Fifth seed Bianca Andreescu made an early exit from Wimbledon as she suffered a first-round defeat to Alize Cornet.

Two weeks on from losing to the same opponent on grass in Berlin, Andreescu suffered another straight-sets disappointment, going down 6-2 6-1.

The Canadian boasted a better first serve percentage (73 to 63) and hit more winners (17 to 11) but paid for a high unforced errors count (34 to seven) as she crashed out.

Andreescu's defeat extends a frustrating period since winning the US Open two years ago.

The 21-year-old, who recently split with long-time coach Sylvain Bruneau, has seen her career limited by a combination of injuries and the break enforced by the coronavirus pandemic.

As for Cornet, her Wimbledon campaign will continue with a second-round clash against either Greet Minnen or Ajla Tomljanovic.

The Frenchwoman is aiming to improve on the career-best run that saw her reach the fourth round at SW19 in 2014. 

Serena Williams was left "heartbroken" after being forced to retire hurt in her first-round match at Wimbledon as the American great's quest for a record-equalling grand slam title continues.

Williams – seeking a historic 24th slam crown – was in tears after succumbing to an ankle injury during the early stages of Tuesday's clash with Aliaksandra Sasnovich at SW19.

Stuck on 23 slams since 2017, Williams hurt her ankle in the fifth game and the 39-year-old eventually called a halt to proceedings with the match level at 3-3 on Centre Court.

"I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg," seven-time Wimbledon champion Williams wrote via Instagram following a possible SW19 farewell.

"My love and gratitude are with the fans and the team who make being on centre court so meaningful.

"Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd today when I walked on - and off - the court meant the world to me."

Williams had arrived in London amid high expectations in pursuit of matching Margaret Court's record of 24 slams.

Veteran Williams, who lost in the French Open fourth round, has won seven Wimbledon titles (level with Steffi Graf) – only Martina Navratilova has more in the Open Era (nine).

Williams has been a Wimbledon runner-up in 2018 and 2019. Chris Evert is the only player in the Open Era to have lost three consecutive Wimbledon finals (between 1978 and 1980).

She was looking to become only the second woman to win 100 Wimbledon singles matches (currently 98), alongside Navratilova (120), while Williams had been hoping to become the first woman to reach 100-plus wins in two different majors (106 wins at the US Open).

Carla Suarez Navarro described herself as the happiest player in the tournament despite her Wimbledon defeat to Ash Barty, who said it was a privilege to share the court with the retiring Spaniard.

Suarez Navarro was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in September last year, just months after announcing her intention to retire.

She delayed her retirement and, after being given the all-clear in April, began a farewell tour at the French Open that will end with the year's final grand slam, the US Open, which starts in August.

Having lost to Sloane Stephens at Roland Garros, Suarez Navarro took a set off world number one Barty on Centre Court, before eventually suffering a 6-1 6-7 (1-7) 6-1 defeat.

Barty and the Wimbledon crowd gave her a standing ovation as Suarez Navarro left the court, ensuring it was a day she will never forget.

"Wimbledon make me a really good gift," Suarez Navarro told a media conference. 

"I cannot ask for anything else better than this day, one of my last match here, against Ash, world number one, Centre Court, with the roof, was amazing.

"Today I am the most happy player in the tournament. The crowd was amazing, was fantastic, I'm in love with this tournament, this court and this crowd."

Barty said of the former world number six: "She's a hell of a competitor, hell of a fighter, it was a privilege to be able to share that moment, share that court with her today.

"I hadn't had the opportunity to play Carla and it was really special to experience what she can bring from the other side of the court.

"All credit goes to her for her resilience and her nature as a competitor to be able to come back from the adversity that she has and to be able to have that moment with her was nothing shy of remarkable.

"I just said to her it was a pleasure to share the court with you, she's an exceptional person, a great fighter, a great competitor and very well respected in the locker room.

"She's going to be sorely missed, I just wanted to give her the appreciation that she thoroughly deserves, I didn't know what else to do, I wanted to give her a hug and just say congratulations on an exceptional, remarkable career."

Barty will face Anna Blinkova in the second round.

