliskova in last year's final.

Some felt that Halep, having missed out last year when she would have been returning to defend the title, should have been given the opening slot this year; however, Wimbledon announced the privilege will go to world number one Iga Swiatek.

"I feel sad that I missed it because I was injured and didn't get the chance," Halep said. "Hopefully I can have another chance, so I can look forward to that."

She will need to win another Wimbledon title for that to happen and will hope the tie-up with Mouratoglou helps her achieve that ambition.

Mouratoglou said in an Instagram post that Halep's results in the clay-court season were "insufficient" for a player of her quality and said he would "take full responsibility" for those.

"I was surprised, shocked that he did the post and took everything on him," Halep said. "But it was not on him, it was me; I was not able to do better and to calm down myself when I panicked. It was new for me as well, and I was not good enough. We are much better after that day.

"We both probably learned some things about each other, and now we will handle better situations like those."

Serena Williams stands every chance of going on a winning run at Wimbledon, according to Ons Jabeur, who would love to meet the 23-time grand slam champion in the final.

Williams teamed up with Jabeur to play doubles at the Eastbourne International in the past week, the American's first competitive tennis since being forced to retire from a first-round clash with Aliaksandra Sasnovich at Wimbledon last year.

Seven-time Wimbledon singles queen Williams has not won a grand slam since 2017's Australian Open, and has lost two finals at SW19 during the drought, to Angelique Kerber in 2018 and Simona Halep in 2019.

Third seed Jabeur expects the 40-year-old WTA superstar to give a positive account of herself when she gets her Wimbledon campaign under way against Harmony Tan on Tuesday.

"I feel Serena was playing well and moving well. I think she can win matches at Wimbledon," Jabeur said in a BBC Sport column.

"We were put in opposite sides of the draw so that means we couldn't play until the final. That's okay - I'll send her to Iga Swiatek's half instead and leave the possibility of those two great players facing each other.

"I, for sure, didn't want to play her in the first round. You don't want to play Serena, especially at Wimbledon. But if it did happen then it would be amazing to play her and that would add another thing to the dream list for me."

 

Jabeur gets her own campaign under way when she faces Sweden's Mirjam Bjorklund on Monday, and believes the confidence gained from playing alongside Williams could prove crucial in her bid for a first title at this level.

"Playing with Serena Williams in the doubles at Eastbourne last week was an unbelievable experience and one which gives me added confidence as I try my best to win my first grand slam title at Wimbledon," Jabeur said.

"If she sees me as a great player and looks at me in that way then I can see myself that way, too."

Jabeur has never played a singles match against Williams, but having the chance to star alongside her surpassed that, allowing the Tunisian to get an insight into the mind of the great champion.

"The whole experience means I feel like I am the luckiest player in the world," said 27-year-old Jabeur.

When Wimbledon ended last year, there were two great takeaways from the tournament: Novak Djokovic would soon be pulling away in the grand slam title race and Ash Barty was beginning a new era of dominance.

Both seemed to be knock-ins, and yet neither has come to pass. Djokovic missed out on a calendar Grand Slam in New York before being banished from Australia, and despite drawing level with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on 20 grand slams with his Centre Court triumph, he now finds himself two adrift of the Spaniard again.

Barty, meanwhile, has left her own party. The then world number one stunned the tennis world by retiring in March, having added the Australian Open she so craved to her trophy cabinet.

Djokovic and Iga Swiatek head into Wimbledon, which begins on Monday, as the top seeds.

Stats Perform has used Opta facts to consider what the men's and women's singles might deliver.

 

KING ROGER'S REIGN IS OVER, BUT DJOKOVIC AND NADAL KEEP GOING STRONG

There will come a time when the Wimbledon favourite is not one of the 'Big Three'. That time is not now.

Djokovic is the man most likely, as he targets his fourth straight Wimbledon title and seventh overall; since 2011, when he beat Nadal in the final, the Serbian has only been absent from the trophy match three times (in 2012, 2016 and 2017).

His winning run of 21 matches at Wimbledon is the fifth-longest in the men's singles. Bjorn Borg holds the record (41 between 1976 and 1981).

