London | Williams on her return to Wimbledon

Serena Williams is reassured her game is “clicking” for her 25th consecutive Wimbledon campaign.

The seven-time champion – 41 in September – had let it rust since sustaining a hamstring strain in the opening round of last year’s event against world No.100 Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

There was talk that one of the great careers in sports was over. That the distractions of being a mother to daughter Olympia, raising $111m for her early-stage venture capital firm Serena Ventures, splitting with long-term coach Patrick Mouratoglou and producing the film based on her dad, King Richard , would be nails in its coffin.

But the invitation of a wild card into the world’s most famous tennis tournament proved irresistible for the American superstar.

And she shook some of that rust off by returning to competition at the Rothesay International at Devonshire Park in Eastbourne in the week leading up to the Famous Fortnight; pairing up with world No.3 Ons Jabeur in the doubles.

Her first match in 51 weeks was indicative of that as she and her Tunisian partner overcame Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Williams said: “It definitely felt reassuring, like, okay, it’s clicking in practice and now it seems like it’s clicking. It’s doubles but it still meant a lot. It definitely felt good. Obviously winning and getting more balls and playing a little bit more made us feel a lot better. It was fun. It’s been a while, but it was good to kind of feel the court, especially with Ons, so it was good. It worked out.

“I’ve been training regularly. Gave myself a timeline of a year. So I gave myself enough time to be here and to be playing.”

She was asked: “How much was training a part of your life over the last 12 months? Was there a time when you weren’t training?

Serena said: “Yeah. I did a lot of not training in the beginning, obviously. I just went — after I couldn’t play New York (the US Open last autumn) — cold turkey of not working out and it felt good. But I always tried to stay semi-fit because you never know when you’re going to enter Wimbledon.”

The clock is, of course, ticking on the countdown to the end of her glittering career.

But the competitive fire still burns and the love affair with tennis remains as strong as ever.

Williams needs one more to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles title.

But SW is not getting ahead of herself as she prepares for SW19.

She said: “Wimbledon is so different, you know? Again, it’s really just about taking (it) a day at a time and a match at a time and just going for those whenever you can, at best.”

It could be Serena’s final appearance at Wimbledon. She has not committed to carrying on beyond this year:

She said: “I don’t know, I can’t answer that. I love tennis and I love playing, or else I wouldn’t be out here, right? But I also love what I do off the court, what I’ve built with Serena Ventures, it’s interesting. So, it’s a lot. I really took my time with my hamstring injury so I’m just not making a ton of decisions after this.”

Serena revealed how retirement thoughts had crossed her mind during her break from the game since her last visit to the All England Club.

She was asked: “Serena, during the past year was there ever a moment when you thought, I can’t play tennis again, the body’s just not going to let me, was there ever a doubt or moment?”

And she replied: “Absolutely, for sure, I would be dishonest if I said it wasn’t. But now my body feels great. I’ve been doing a lot of training and so it definitely feels good.”



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