Serena Williams is out of Wimbledon in the first round after injury forced her to retire in the early stages of her match with Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

The American, who was seeking a historic 24th grand slam title at the return of an event she has won seven times, was tearful as she had to withdraw from the match.

Williams had broken Sasnovich and led 3-1, appearing to be in full control of Tuesday's contest on Centre Court.

But she suffered an ankle injury in the fifth game after seeming to slip while playing a forehand.

With her movement clearly limited, Sasnovich broke back and Williams left the court for treatment as she took a medical timeout.

She re-emerged to huge applause and bravely tried to continue but was visibly in severe discomfort.

The 39-year-old soon had to call a halt to proceedings with the match level at 3-3, having let out a scream of pain as she tried in vain to reach the ball.

Roger Federer came from two sets to one down to survive a Wimbledon scare from Adrian Mannarino, who was forced to retire after suffering a knee injury.

Federer was expected to come through his first match at the All England Club since losing the 2019 final to Novak Djokovic with little difficulty.

That anticipation was increased when he claimed the first set, only for Mannarino to fuel hope of a first win over Federer in their seventh meeting by taking the next two sets.

The 20-time grand slam champion had re-established a measure of control in the fourth set when Mannarino was left in agony after his knee buckled at 4-2.

Mannarino attempted to continue but conceded the injury was too much to overcome in the opening game of the fifth with the score 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 3-6 6-2.

Federer lost just five points on serve in taking the opener, though he took only one of his six break points, with Mannarino proving a significantly tougher nut to crack in the second set.

The Frenchman did not face a break point and was surprisingly dominant in the tie-break, and he carried that confidence into the third, making six unforced errors to Federer's 10.

At that point, the biggest shock of the tournament looked to be on the cards, but Federer was back to his best in the fourth.

Imperious at the net, Federer hit 18 winners in the fourth and a decider already looked an inevitability by the time Mannarino's misfortune meant the Swiss could save energy before a second-round clash with either Richard Gasquet or Yuichi Sugita.

Andy Murray made clear he is far from finished after overcoming a fourth-set wobble to upset 24th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round at Wimbledon.

The two-time champion at SW19 has seen his career beset by injury issues in recent years, with this his first appearance in the main draw since reaching the quarter-finals in 2017.

However, he won two matches at Queen’s Club ahead of the third grand slam of the season and treated the Centre Court crowd to a trip down memory lane on Monday, including a dramatic twist when seemingly on the brink of victory.

Having taken the first two sets, Murray somehow contrived to lose the third despite at one stage holding a 5-0 lead. The sudden collapse sent nerves jangling among the spectators as the roof was closed at the venue, but he responded impressively to the setback to triumph 6-4 6-3 5-7 6-3.

Speaking during his on-court interview after the triumph, the Scotsman once again reiterated he has no plans to make this year his Wimbledon swansong.

"It's been extremely tough. Even these last few months. It has been extremely frustrating not being able to get on the court," Murray said.

"I've had such little momentum over these last few years. I've kept trying, doing all the right things to be back in this position. I feel very lucky I get to do it again.

"I keep getting asked is this going to be my last Wimbledon. I don't know why I keep getting asked, though. No, I'm going to keep on playing.

"I want to play, I'm enjoying it. I can still play at the highest level. He is ranked 28th in the world and I beat him, so I will keep going."

Basilashvili saved two match points as he somehow survived in the third set by winning seven games in a row, though Murray responded to the setback impressively.

"I did well to win the fourth set in the end because that was mentally not easy going to the locker room after losing that third," Murray added.

Next up will be either Oscar Otte or Arthur Rinderknech, their contest having been locked at 9-9 in the deciding set when play on the opening day was suspended on the outside courts.

Frances Tiafoe is confident he can cause further shocks at Wimbledon after he claimed the impressive scalp of third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the opening round on Monday.

Unseeded American Tiafoe ousted Tsitsipas in straight sets, winning 6-4 6-4 6-3 to make the Greek the first major casualty of the men's draw.

Tsitsipas was in action for the first time since losing the French Open final to Novak Djokovic on June 13 and struggled to cope with Tiafoe's aggressive style, suffering a break of serve in the very first game.

