On Monday, July 11, for the first time since 1997, Serena Williams and Roger Federer will both be unranked in the WTA and ATP rankings.
This was slated to happen long before Williams’ early exit at Wimbledon — because of the decision not to award ranking points at the tournament. But it doesn’t make it any less jarring. Are we witnessing the end of an era? Or are these two greats gearing up for a monumental return?
We asked our panel of experts.What stood out to you from Serena Williams’ appearances at Wimbledon and Eastbourne? What do you think it means for her future? Pam Shriver: What stood out in her three comeback matches was her passion and love for competing. Obviously rusty and not in peak fitness from 12 months off at 40 years of age, the one constant for Williams is her willingness to fight for every point — singles, doubles, mixed or tiddlywinks.
Williams looked like she did not have enough time to prepare properly for Wimbledon, but maybe the taste of the crowd’s enthusiasm for her comeback will fuel her to gain improved fitness leading into the US Open. It’s hard to imagine Williams will play past the US Open of 2022.
Luke Jensen: My evaluation was a player without a match experience over the last year. The elements are present, but nothing can replace pressure situations on the match court. Billie Jean King stresses “Champions adjust.” I believe Serena will play more events in singles leading into a New York City campaign.Brad Gilbert: Williams needs more matches and tournaments this summer if she wants to be in better position for the US Open. It will be difficult to play very little and be at the mercy of the draw, ranked low, to make deep runs, I think.
I know to never underestimate her greatness and ability to get way better quickly, though. Rennae Stubbs: I think it was fantastic to see her back on court, entertaining everyone and letting everyone know how much she still loves this sport and competes to win. I think that her performance at Wimbledon was not surprising as it’s been a year since she’s played a match, but I suspect we will see her play through the US Open and hopefully with some success.
Alexandra Stevenson: Like Muhammad Ali, Williams is the greatest. After the match, she said this was the best she did for that day. She was not prepared to play a three-hour grass match. Harmony Tan’s forehand slice dismantled Serena’s grass game — a game that had always brought her the “greatest” moniker. Williams will be back. She will train and be ready for the US Open.
Anything can happen in women’s tennis — Williams can win another Grand Slam event. She needs to adjust her approach to preparing for a Grand Slam. Everyone wants to beat her, especially at this point in her career. She needs to come in mentally strong and in “fighting” shape. D’Arcy Maine: There were so many things that impressed me about the state of her game, especially considering her lengthy time off and limited practice schedule. She still is Serena Williams [insert GOAT noise here],
and I have no doubt she could rediscover even more of her previous level if she wanted to commit to regular practice and competition. But, with all that said, I can’t stop thinking about her quote after her semifinal exit at the Australian Open in 2021:
“If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone.” Even though she hinted she might play at the US Open after her loss on Tuesday, I can’t shake the suspicion we really might not see her play again and this was her unofficial goodbye. Tom Hamilton: There’s still those moments of brilliance there with Williams.
Those trademark volleys where she attacks the ball and spins it off for a winner bang in the corner are still there; it’s just those little instinctive shots which are slipping wide rather than in. That was the difference against Tan on Tuesday. She needs match time to fine-tune her all-court offering as her Wimbledon venture only came off the back of two doubles matches. She’s not back to her dominant best, but if she has laid out a plan with her team to go back on tour for the next couple of years,
then expect to see that consistency return — and who are we to write her off? Simon Cambers: At Eastbourne I was impressed with Williams’ ballstriking. But it was only doubles and only half the court to cover. In singles at Wimbledon, she competed well and, with more practice and training, would surely have won. She’s a long way from her best, that’s for sure, but there were hints in what she said that she wants to play on. I’d be surprised if she wants that to be her last performance at Wimbledon and expect to see her at the US Open. But there’s a lot of work to be done for her to be competitive. Aishwarya Kumar:
Two things stood out to me. First, her incredible ability to dominate points with her forehand. Even though she lost to Tan, you could see the sparks of her best game at various points in the match. Her lethal forehand, followed by the fist pump. It was incredible to fathom, considering she has been off-court for a year before. Second, she is having so much fun on the court! Both at Eastbourne and Wimbledon, she looked so happy to be back. After her doubles partner, Ons Jabeur, finished a long rally with a beautiful drop shot, Williams laughed and placed her hand on her mouth, in shock and awe at her partner.
She joked around during interviews (when Jabeur asked her if she’d play doubles with her at this year’s US Open, Williams smiled and said, “Sign me up.”) All of this is indication that she still enjoys the sport and wants to keep it in her life, in some form or shape. I will be surprised if she doesn’t find her way to Flushing Meadows come Aug.
29. Bill Connelly: She definitely didn’t look like someone ready to retire. She was absolutely enjoying herself at Eastbourne, and she spent a solid percentage of her match against Tan looking like Serena Williams. It’s tricky to get a read on what she might be capable of moving forward, though. When you officially pass the point of no return from an age perspective, it’s your footwork that starts to go first — not on every shot, of course, but more and more frequently. At the same time, when you’re incredibly rusty, as she clearly was, the footwork is the last thing to return
. Rust was definitely a factor, especially in the moments when you could tell she wasn’t sure what she could and couldn’t get away with and played things safe. But we won’t know how much of a factor it was until she plays a few more times.