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Serena Williams joked she has put her ‘out of office’ on as she takes a break from her hectic off-court life to tread the lawns of Wimbledon once again.
Suspicions had been growing that the 23-time grand slam singles champion had effectively retired having not been seen on a tennis court since withdrawing in tears during her first-round match at the All England Club 12 months ago with a hamstring injury.
Williams’ prolific Instagram account has instead been full of her business ventures and showbiz lifestyle, with promotion of ‘King Richard’, the Oscar-winning film about her childhood, as well as her role as mother to four-year-old Olympia.
“A part of me feels like that is a little bit more of my life now than tournaments,” she said.
“When you do have a venture company, you do have to go all-in. It definitely takes literally all my extra time. And it’s fun. I’m currently out of office for the next few weeks so, if you email me, you’ll get the nice ‘out of office’ reply.
“Everyone knows that I’ll be back in a few weeks. But it’s good. I absolutely love what I do. I love investing in companies.
“And then the Oscars was really fun, just the whole tour of that whole moment was incredible to be a part of such an amazing movie. It was something that you don’t think about. At best you think of winning grand slams, not being nominated for an Oscar for a film that you produce.”
Williams revealed her decision to play at Wimbledon was made before the French Open, with her first matches of the year coming in doubles in Eastbourne earlier this week with Ons Jabeur.
Of her break from the sport, she said: “I didn’t retire. I just needed to heal physically, mentally. 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.”
Williams has made no secret of her desire to add to her grand slam haul, which would see her finally draw level with Margaret Court at the top of the all-time standings.
She has made four grand slam finals since returning from maternity leave, including two at Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019, but has not won a set.
Williams would surely not have made the trip across the Atlantic unless she thought she had a chance of lifting the trophy again and, asked what her goal for the tournament is, she said with a smile: “You know the answer to that. Come on now.”
Another motivation was to potentially write a different ending to her Wimbledon story after last year’s unfortunate exit.
“It was always something since the match ended that was always on my mind,” she said. “So it was a tremendous amount of motivation for that.”
As to whether this is her final Wimbledon appearance, the mercurial American added: “I don’t know. I can only tell you that I’m here. Who knows where I’ll pop up next. You’ve just got to be ready.”
Williams was one of the A-list players given the chance to hit on the main show courts ahead of the tournament in an effort to avoid the sort of incident that befell her last year.
She followed world number one Iga Swiatek onto Centre Court on Friday, and the Pole, who is bidding to continue a 35-match winning streak dating back to February, revealed she was too shy to say hello.
“When I saw her yesterday, I was pretty overwhelmed,” said the 21-year-old. “I felt like I am still kind of new. I didn’t know how to react perfectly. 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. I came back to myself a few years earlier when I was too shy to say hi to anybody for a second.”
Swiatek will play in the main draw for only the third time, with last year’s run to the fourth round her best performance so far.
She goes into the tournament as the hot favourite, but said: “Honestly, I still feel like I need to figure out grass. 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.
“I have so much successes this season that I don’t have to show everybody that I need to play well in every tournament because it’s tennis, we have ups and downs. So I try to play without expectations and just see what this tournament brings me.