The last player other than Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Andy Murray to win the Wimbledon men's title was Lleyton Hewitt in 2002. Federer is absent this year and may have played his last Wimbledon.

Nadal has won Wimbledon twice, in 2008 and 2010. He won the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in 2010, the only season of his career when he has won three slams. This year, at the age of 36, he has the Australian and French Open trophies already locked away, potentially halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, last achieved in men's singles in 1969 by Rod Laver.

Should Nadal pull off another major coup, it would make him only the second man in the Open Era (from 1968) to win the season's first three singles slams, after Laver in 1969 and Djokovic last year.

Can the rest hope to compete?

What of Murray? Well, only Federer (19), Sampras (10), Laver and Jimmy Connors (both nine) have won more ATP titles on grass than the Scot in the Open Era. If he recovers from an abdominal strain, he has a shot at reaching the second week. He will of course have the full backing of the Wimbledon crowd.

Last year's runner-up Matteo Berrettini is fancied more than Nadal by many, having won Stuttgart and Queen's Club titles in the build-up.

There has not been an American men's singles champion since 2000, and although the United States has six players seeded, more than any other nation, it seems a safe enough assumption we will be saying a similar thing again in 12 months' time.

Third seed Casper Ruud has never won a singles match at Wimbledon, while fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has not had a win since reaching the fourth round in 2018. Daniil Medvedev, the world number one, cannot compete at The All England Club after their contentious decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

IF SERENA CAN'T CHALLENGE SWIATEK, WHO CAN?

From the jaws of retirement, Serena Williams is back. Silence from the 40-year-old about her intentions had become almost deafening, and yet here she is, back at Wimbledon on a wildcard, hoping to rekindle the old magic.

Because she has pushed back against the doubters for over two decades now, you have to take this seriously. Her haul of 23 grand slams is one short of Margaret Court's all-time record and Williams would dearly love to at least match it.

Three years ago, Williams became the oldest player to reach Wimbledon's women's singles final when she lost to Simona Halep. Six years ago, she was the oldest champion when she beat Angelique Kerber.

Only four women in the draw this year besides Williams have been champion before: Petra Kvitova (in 2011 and 2014), Garbine Muguruza (in 2017), Kerber (in 2018) and Halep (in 2019).

World number one Iga Swiatek starts as favourite. Junior Wimbledon champion four years ago, she has scooped two women's French Open titles since then and is on a 35-match winning streak.

After triumphing at Roland Garros in early June, Swiatek will hope to become the first woman since Kerber in 2016 (Australian Open and US Open) to win two singles slams in the same season.

The only competitive warm-up for Williams came in two doubles matches at Eastbourne, having not played since sustaining a hamstring injury at Wimbledon last year. The seven-time champion might consider it a challenge that there has never been an unseeded Wimbledon women's singles finalist during the Open Era.

The women's top two seeds have not met in the final since Serena faced her sister Venus in the 2002 title match, so don't hold your breath for a Swiatek versus Anett Kontaveit showpiece on July 9.

Could Gauff be best of the rest?

Coco Gauff made a breakthrough with her run to the French Open final. Although she was blown away by Swiatek, for the 18-year-old American it was another mark of progress. Gauff reached the fourth round in Wimbledon in 2019 (lost to Halep) and 2021 (lost to Kerber).

Fitness is likely to be the key factor in how US Open champion Emma Raducanu fares at her home grand slam, given her injury problems. Raducanu reached the fourth round on a wildcard last year and the 19-year-old will attempt to become the first British woman to reach that stage in back-to-back seasons since Jo Durie (1984, 1985).

Ons Jabeur, meanwhile, should not be discounted. The world number three reached the quarter-finals at SW19 last year and heads to Wimbledon having won on grass at the Berlin Open, albeit Belinda Bencic had retired hurt in the final.

The likes of Gauff, Raducanu and 21-year-old Swiatek will attempt to become the youngest woman to lift the trophy since 17-year-old Maria Sharapova triumphed in 2004.

