LONDON – Serena Williams says she got choked up when she brought her baby daughter to Centre Court.
She appreciates the All England Club’s decision to seed her as she prepares to return to action at Wimbledon on Monday for the first time as a mother.
She wants other women to know that breastfeeding does not make one lose weight.
She thinks it’s unfair she gets drug-tested more than other players.
She went weeks without practicing her serve because of an injury.
She even referred to herself in the third person.
In other words, Williams was in the mood to gab Sunday at a pre-tournament news conference postponed a day so she could accompany her recently married royal friend, the former Meghan Markle, to watch Prince Harry play polo.
No one knows exactly what to expect on the court from Williams, the 36-year-old American who owns seven Wimbledon titles and 23 Grand Slam singles championships overall but has played a total of seven matches in the last 17 months. Monday’s contest on Court 1 against Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands will be Williams’ first since pulling out of the French Open with a hurt chest muscle before a fourth-round showdown with Maria Sharapova.
One thing’s clear, Williams said: She will be as hungry to win as ever in the fourth tournament of her comeback.
“I don’t think I ever actually lost that competitive side. In fact, I feel like it’s stronger, because I’ve been through so much,” she said.
“It definitely surprises me a little, because I thought it would be different. I thought: `Hey, I have this amazing child. I have all these Grand Slams. This is all super-bonus.’ And it is. I definitely feel a lot less pressure out there,” Williams continued. “But I am a little bit shocked at how much I almost want that pressure. I almost want to feel the need to go out there and be the best that I can be. It’s weird, you know. I think it just speaks to who I am as an athlete and who Serena is.”
The Day 1 schedule also includes the opening of Roger Federer’s bid for a record-extending ninth title at the grass-court major, as well as other past Grand Slam champions such as Williams’ older sister Venus, Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens, Victoria Azarenka, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic.
Sunday brought the withdrawal of two-time Wimbledon titlist Andy Murray, who had hip surgery in January. Murray always is a focus, with so many expectations from the locals; the Brit gave them their first male champion in 77 years in 2013.
Williams figures to garner plenty of attention however long she remains in the field after sitting out Wimbledon last year while pregnant.
Consider Federer among those pleased to see her back on tour.
“I’m happy she chose to take that route and not walk away from the game, which would have been totally fine. Why not? After everything she’s done, it would have been the perfect excuse and exit to say, `I’ve had it,” said Federer, the father of two sets of twins. “I’m very excited to see her attempting an amazing comeback, this time with a baby. It’s a different life. Massive challenge for her, but I’m sure one she’s up for.”
Williams has won her past 14 matches at Wimbledon, with consecutive titles in 2015 and 2016, in addition to those she collected in 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010 and 2012. That success rate surely was a consideration when the All England Club opted to elevate her from a ranking of 183rd to a seeding of 25th.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Williams said. “I came in here expecting that maybe I wouldn’t get a seed. I do know Wimbledon tends to kind of beat to their own drum. That’s kind of one thing that’s been able to set them apart. It was a little bit in the back of my mind, that I would have a chance.”
She’s also got a 10-match Grand Slam winning streak going: seven in a row while taking the trophy at the Australian Open in January 2017, then three more at the French Open before her withdrawal in early June.
“I was really down about that, to be honest. I was really, really, really down,” Williams said about the injury. “I didn’t serve, actually, `til I got here, to be honest. Still, I’m debating if I should go 120 (mph) or whatever. I haven’t yet. But it’s been good. You know, I often find the less I serve, the better I serve, which is totally weird.”
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