While that was the only break of the first set, it gave Tsitsipas a deficit he never recovered from, and he was broken again at 4-4 in the second as Tiafoe made his lead even more commanding.

Tiafoe then saw things out impressively, his 17 winners to his opponent's 10 in the third set reflecting the American's greater confidence as he made Tsitsipas the first third seed to lose in the opening round of the grass-court tournament since Andre Agassi in 1996.

 

And Tiafoe reckons there is more where that came from.

"Definitely one of my best [performances], from start to finish it was pretty clean," the 23-year-old told the BBC.

"This is what you train for this is what it's all about. I live for these kind of moments.

"I'm not even close to where I want to be. I've had a lot of great achievements but I haven't even scratched the surface I feel personally.

"Today was big, I definitely needed that, a guy at his level, that guy's special, he's going to do a lot of great things, win a ton of grand slams but not today."

Tiafoe will face Vasek Pospisil or Roberto Carballes Baena in the next round.

Novak Djokovic came from a set down to start his Wimbledon defence with an ultimately comfortable victory over Jack Draper in the first round.

Djokovic can move level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on a record 20 grand slam singles titles if he prevails again at the All England Club.

But he found himself unexpectedly trailing against the British teenager after a rusty first set, Djokovic having had little time to adapt to the grass following the clay-court season that saw him win the French Open.

However, Djokovic soon found his rhythm despite an admirable display from the wildcard and will now face either Kevin Anderson or Marcelo Barrios Vera in the second round after a 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-2 win.

A shaky service game saw Draper claim the first break of the match, an advantage he was able to cling on to as Djokovic failed to take any of his seven break points.

But the world number one was ruthless in the second, taking his first opportunity to break as he surged into a 3-0 lead en route to levelling the match emphatically.

A mishit overhead from the big-serving Draper helped Djokovic forge ahead in the third and there was no way back for Draper thereafter.

Indeed, by the fourth, Djokovic was in full flow, excelling with his serve, his footwork and the accuracy of his groundstrokes, the slickness of a Centre Court not played on for two years causing more problems than Draper as he clinched triumph in just over two hours.

Andy Murray plays his first Wimbledon singles match in four years on Monday – with the journey back to Centre Court hailed as an equivalent achievement to his grand slam titles.

The former world number one has battled through injuries that threatened to end his career, so it will be a remarkable feat when he walks out to face Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Murray, who has won Wimbledon twice and the US Open once, as well as landing two Olympic gold medals in singles, underwent hip resurfacing in 2019 but has continued to be plagued by fitness problems.

The tribute to the resilience of the 34-year-old came from women's British number one Johanna Konta, who was cruelly ruled out of Wimbledon on Sunday when a close contact tested positive for COVID-19.

Konta, who spoke to Stats Perform before receiving that painful news, reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2017, the last year Murray played singles at the All England Club.

He was fit enough to play doubles in 2019, partnering Serena Williams in the mixed event, but a billing on the main show court promises to be an emotional occasion for a player who is struggling to repeat past glories.

"I think Andy really represents tenacity and perseverance," said Konta, a Jaguar ambassador.

"He loves this game, he loves winning in this game, he loves being good and great in this game. I think he will keep doing everything he can to keep putting himself back into position to be great."

 

"I think maybe bringing the attention more on the fact he is trying to do that, with the challenges he's had, is what we should be celebrating and we should be really acknowledging.

"I think this is probably equally as difficult as when he won his slams and his gold medals.

"I think it's on a par with that achievement. I think and hope people can see that and really acknowledge it because he really deserves that."


:: Johanna Konta is a Jaguar ambassador. Jaguar is the Official Car of The Championships, Wimbledon. To discover Jaguar’s unmatched experiences visit jaguar.co.uk/Wimbledon

Johanna Konta has been forced out of Wimbledon on the eve of the tournament after a close contact tested positive for COVID-19.

The 30-year-old British number one, who would have begun the Championships as the 27th seed, must isolate for 10 days as a result of the positive test.