A first-round exit for Swiatek would leave the event wide open, but don't count on it. In the Open Era, only three times has the top-seeded woman lost in round one: Steffi Graf in 1994 and Martina Hingis in 1999 and 2001.

Coco Gauff is relaxed and full of confidence heading into Wimbledon, three years after bursting onto the scene at the All England Club.

Gauff made history as a 15-year-old at Wimbledon in 2019, when she became the youngest player to reach the main draw in the Open Era.

The American stunned five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in straight sets in her main draw debut, and reached the fourth round, where she was defeated by eventual champion Simona Halep.

She enters this year's tournament brimming with confidence after reaching her first Grand Slam singles final earlier in June, having lost to Iga Swiatek in a French Open showdown.

"Honestly, I feel like I'm a lot more relaxed than when I was considered the sensation or whatever," Gauff told a news conference.

"I mean, I did well, wasn't expecting to, but it felt like everybody wanted the results to happen now, now, now. I feel like I learned so much not to put pressure on now, now, now.

"This time around, even though I’m considered a favourite, I don't feel like it as much as I did when I was 15 or even 16."

A year ago at Wimbledon, Gauff again reached the fourth round, where she was ousted by Angelique Kerber, but she enters play this time around with her highest world ranking at number 12 after an outstanding performance at Roland Garros, where she reached the final of both the singles and doubles.

"Definitely a lot of positives to take from it, that I can play two weeks of high, competitive tennis in two events," Gauff explained.

"I would have never thought I would have made the final of both events. I learned a lot from that final. I’m going to take what I learned to here. Hopefully I go far.

"But it was definitely the experience of a lifetime, and hopefully I can recreate it."

Gauff followed up her run in Paris with another encouraging showing in a grass-court warm-up at the Berlin Open, where the 18-year-old lost to Ons Jabeur in the semi-finals.

It marked another milestone for Gauff, who had previously never advanced to a quarter-final on grass.

Emma Raducanu doubted whether she would recover from injury in time for Wimbledon, but says she is now "ready to go" after a week's training.

The 19-year-old has endured an injury-plagued season, with her first match of the grass-court campaign lasting just 36 minutes against Viktorija Golubic at the Nottingham Open.

Raducanu was forced to withdraw from the contest earlier this month due to a side strain and subsequently missed the Eastbourne International.

She previously stated she had "no idea" if she would be fit in time for Wimbledon, which begins for the reigning US Open champion with a first-round clash with Alison Van Uytvanck.

But after missing Friday's practice session with Garbine Muguruza, Raducanu took to the court on Saturday and later declared herself ready for the third grand slam of the year.

"I think that this week was a good build-up," she said at a news conference. "There were moments earlier on in the week we weren't really sure. 

"We were sort of going to see how the week goes. But it went pretty well. Now it's full steam ahead. Right now I'm fit. I'm ready to go. I'm looking forward to it. That's it.

"I've been managing it since Nottingham. I took two weeks off. Yesterday we just had to react to the situation. 

"I already practiced in the morning, so we all collectively thought it was the best decision to pass on the afternoon session as well and stay fresh and ready to go."

Raducanu made history in 2021 when becoming the first qualifier to win a grand slam with victory over Leylah Fernandez in the US Open final.

That success came two months after retiring from her fourth-round match with Ajla Tomljanovic at last year's Wimbledon with breathing difficulties.

The Briton enters this year's event as one of the biggest names, though, and she will make her Centre Court debut in Monday's showdown with Belgium's Van Uytvanck.

"I think it’s amazing," Raducanu said reflecting on the past 12 months. "This year I get such a special feeling walking around the grounds. 

"I definitely feel that people are behind me. Even from some of the people working on the tournament, they're like, 'you got this'. Just cheering me on. That's pretty special in itself.

"I feel like last year I came straight out of my exams, I was fresh, ready to play. I feel the same excitement this year because I think Wimbledon just brings that out of me.

"But I'm definitely looking forward to it. Just going to play like a kid who just loves playing tennis. 

"It's always my dream to step out on Centre Court. It's something I've always wanted to do and started playing tennis for."

