Hopes of a fairytale end to two of the greatest careers in tennis dwindled this week as Serena Williams and Roger Federer were both excluded from this year’s Wimbledon entry list. There remains the possibility that either or both might be awarded a wild card, but it seems increasingly probable that their era is now drifting off into history.
One short of Court
For Serena Williams in particular, there’s a special reason she’d love to try for one more grand slam. With 23 titles to her name, she is still one behind Margaret Court. At 40 years old and having not played in more than a year or won a major in five, logic says Court’s record is safe. But if anyone can achieve the impossible, it is Serena Williams and if she can do it anywhere, it would be at Wimbledon. Even now, online tennis betting odds have her at just 18/1 to breeze in as a wild card and lift the trophy. Surely no sport has ever seen such short odds on someone who has not even been officially offered a wildcard spot as yet.
Undoubtedly the factor that is keeping the bookmakers so apparently sanguine has nothing to do with form or even expectation. It is purely in reaction to the fact that Serena’s legions of fans keep backing her to achieve the impossible, something she has done time and again in her illustrious career. After all, this is the woman who won her 23rd Major in straight sets when she was two months pregnant.
That, however, was five years ago. Serena made her debut in 1995, six years before the current favourite for Wimbledon 2022, Iga Swiatek, was even born. In a sport where careers are usually fleeting, Serena Williams has shown incredible longevity. To ask more would, perhaps, be stretching the boundaries of sporting fairytales a little too far.
Federer acknowledges the end is near
Over in the men’s locker rooms, there’s another 40 year old who last played competitive tennis at Wimbledon 2021. The tournament is as special for Roger Federer as it is for Serena Williams. He has, after all, won the title eight times and he’s so attached to the place he practically played on one leg last year and still made it to the quarter finals.
Federer has acknowledged that he will have to call time on his illustrious career sooner rather than later and is a definite absentee at this year’s Wimbledon. But according to his agent, Tony Godsick, he still harbours hopes of gracing Centre Court one last time in 2023. He’ll be close to 42 by then, and it will surely be a swan song, but Godsick told the London Evening Standard the Swiss great has a plan in place, with a return to competitive action tentatively scheduled for the Laver Cup in September. It will be the first step towards an endgame of one last hurrah in SW19 10 months later.
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