Consequently, she will be unable to try to improve on her best result of a run to the semi-finals four years ago.

A tournament statement read: "Johanna Konta has been withdrawn from the Championships - in line with government legislation she is required to self-isolate for 10 days having been classified as a close contact of a positive test for COVID-19.

"Yafan Wang will take her position in the draw as a lucky loser. Our heartfelt sympathies are with Johanna and we hope to see her back on court as soon as possible."

Wang now enters the draw despite losing to Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko in the third round of qualifying. The 27-year-old reached the second round in 2019.

Serena Williams has announced she will not take part in the tennis tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.

Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem have already opted out of featuring at the Games next month, with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic yet to commit.

Williams, who made her Olympics debut in 2000 and has four gold medals, is now atop the list of big-name absentees, having previously expressed reservations because she would not be able to take her three-year-old daughter Olympia along with her.

"I'm actually not on the Olympic list – not that I'm aware of. If so, then I shouldn’t be on it," she said at a pre-Wimbledon news conference.

"There's a lot of reasons that I made my Olympic decision. I don’t feel like going into them today. Maybe another day. Sorry."

Williams will begin her pursuit of an eighth Wimbledon and 24th grand slam singles title against Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Tuesday.

After an enforced hiatus in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, tennis returns to SW19.

Novak Djokovic makes his way back to Wimbledon as the defending champion and with the men's grand slam record firmly in his sight.

Djokovic conquered Rafael Nadal en route to French Open glory and his 19th slam crown – one shy of the record shared by rivals Nadal and Roger Federer.

With Nadal and Dominic Thiem absent, Djokovic's path to a 20th major trophy has opened up in London.

The women's title is up for grabs after holder Simona Halep withdrew, and Serena Williams can still dream of making history.

As all eyes shift to the All England Club, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind this year's slam, using Opta data.

 

Dominant Djokovic

World number one and top seed Djokovic begins his title defence against promising Briton Jack Draper in the first round.

French Open champion Djokovic has won four of the last six Wimbledon tournaments, including each of the past two – the last player to win more at Wimbledon in a row was Federer between 2003 and 2007 (five).

A five-time Wimbledon winner, Djokovic is the only man to have won the first two grand slam tournaments of a calendar year over the last 25 years, doing it in 2016 and 2021. The last man to win the first three grand slams of a calendar year was Rod Laver during his Grand Slam in 1969.

The 2019 Wimbledon final was the first slam decider to be decided by a final set tie-break, with Djokovic beating Federer 7-3 in that tiebreak, while it was also the longest final in Wimbledon history (four hours, 57 minutes).

No man has won Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year since Nadal in 2010.

 

Federer farewell?

The curtain appears to be closing on all-time great Federer, who withdrew from the French Open after a draining four-set win over Dominik Koepfer to preserve his body for the grass season.

This year's Wimbledon could be the 39-year-old's final realistic shot at a grand slam as Djokovic bids to become the greatest of all.

Seeded sixth, Federer – who meets Adrian Mannarino first up – has won the most Wimbledon titles among all male players in the slam's history.

Federer will aim to win his 21st grand slam, which would break a tie with Nadal for the outright men's record.

 

The 'Big Four' and their stranglehold

Injuries have forced two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray to fall out of the equation but there has been no getting past the original 'Big Four'.

Among the men, the last 17 years of Wimbledon has been dominated by the same four players – Federer (eight titles), Djokovic (five), Nadal (two), Murray (two). The last winner at Wimbledon before them was Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.

Since Wimbledon in 2004, only one of the 68 slams has not seen at least one of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal in the semi-finals – it was at the US Open last year.

The new generation is headlined by grand slam runners-up Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Medvedev has never passed the third round at Wimbledon, though his two defeats at that stage have both been in five sets. The Russian second seed has reached at least the quarter-finals in three of his last four major tournaments, after reaching that stage in only one of his previous 13.

Beaten by Djokovic in the Roland Garros final, Tsitsipas has reached the semi-finals in his last three slams, having done so only once in his previous 12. The third seed has never reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, however.