Raducanu won her only previous match with Van Uytvanck last year, prior to her big breakthrough at Flushing Meadows, and is 35 places above the Belgian in the WTA rankings.

"I definitely feel game-wise I back myself pretty much against anyone," Raducanu added. "I feel if I really put my mind to it and commit, then I can be pretty good. 

"So I'm definitely looking forward to the match. But she's a real tricky opponent, especially on grass courts. 

"I think this surface definitely suits her well. She plays a pretty quick, high-tempo game. It's definitely going to take some getting used to, being prepared for that straightaway."

Six-time champion Novak Djokovic will take centre stage on day one at Wimbledon along with home hopes Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray.

The All England Club has announced the schedule of play for Monday, when the 2022 tournament will get under way.

As is tradition for the defending champion, Djokovic, who defeated Matteo Berrettini in last year's men's singles final, will take part in the first match on Centre Court when he plays against Kwon Soon-woo.

Djokovic will be bidding for a fourth Wimbledon title in succession following triumphs in 2018, 2019 and 2021, after the cancellation of the 2020 championships.

US Open champion Raducanu has also been selected to appear at Centre Court on the opening day.

Raducanu will take on Alison Van Uytvanck hoping to kick off a successful campaign in front of her home crowd, having burst onto the scene at Wimbledon last year with a shock run to the fourth round.

And another Briton, two-time winner Andy Murray, will be involved in the third and final match on the prestigious court when he faces James Duckworth of Australia.

Murray will be hoping to better last year's third-round berth at SW19 after impressively reaching the Stuttgart Open final this month, losing to Berrettini after notable wins over Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios.

Ons Jabeur, Angelique Kerber and Carlos Alcaraz are the big names selected for action on Court One on Monday.

And it has been confirmed that, in the absence of retired champion Ash Barty, women's number one seed Iga Swiatek will open the action on Centre Court on Tuesday when she plays Jana Fett. Swiatek said she felt "very privileged" to be opening the proceedings on day two.

Rafael Nadal, who has won the opening two men's grand slams this year, is also expected to begin his campaign on day two, as is seven-time women’s champion Serena Williams on her return from injury.

Limping off Centre Court with a torn hamstring while fighting tears is not how Serena Williams wants to remember Wimbledon.

Williams has not 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 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."

Serena Williams' presence at Wimbledon has left world number one Iga Swiatek "pretty overwhelmed".

Williams is making her long-awaited return to action at the All England Club, as the 40-year-old takes another shot at matching Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam victories.

The American has played only two competitive matches – both alongside Ons Jabeur in the doubles at the Eastbourne International – since she sustained a hamstring tear at last year's Wimbledon, but is back on a wildcard.

Three years ago, Williams became the oldest player to reach Wimbledon's women's singles final when she lost to Simona Halep. Six years ago, she was the oldest champion when she beat Angelique Kerber, although it seems a long shot for her to be challenging for honours this time around.

That is in part due to the remarkable form of top seed Swiatek, who heads to SW19 on the back of a 35-match winning streak that she is aiming to extend.

The Pole was not born when Williams made her Wimbledon debut in 1998, but she was the junior champion at the All England Club in 2018 and has since won the French Open twice. She is aiming to become the first woman since Kerber in 2016 to win two singles slams in the same season.

Yet Swiatek remains in awe of Williams.

"I saw her yesterday, I was pretty overwhelmed," said Swiatek in a news conference on Saturday.

"I didn't know how to react. I wanted to meet her. I saw that she had so many people around her. I don't know her team. It was pretty weird.

"But just seeing her around is great because she's such a legend, there's nobody that has done so much in tennis.

"I'm pretty sure that she's going to be in good shape because she has so much experience coming back from breaks or just playing in grand slams. I think she can use it."

Swiatek has never progressed past the fourth round of the singles at Wimbledon and will be making her first appearance of the season on grass when she takes on Jana Fett on Tuesday.

"Honestly I still feel like I need to figure out grass," she said. "Last year for sure, it was that kind of tournament where I didn't know what to expect.

