The pursuit of No 24 has been a long one. It’s over four years since Serena Williams last won a Grand Slam title, marking the longest spell in her career without a major win. She’s lost in four finals since winning the 2017 Australian Open and made two other semi-finals. Time seems to be running out; it has seemed that way for a while. But Wimbledon offers another chance for Williams to finally equal Margaret Court’s Grand Slam record.
It's perhaps the best chance in a while. Why? Because of Williams' Wimbledon pedigree and experience, and because of the field.
At the French Open it would have been a surprise if Williams had won. She had only won one clay match before the tournament and there were other far stronger players on the surface in the draw. Expectations were raised as seeds fell and Williams was left as the only top-20 player remaining on her side of the draw, but her lack of clay-court matches this season was always likely to hold her back. Williams even admitted after her fourth-round loss to Elena Rybakina that she had done what she had hoped for and more in Paris.
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“I'm in a much better place than when I got here. You know, just literally trying to win a match, because it had been a really difficult season for me on the clay. And although I love the clay, I was like, if I could just win a match. That's kind of where I was kind of coming in.”
At Wimbledon the expectations will be vastly different.
Williams has won Wimbledon seven times – her joint-most successful Slam along with the Australian Open – and reached the final the last two years the tournament was played. She will be one of the favourites, especially against a field with plenty of question marks.
World No 1 Ashleigh Barty is hoping to be fit for Wimbledon after suffering a hip injury that forced her out of the French Open. Naomi Osaka will not travel to London as she takes a break ahead of the Olympics. Simona Halep is the defending champion, having beaten Williams so impressively in the 2019 final, but she is recovering from a calf problem that has seen her miss the last month and pull out of the grass warm-up event in Bad Homburg this week.
The rest of the top 10, excluding Williams, have only one appearance beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon between them. There are other potential strong challengers, such as former champions Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber, but right now it appears an open draw.
Eurosport pundit Chris Evert said Williams looked in “great shape” at the French Open and expects her to make a strong run at Wimbledon.
“On the grass, if Serena is fit and that serve is working then that’s half of the match right there. I think she has confidence on the grass she could do well. She has that experience and flexibility.”
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Williams has proved on her last two visits to Wimbledon that she still has the game for grass. In 2018 she only dropped one set on her way to the final and in 2019 she only dropped two. If she does power through the draw again she just needs to get over the final hurdle this time.
One factor that could favour Williams is the shortened grass season. The 39-year-old has rarely played grass warm-up events ahead of Wimbledon and will not be doing so this year. So while the loss of a week between the French Open and Wimbledon is unlikely to be an issue for the experienced Williams, it could be frustrating for players hoping for more time to get accustomed to the grass.
"There's an advantage this year more than ever for her because she's played so much on grass during her career,” former world No 3 Pam Shriver told ESPN.
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“While the younger players are really going to be lacking the experience."
Shriver also thinks this could be Williams’ final opportunity to win her 24th Grand Slam title.
“I hope she's not looking at it like this, but I think this is her last chance. There are too many great players on hardcourts now for her to win there. But at Wimbledon, on the grass surface, where she's so comfortable and so many won't be, it really plays into Serena's hands."
Will Williams finally end the wait for No 24? And if she does, what comes next?
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