Wimbledon is the only slam where fourth seed Alexander Zverev is yet to reach the quarter-final, his best result being a fourth-round performance in 2017. Since the beginning of 2020, he has advanced to the semi-finals in three slam tournaments, after never doing it in his previous 18 such major main-draw appearances.

 

Serena's ongoing quest

The queen of WTA tennis for so long, Serena Williams is one slam success away from matching Margaret Court's record of 24 major singles championships. But the 39-year-old has been stuck on 23 since reigning supreme at the Australian Open in 2017.

Williams, who lost in the French Open fourth round, has won seven Wimbledon titles (level with Steffi Graf) – only Martina Navratilova has more in the Open Era (nine).

American superstar Williams has been a Wimbledon runner-up in 2018 and 2019. Chris Evert is the only player in the Open Era to have lost three consecutive Wimbledon finals (between 1978 and 1980).

Williams, the sixth seed who will clash with Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the opening round, is looking to become only the second woman to win 100 Wimbledon singles matches (currently 98), alongside Navratilova (120). She could also become the first woman to reach 100-plus wins in two different majors (106 wins at the US Open).

From the first Wimbledon final reached by one Williams sister in 2000 (won by Venus against Lindsay Davenport), only in four of 20 editions has neither of the two sisters reached the decider – in 2006 (Amelie Mauresmo-Justine Henin), 2011 (Petra Kvitova-Maria Sharapova), 2013 (Marion Bartoli-Sabine Lisicki) and 2014 (Kvitova-Eugenie Bouchard).

 

Barty party?

Former French Open champion Ash Barty heads to Wimbledon as the top seed and will kick off her title bid against veteran Carla Suarez Navarro.

However, world number one Barty has never reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals. Reaching the 2019 fourth round was her best result. The last Australian woman to reach the quarters at Wimbledon was Jelena Dokic in 2000.

The top seed in the Wimbledon women's singles main draw has been eliminated in the first round just three times in the Open Era – Graf in 1994, Martina Hingis in 1999 and Hingis again in 2001.

Wimbledon is the only major won by Kvitova in her career (2011 and 2014). She is one among the three current players with multiple titles at the All England Club, alongside Serena and Venus Williams.

Karolina Pliskova was the woman with the most aces per match made on average at Wimbledon 2019 (9.0, 36 in total) among players who reached the third round.

Novak Djokovic spent the week before Wimbledon enjoying a challenge for a most unlikely title in Mallorca.

The Serbian reached his first men's doubles final for 11 years when he and Carlos Gomez-Herrera knocked out the third seeds on Thursday. Were it not for an injury to the Spaniard forcing them to withdraw, you would not have put it past Djokovic, a man with 83 singles titles, to have lifted what would have been just a second doubles trophy in his career.

"I don't think we expected to reach the finals," Djokovic admitted after an unexpected, liberating week. "Everything clicked quite amazingly."

That Djokovic could prepare to defend his Wimbledon title by experimenting in the doubles in the Spanish sun should serve as a warning to the rest of the draw. He has not played a Tour-level singles match since that exhausting, extraordinary win at the French Open where he inflicted on Rafael Nadal just the third Roland Garros defeat of his career before recovering from two sets down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final. That treacherous transition from clay to grass is no problem at all, such is Djokovic's belief in his own powers.

And why not? He has been close to untouchable in 2021: 27 wins and as many titles as defeats, his three trophy wins including the first two grand slams of the year. He has 19 now, just one behind all-time record holders Nadal – who withdrew from Wimbledon and the Olympics after a gruelling clay season – and Roger Federer, who has played only eight matches since the 2020 Australian Open following two knee operations. Djokovic has won four of the past six championships at SW19 and is bidding to become the first man to win three in a row since Federer managed four from 2004 to 2007.

For Federer, 2021 has been about building for these next two months, for another fortnight in London and a final shot at Olympic singles gold. He pulled out of Roland Garros after a draining four-set win over Dominik Koepfer to preserve his body for the grass season, but his bid for an 11th title in Halle ended in a dispiriting second-round loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime.