"Then match by match I realised maybe I can do more and more.

"I didn't have a lot of time to prepare. But I'm just trying to stay open-minded and kind of take positives from the situation and realise that I can play without any expectations."

Bianca Andreescu was denied her first WTA singles title since the 2019 US Open when Caroline Garcia fought back from behind to win a thrilling Bad Homburg Open final.

Garcia won her first WTA crown for three years by recovering to win a close encounter 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-4 on Saturday.

Andreescu went into the final as the strong favourite, a position she strengthened by narrowly claiming the first-set tie-break, but Garcia battled back to improve her impressive career record in finals to 8-3.

She claimed her first trophy since winning on the Nottingham grass in 2019, the same year as Andreescu's famous Flushing Meadows triumph.

Andreescu was playing in her sixth career showpiece, having enjoyed a standout week at the WTA 250 event. The Canadian did not drop a set en route to the final, which included beating top seed Daria Kasatkina.

But defeating the battling Garcia, who had saved a match point before beating fellow Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in the semi-finals, proved a step too far.

After winning three straight points to claim a tight tie-break, Andreescu was a break ahead at 4-2 in the second set before Garcia launched a strong comeback.

Andreescu was also a break up in the final set but Garcia – who broke five times throughout the contest - prevailed in two hours and 42 minutes.

With Wimbledon approaching, Andreescu was playing just her sixth tournament of the season following a six-month hiatus to look after her mental health that had followed a string of injuries over recent years.

A tremendous performance from Petra Kvitova saw her ease past Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets 6-3 6-2 to win the Eastbourne International on Saturday.

Reigning champion Ostapenko had not dropped a set on the way to the final, but could not halt Kvitova, who was making her first appearance in a final in 2022.

The former world number two – and two-time Wimbledon champion – made a strong start, breaking Ostapenko early on and racing to a 3-0 lead in the first set.

Ostapenko, the Latvian number eight seed, faced eight break points in the opening set, saving seven, but she was unable to force any of her own as Kvitova comfortably served out to move ahead.

Kvitova was hitting the ball with immense power, particularly on returns, but Ostapenko showed initial improvement in the second set with her first serve accuracy, which had been down at 55.9 per cent in the first.

However, it was not enough to keep her opponent at bay as some more fierce returning from Kvitova saw her break in the third game of the second set.

Ostapenko finally threatened to break the Czech's serve, but was unable to take any of the five break points she earned in a game that lasted more than 12 minutes.

Her first serve dropped off again, which allowed the relentless Kvitova to take full advantage, breaking for a second time before serving for the championship and sealing her first-ever Eastbourne title.

It was Kvitova's 29th triumph on the WTA Tour, but her first since March 2021. Her last success on grass had come in Birmingham four years ago.

Rafael Nadal is halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, a feat that would mark the crowning point of any player's career.

Yet the Spanish great does not have to look far back into history to see how quickly that dream can be scuppered, with Novak Djokovic having fallen agonisingly short of a sweep of all four majors only last year.

As perhaps the most grounded player in tennis, Nadal heads into Wimbledon well aware that winning the first two majors of the year is no guarantee of any future success.

At the age of 36, and with a foot problem that requires careful maintenance, it would be arguably the most remarkable feat in the Open Era if Nadal were to add the Wimbledon and US Open titles to his Australian Open and French Open triumphs.

Such dominance is scarce in tennis, and Rod Laver was the last player to scoop all four men's singles titles at the majors, all the way back in 1969.

Steffi Graf won all four on the women's side in 1988, and it seemed a knock-in that Serena Williams would do likewise in 2015 when she headed to the US Open with three majors already bagged.

But Williams famously came unstuck when she faced Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals, while Djokovic went even closer in 2021, losing to Daniil Medvedev in the final at Flushing Meadows.

Here, Stats Perform examines the daunting challenge of scooping all four slams consecutively.


WHAT THE GREAT CHAMPIONS SAY

Before tennis reached its Open Era, which marked the dawning of professionalism on the tour, Laver won his first calendar Grand Slam in 1962.

