Between injuries and pregnancy, Serena Williams returns under the microscope

She will undoubtedly be the attraction of this next Wimbledon. After a full year off the circuit, Serena Williams is once again making her comeback on the courts at 40 years and 8 months. The former world number 1 will participate in doubles at the WTA 500 tournament in Eastbourne (June 18 to 25) before returning to Wimbledon, where she was crowned seven times in singles (six in doubles), the following week.

In 2021, she left the London lawn in tears despite the cheers of the public on an abandonment in the first round. In question, a tear in the right hamstring which had also deprived her of the Us Open the same year and kept her away from the courts until today.

It is not the first time that the American has retired from competition, both for various injuries and for the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia Jr. Zoom on the four previous returns of the most successful player in Grand Slam of the Open era (23 singles titles).

March 2004

Why she had stopped. A left knee operation in August 2003 marks her first big setback, an eight-month break, when she has just won her second Wimbledon in a row. The American, at the top, completed that season what would become the “Serena Slam”, winning the four Grand Slam tournaments in a row, straddling the 2002-2003 season. (Roland-Garros 2002, Wimbledon 2002, US Open 2002 and Australian Open 2003). She was world number 1 in 2002 before dropping to third place the following year, due to her absence from the US Open and the Masters.

How was his return. On a flash. She won the Miami tournament which was then played in Key Biscayne for her return to competition in April 2004. But the rest will be much more complicated. In the recovery phase, it will seek success all season before winning in Beijing in September. The youngest of the Williams sisters ends her season with a defeat in the Masters final against Maria Sharapova. Double defending champion, she also made it to the Wimbledon final. She was awarded the comeback of the year award by the WTA.

At the start of the 2005 season, she returned to Grand Slam success with a new title in Melbourne. But the rest of his season remains dull: still diminished, it does not exceed the knockout stages in major. The American breaks out of the top 10 for the first time since entering it in 1999, following her first big win at Flushing Meadows.

July 2006

Why she had stopped. After her unsuccessful 2005 season, “Mommy Smash”‘s knee whistled again and the American fell in straight sets in the third round of the Australian Open against Slovak Daniela Hantuchová, then ranked 18th in the world. We won’t see her again until the Cincinnati tournament in July and she will be out for six months with chronic pain in her left knee. Forced to watch the tournaments in Antwerp, Dubai, Miami, Charleston, Roland-Garros and Wimbledon from her sofa, the champion plummets in the rankings and leaves the top 100 for the first time in nine years.

Serena Williams eliminated by Amélie Mauresmo at the US Open in 2006. (Pochat / L'Equipe)

Serena Williams eliminated by Amélie Mauresmo at the US Open in 2006. (Pochat / L’Equipe)

How was his return. She climbed into the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Open for her return where she came out against the future winner Vera Zvonareva (Russian). The signal sent is reassuring: she easily defeats the eleventh player in the world Anastasia Myskina, in the first round. She will be eliminated from the US Open in the round of 16 by the French Amélie Mauresmo. The American returns to the top 100, but has a white season, during which she only plays four tournaments.

It was the following season, in 2007, that the machine really got back on the road, his season was in no way disturbed. She slaps the number 1 seed Maria Sharapova in the final of the Australian Open (6-1, 6-2) in a short hour and three minutes of play. Her first major since 2005. Serena Williams will chain two full seasons with five Grand Slams and one Masters won.

June 2011

Why she had stopped. Serena Williams has had physical glitches since July 2010 and a foot injury caused by broken glass lying around in a restaurant. Forfeited for the start of the 2011 season after two operations almost in quick succession, the American was rushed to hospital at the beginning of March for a hematoma following treatment intended to cure a pulmonary embellishment.

How was his return. Without much success at first. In Eastbourne in mid-June, she lost in the second round against Vera Zvonareva, before losing in the round of 16 at Wimbledon against Marion Bartoli. Two setbacks that drop the American to 175th place.

Misadventures on “his” grass that will be quickly forgotten thanks to an American tour well above his expectations. Two titles at Stanford and Toronto, a final at the US Open, including victories over Caroline Wozniacki (then world No. 1) and Victoria Azarenka (No. 5): here is Serena back on the front of the stage. Endowed with formidable ground coverage but also with an ultra-aggressive service and forehand, as often, she will achieve the Wimbledon, Olympics, US Open and Masters quadruple the following season. Victoria Azarenka, beaten in each of these four tournaments, still remembers it.

Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2012. (Nicolas Luttiau/L'Equipe)

Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2012. (Nicolas Luttiau/L’Equipe)

February 2018

Why she had stopped. The American legend’s 2017 season proved to be as fast-paced as it was prolific. Nine small matches and a title at the Australian Open, during a historic edition where she beat her sister Venus in the final, while Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal found the heights in the men’s category, before putting away the rackets for more one year.

Although knee pain prevented her from playing in the Indian Wells and Miami tournaments, she definitively put an end to her season on April 19, when she announced, through her agent, that she was awaiting her first child, Olympia (to be born November 16).

How was his return. Despite a return to the Abu Dhabi exhibition at the end of 2017, she had to give up the defense of her title in Australia at the beginning of January, not being physically ready enough. After a timid return in February, Serena Williams is, for the first time in her career, forced to forfeit in the middle of the tournament, at Roland-Garros, for a pain in the right pectoral which prevents her from developing her full power at the service. Despite everything, the American managed to reach the final of the next two Majors, losing to Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon and Naomi Osaka in New York. If the second of these meetings turns into a fight, the ex-world number 1 receiving a penalty game for a succession of warnings, she ends the year in an honorable 16th place which earns her the prize for the come -back of the year.

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