 

Federer would not admit it publicly, nor perhaps even to himself, but Wimbledon 2021 represents his best remaining chance at winning a major, not least with Nadal and fourth seed Dominic Thiem having pulled out. He should have taken the title the last time the event was played two years ago, when Djokovic survived two match points to win the longest final in history in four hours and 57 minutes. Now 39, having to pick and choose his matches to prolong his career, that unpalatable moment when Federer puts down his racquet for good is starting to loom large on the horizon.

It leaves things beautifully poised at the top of the men's game. Djokovic has always been hindered in conversations around the 'big three'. The 34-year-old has never won the hearts of the wider tennis public in quite the same way as Roger and Rafa, in spite of his best – and occasionally misguided – efforts.

Yet the fact remains we are entering a critical point in this particular GOAT debate. Djokovic leads the head-to-head record against Federer (27-23) and Nadal (30-28). He is the only man in the Open Era to win all four grand slams twice. Nobody has won more Masters 1000 titles (36, level with Nadal), and nobody else has won all nine of those events. He has been world number one for 326 weeks – also a record. And all of his major titles bar one have come in the past 10 years, a time in which Nadal has won 11 and Federer four. This has truly been his decade – at least, if you ignore the doubles.

Should Djokovic win a sixth Wimbledon title, and should he follow that with major number 21 at the US Open, there will be little objective reason not to crown him the greatest men's player ever to play the sport. He knows that.

Perhaps Federer does, too. The lingering regret of losing three finals here to Djokovic, the lure of lifting this trophy for a ninth time, the prospect of halting the Serbian's conquest of the game –perhaps that will inspire the Swiss to what would surely be the greatest triumph of his career. Perhaps, just once more, everything will click.

When two whipsmart kids from Compton first walked through the gates of the All England Club, the history of tennis was ripe for a radical makeover.

With beads in their hair and an air of mystery tailgating them onto the tour, this pair of teenage prodigies soon had the world at their feet.

Now, Serena Williams and Venus Williams are as much a part of Wimbledon tradition as strawberries and cream, and the championships without them is almost unthinkable.

Stacking up a combined 12 singles titles from Wimbledon, and a string of staggering records, this great sporting double act has defined the past quarter of a century in the women's game.

Venus is now 41 years old, and kid sister Serena turns 40 in September. Both will be going flat out for more success at Wimbledon and over the course of the rest of the year. They have been relentless and supremely driven in the pursuit of greatness.

But it feels legitimate now to be talking about how the WTA Tour and the grand slams will look without the Williamses, because as much as they have together pushed the boundaries of achievement in tennis, neither can defy the march of time.

Or at least they cannot keep pushing back against that march, since both have done a truly spectacular job so far.

"Venus and Serena, they changed the game, they elevated the game, and that is the biggest thing that could happen to our sport," Johanna Konta, Britain's former Wimbledon semi-finalist, told Stats Perform.

"They changed the physical requirements, they pushed the whole level of the sport so high, which I think has really accelerated the depth of women's tennis that we're seeing today, and so I can't imagine the day coming when they're not playing.

"I'm sure it will come at some point, but I'm not too sure when that day will be."

 


AGE NO BARRIER?

Serena has a place in the record books as the oldest women's world number one, having last occupied that position in May 2017 at the age of 35 years and 230 days. Next on that list sit Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, both a relatively fledgling 30 when they were last in the top spot.

She is also the second oldest player to hold a top-10 WTA ranking. On Monday, as the championships begin, Serena, currently the world number eight, will be 39 years and 275 days old. Only Billie Jean King (39 years 322 days in October 1983) has held such a lofty place among the sport's elite later in life.

Navratilova comes next, with Venus just a short step behind in fourth place, having last been in the top 10 in July 2018, aged 38 and 29 days.

If Serena wins the women's singles title at Wimbledon this year – and several British bookmakers see her as favourite – it will make her the oldest player in the Open Era to win a title on the women's tour.

King won at Birmingham in 1983 at 39 years and 203 days, and Williams sits fourth on that particular list of the oldest champions for now, having captured the 2020 Auckland title at 38 years and 108 days.

The oldest Wimbledon women's singles champion remains Charlotte Cooper Sterry, triumphant for Britain in 1908 at 37 years and 282 days.