He said later, quoted by the Tennis Hall of Fame: "It was a thrill to come off the court knowing I had won all four majors in one year. But I never felt like I was the best, never felt that way. I just happened to have a good year."

His 1969 dominance came a year after Laver returned to the majors, following a five-year exile while he played professional tennis elsewhere. When the majors allowed professionals to compete alongside the amateurs, 'Rocket Rod' was again unstoppable.

Laver turned 31 in 1969 and did not win any further grand slam singles titles in his career after that astonishing season, but that second perfect season sealed his legacy as an all-time great.

Stefan Edberg won a boys' singles clean sweep in 1983, but Laver remains the only player to win the men's singles full set in a calendar year since American Don Budge captured all four in the 1938 season, the first time it was achieved by a man. Maureen Connolly and Margaret Court achieved calendar Grand Slams in women's singles in 1953 and 1970 respectively.

A non-calendar Grand Slam was accomplished by Djokovic, when he won Wimbledon, the US Open, Australian Open and French Open consecutively across the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Yet no man other than Laver, Budge and Djokovic has won all four singles crowns in succession.

It has been 11 years since Nadal himself went close. He went to the Australian Open in 2011 with the Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open trophies in the bag, looking to complete the set.

"I am sure it's going to be the only one opportunity that I'm going to have in my life," said Nadal that year. "I'm not going to have more of these opportunities to win all four in a row.

"I think it is almost impossible. It is very, very difficult, no? Tennis is a very competitive sport and there is not a lot of difference between players. So a lot of matches are decided in a few balls. So for that reason it is very difficult to have one player winning everything. That's the truth."

Nadal, hampered by injury, lost in the Melbourne quarter-finals to David Ferrer in 2011 and had not won back-to-back slams since, until this year's surprise double. 


REACHING PRESSURE POINT

It is too soon to think that Nadal has a glorious chance to land all four big ones this year. After all, although he has won Wimbledon twice before, those triumphs came in 2008 and 2010, and he has a chronic foot problem. He has required radiofrequency ablation treatment in the past fortnight, preventing nerves in his foot sending messages to his brain.

He fell to Djokovic in the 2011 Wimbledon final and has not been back to the title match since, suffering a run of disappointing early exits in London before reaching semi-finals in 2018 and 2019, his last visits to the tournament.

Djokovic is a heavy favourite for this year's title, but it would be bold to entirely rule out Nadal, particularly given that as the second seed he cannot run into Djokovic until the final. Particularly given that he is Rafael Nadal, and prone to doing stupendous things.

Serbian Djokovic, a year Nadal's junior, would be able to tell his great rival just how intense the strain can become when a calendar Grand Slam becomes a serious prospect.

Speaking in November last year, two months after Medvedev denied him in New York, Djokovic said: "I'm very relieved that the grand slam season was done, because I felt a tremendous pressure unlike anything I felt in my life.

"It was an interesting experience, and I'm very satisfied with the way I played in grand slams, three wins and a final. There are much more positive things to be grateful for and to look at than negative."

Like Djokovic, Serena Williams has managed the non-calendar Grand Slam before, with the American first achieving that from the French Open in 2002 to the Australian Open in 2003, and in 2015 she was aiming for five slams in a row when she arrived at the US Open, having begun her dominant streak at her home grand slam the previous year.

That would have meant Williams sealed each of the 2015 slams, and losing to Vinci led to stark frustration, underlined by a terse response to the question of how disappointed she felt by the result.

"I don't want to talk about how disappointing it is for me," Williams said. "If you have any other questions, I'm open for that."

Sometimes, players get ahead of themselves when looking at the season ahead, and Naomi Osaka had a calendar Grand Slam in her thoughts after winning the season-opening Australian Open in 2019.

She had also triumphed at the US Open at the end of 2018, and the Japanese star was beginning to think she might enjoy an invincible year at the majors, only to stumble to a third-round French Open defeat to Katerina Siniakova.

Osaka said: "I think I was overthinking this calendar slam. For me this is something that I have wanted to do forever, but I have to think about it like if it was that easy, everyone would have done it."

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