Great news this week from the Williams camp, as both Serena and Venus have announced that they will participate in next week's Wimbledon warm-up at Eastbourne. The grass court event is slated to feature 13 of the world's top 20 players, so we'll quickly get an idea of what kind of shape the sisters are in by early next week, after they've taken the court against some of the best players on the Tour.
Until then all we can really do is speculate. Serena has missed nearly a full year since she stepped on glass in a nightclub in Germany and suffered a foot injury that would require two surgeries and eventually lead to the formation of a blood clot in her lungs and a hematoma that would have to be surgically removed from her stomach.
As much as we are tempted to use Serena's return to glory in 2007 as a blueprint for what to expect in 2011, we are talking about two very different animals here. Serena's other career resuscitation came after a dark period that saw her suffer from knee problems, personal problems, and reportedly, depression. On the other hand, Serena's current comeback is a far more dicier proposition. Serena is approaching 30 now -- not 26, as she was in '07 -- and her recent spate of injuries go way beyond the aggravating yet ultimately conquerable knee and ankle injuries that she suffered in 2006.
Still, if anybody can will themselves back to form, it would be Serena, and the events of 2007, while different, should give her confidence to do so (a pair of big colorful hoop earrings like the ones she wore in the final that year might also help).
Serena only played four events in 2006, and didn't win a single title or get beyond the fourth round of a Slam. Doubts surfaced about Serena's future then, but when she became only the second unseeded woman to win the Australian Open by blasting Maria Sharapova in the final, the Serena-can-do-anything era had officially launched.
In the ensuing years, tennis fans have come to know Serena as one of the most mentally tough players -- man or woman -- in the sport.
Miss Williams will take that reputation with her to the south coast of England next week, and she'll undoubtedly gain strength from her sister Venus, who will be making a similar comeback at the same event. Venus, who hasn't played a lick since bowing out of Australia with a hip injury, will once again return to the surface of her greatest successes, in search of her muse on the finely manicured lawns of Wimbledon.
With Wimbledon fast approaching, the women's draw will be bolstered greatly by the sister's return. Only once since the millennium has begun has a Wimbledon final been played without at least one Williams sister participating (2006).
Betting odds are already naming Serena as a favorite to win, and Venus has better odds to win than French Open Champion Na Li on some boards. But should we really expect a Williams sister to be claiming the dish at the end of the Wimbledon fortnight? Sure, they've dominated the event for a decade now, but the circumstances of this year are a lot to overcome.
To think that Serena can return to championship form after a year spent in and out of hospitals, in and out of walking boots, and under a doctor's knife, might even be too big of an ask, even for a woman with an appetite for destruction as prodigious as Serena's. Venus too, will be up against it.
Yet, it is precisely the improbable nature of what the sisters are attempting to achieve that will make the Wimbledon viewing all the more compelling. With each passing round that the Williams sisters win (assuming they win any), the buzz on the grounds will grow. This won't be a ho-hum procession, nor will their advancement in the draw be a given, like it has in year's past.
We know the Williams sisters are capable of almost anything. They've proven that again and again throughout their career. But are they capable of this, the ultimate coup?