An injection of power and physicality, alongside a whole lot of finesse, has seen the Williamses bring a new dimension to tennis. It is far removed from the game Sterry might have played.


SERVING UP SCUDS

In 2010, only one player on the WTA Tour served more than 300 aces, yet by 2019, the most recent uninterrupted season, that had risen to seven players.

Advances in technology are a factor here, but so too is the scenario whereby a young girl watches Serena and Venus whizzing serves by opponents' ears around the turn of the century and wants to learn how that is done.

Serving need not just be the moment where a point begins, it can be the shot that ends the point too.

Venus owns the record for the fastest serve ever recorded by a woman at Wimbledon – sending down a 129 miles per hour scud on her way to victory in the 2008 final. The player on the receiving end of such vicious hitting that day? Serena.

"I'm glad she did it, because next time I know what to expect," was Serena's punchy post-match response.

From 2008, when the WTA first began to collect such statistics, through to 2016, Serena topped the charts every season when it came to the highest percentage of service games won.

She has also led the way in percentages of first-serve points won in eight of the last 13 seasons.

On July 5, 2012, Serena fired 24 aces past Victoria Azarenka in their Wimbledon semi-final and paired that women's singles record with another – her 102 aces across seven matches also setting an all-time tournament high.

Serena has a 98-12 win-loss career record in singles at Wimbledon, with Venus not far behind on 89-17. Where Venus has won five or her seven slam titles on the grass in London, Serena has accrued seven of her 23 majors at the championships.

Only nine-time champion Navratilova (120) has won more women's singles matches at Wimbledon than Serena. Roger Federer (101) leads the way among the men.

 


SHOWING SERENA THE WAY IN SAN JOSE

Konta handed Serena the heaviest defeat of her career in 2018, inflicting a 6-1 6-0 thrashing in San Jose.

The British player, however, is fully appreciative of Serena's standing in the game, the American's status as an all-time sports great. For Williams to leave the tour would leave a huge hole.

"I don't know anything else. I think that's a very lucky and privileged thing to say as an athlete, to be playing at the same time as one of our greatest ever," said Konta, a Jaguar ambassador.

"Equally, the men can say that with the likes of Roger, Rafa and Djokovic around, it's just a really exciting time to be part of the world of tennis.

"You constantly see players retiring as the years go by; it's a normal process. We had Maria [Sharapova] and Caroline [Wozniacki] retire at the beginning of last year. I think the way they timed their retirement was absolutely incredible.

"It's a normal course to happen, so from a player's perspective there'll be the initial thought of 'Oh my goodness, she's retiring', but the game keeps going and players keep playing.

"More than anything, not having Serena around anymore it will maybe be more noticeable in the fans, in the fandom, in the outside part of the sport, because she is such a big figurehead of our sport and rightly so."

Serena has reached the Wimbledon final on seven of her last 10 appearances in SW19, collecting five titles in that time. The final defeats during that span came in the last two years that Wimbledon has been held, however, with defeats to Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep sure to leave some scars.

 


THE KAFELNIKOV INFLUENCE

In recent years, Serena has invited the likes of showbiz A-listers Jay-Z, Beyonce and Drake to sit in her player's box at courtside, while she is a close friend of Meghan Markle and was a royal wedding guest.

She and Venus were once unknown quantities, but now both transcend their sport.

By the age of 16, Serena had it all mapped out, and her Wimbledon success can be attributed in a very small way to an unexpected Russian influence.

"I have decided when I go on the grass, I am going to serve and volley. There is one man player who plays great on the clay, and then on the grass he actually serves and volleys," Williams told a news conference at the 1998 Lipton Championships in Florida, weeks before her Wimbledon debut. "And I said, Serena, I have to do the same thing."

Who was this mystery man? All-court greats had been in short supply. Agassi?

"Yevgeny Kafelnikov, he plays great on the clay. He actually won the French Open," Williams said at the time. "He actually serve and volleys on the grass. I said, I have to do this too. If he can do it, I believe I can do it. That really helps me."

Former world number one Kafelnikov never went beyond the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, but his surprising influence lives on.

