Twenty-six years after Venus Williams made her Wimbledon debut, the five-times champion will be back on Centre Court once again on Monday and the 43-year-old American said she could even play until she is 50.
“It’s never been done before so if there is anyone who could do it, it would be me,” Williams told reporters ahead of her showdown with fellow wildcard Elina Svitolina.
Her sister Serena bowed out of the sport at the U.S. Open last year as the greatest female player of the Open era with 23 Grand Slam titles.
Venus, however, has soldiered on through injuries despite falling out of the top 1,000 in the rankings at one stage last year, but she has no plans of following her younger sister into retirement any time soon.
Following an appearance in Auckland in January, she took time off for six months to recover from a hamstring injury and has played only three matches on grass, arriving at the All England Club with a rank of 554.
“(The injury was) a nightmare and a terribly difficult rehab. I haven’t played a lot of matches in the last few years and not by choice,” Williams said.
“So I wanted to be (playing) and I couldn’t. I put my head down and put even more work in and got myself in a much better position.”
Of those three matches, her only win came against Camila Giorgi — a former Wimbledon quarter-finalist — in Birmingham.
But Williams will take heart in coming out on top despite knee problems after a gruelling battle that lasted over three hours.
Williams has not won a singles title on the WTA Tour since 2016 and when asked what keeps her going, she said with a smile: “Well, there’s really great insurance benefits on the tour!”
NO PRESSURE ON SWIATEK
World number one and French Open champion Iga Swiatek also plays on the first day of the championships when she takes on China’s Zhu Lin in the first round.
The Pole said she is better prepared for the grasscourt swing this year after buckling under the pressure of the number one ranking in 2022 in a third-round exit.
“Last year I felt a lot of pressure here because I was number one,” she said.
“I feel like this time… I could just focus on practicing, actually learning a lot. So hopefully I’m going to be able to use that in my matches.”
Fans will also see the return of one of their favourites in last year’s runner-up Nick Kyrgios as the mercurial Australian returns from a knee surgery with just one match under his belt in 2023 ahead of his match against David Goffin.
Four Americans will be in action against each other with Sofia Kenin taking on seventh seed Coco Gauff while fourth seed Jessica Pegula faces Lauren Davis.