Serena looks to move past ’21 Wimbledon exit

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LONDON — Serena Williams said she was motivated to play this year’s Wimbledon to ensure her final memories of the championship were not retiring injured as she was forced to do in last year’s first round.

Williams, 40, has not played a competitive singles match since last year’s first-round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich. There she suffered a torn hamstring after slipping on Centre Court during the first set and had to withdraw injured.

She originally hoped to return in time for the US Open but ended up having a prolonged spell away from the sport. But on June 14 she announced she’d play at this year’s Wimbledon and made her comeback to competitive tennis last week when she played doubles with Ons Jabeur in Eastbourne.

Williams opens her Wimbledon championship against Harmony Tan and said a large motivating factor for her competing here was to form fresh memories of the place after suffering the heartbreak of retiring last year.

“Yeah, it was a lot of motivation, to be honest,” Williams said. “It was always something since the match ended that was always on my mind. So it was a tremendous amount of motivation for that.

“You never want any match to end like that. It’s really unfortunate.”

She added: “I felt like last year was tough. I felt like I was injured for most of the year. Then I ripped my hamstring. That was tough. I don’t think anyone ever wants to do that. So in general the whole experience was rough.

“Then from there I still tried to make New York. I gave everything I could, just every day getting ready or trying to make it. But then it’s just like, I’m not going to make it. Hung up my racquets for a little bit until I could just heal.”

Despite her lengthy absence, Williams would not be drawn on her outlining her specific expectations for this year’s Wimbledon. When asked what she hoped to achieve here, she answered: “I don’t know. I have high goals, but also — I don’t know. We’ll see. I’m not going to answer that.”

The seven-time Wimbledon singles champion is aiming to secure Grand Slam singles title No. 24 at this year’s championship, but despite her year away, she always hoped of returning for another shot at glory. She made the decision to compete before the French Open, but kept it quiet until that Instagram post.

“I didn’t retire,” Williams said. “I just needed to heal physically, mentally. And, yeah, 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.”

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