Serena is one short of Margaret Court's all-time record of grand slam titles and dearly wants to at least match that haul but ideally reach 25. The Wimbledon title looks out of reach for Venus, who has fallen out of the world's top 100, but for Serena it is a realistic target.

The elite field is thinning, with Naomi Osaka and defending champion Halep among the withdrawals, and there are question marks over the form and fitness of many other big names in the draw.

The eighth Wimbledon and 24th singles slam feels eminently achievable, and what a moment for the ages that would be.

 


GOING ON THE KONTA ATTACK

Konta was only denied a place in the 2017 Wimbledon final by a valiant Venus, the 37-year-old American experiencing a late-career resurgence during what proved a stellar year for her.

It nevertheless gave the Australian-born Briton a real taste, with a win over Halep en route to the semi-finals showing she has the game to take on the best on grass.

Another grand slam semi-final followed in 2019, this time on clay at the French Open, and quarter-final runs at Wimbledon and the US Open confirmed Konta was the real deal. She previously reached the 2016 Australian Open final four.

It has been tough going since then though, Konta going out in the first round at four of the last five grand slams. Injuries have got in the way, and the joy she felt at winning a title in Nottingham in June 2021 was tempered slightly by a slight knee problem.

That success on English grass was a first tour title for Konta since the 2017 Miami Open, and life for her is good in many respects. On May 17, her 30th birthday, she and boyfriend Jackson Wade became engaged, or as she puts it, they killed "two birds with one stone when it came to milestones on that day".

Assuming the knee holds up, success in Nottingham could pave the way for another fruitful Konta campaign at Wimbledon. Last year's tournament being cancelled due to the pandemic was a blow to everyone but particularly felt by the British players.

"I was really pleased with having won a title, the first title I've won in a few years," Konta said. "It's a very nice accomplishment and something I definitely don't take for granted, because coming by titles is very difficult.

"Obviously, I'm just trying to do the best I can in managing my body. After the quick change onto the grass I just need to take care of the different little niggles that I have and the ongoing things and anything new that arises, but I'm definitely looking forward to Wimbledon.

"I think it's just the fact that we have Wimbledon again this year. Wimbledon's such a big part of our sporting calendar here and our sporting summer.

"For the nation and for international tennis fans, I think it's just really brilliant. The fact we are going to have crowds, that will be almost a new experience having not played in front of big crowds for a long time."

Could Konta even win Wimbledon, becoming Britain's first women's singles champion since Virginia Wade in 1977?

"I definitely feel I have every chance to look to win seven consecutive matches," Konta said. "It's a hard ask and it's difficult to do, but I feel like I have every opportunity, every chance to give it a go and I'm looking forward to trying."

:: Johanna Konta is a Jaguar ambassador. Jaguar is the Official Car of The Championships, Wimbledon. To discover Jaguar’s unmatched experiences visit jaguar.co.uk/Wimbledon

Roger Federer will not make a final decision on whether he will play at the Olympic Games in Tokyo until after Wimbledon.

An Olympic gold medal is the one major honour to have eluded Federer during his decorated singles career.

The 20-time grand slam champion won gold in doubles alongside Stan Wawrinka in 2008 but was beaten by Andy Murray in the singles final in 2012 and pulled out of the tournament in 2016 to recover from a knee injury.

Rafael Nadal will not feature in Tokyo, having decided to skip Wimbledon and the Olympics to help him recuperate after the clay-court season.

Federer has grown significantly more selective over his schedule in the latter stages of his career as he has sought to look after his body.

Asked about his participation at the delayed Games, which begin next month, Federer told a media conference: "It's still my intention to go to the Olympic Games.

"But we will reassess everything after Wimbledon. It is my goal to play as much tournaments as possible. But it really depends on results and how the body is feeling.

"I wish I could tell you more. At the moment things are not as simple as in the past. With age, we have to be more selective, I can't play it all."

Federer starts his campaign for a ninth Wimbledon title when he faces Adrian Mannarino on Tuesday.

The Swiss has won all six of his meetings with Mannarino, including matches at Wimbledon in 2011 and 2018.

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