Serena Williams has been given a seeding of 25 for Wimbledon. The seven-times champion has been out of the game for a while after the birth of her daughter, during which time her official ranking had slipped outside the top 100. However, she made an impressive comeback at French Open, reaching the fourth round before an untimely pectoral injury forced her to withdraw on the eve of taking on long-time rival Maria Sharapova.
Up to that point Serena had looked surprisingly good, moving well and hitting off both flanks with her customary brutality. Clearly on grass, with its lower bounce and shorter points, Serena’s monster serves and coruscating power are likely to be an even bigger threat, and that must one of the factors that the Wimbledon seeding committee took into account.
The All England Club has always reserved the right to adjust the seeding and not strictly follow the rankings. They justify this on the basis that grass is such a different surface from any other that they are obliged to take both grasscourt form and past performance into account. Indeed, they have also tinkered with the men’s seedings, elevating Marin Cilic (last year’s runner-up and recent Queen’s champion) into third position from his ranking of fifth, and promoting three-time champion Novak Djokovic into the top 16 from his ranking position just outside that elite group.
Presumably they also took the view that it would be better for all concerned if Serena didn’t face one of the leading ladies in the first couple of rounds. Certainly top seeds Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki, who have both won their first grand-slam titles this year, will no doubt be relieved not to find Serena on the other side of the net in the first couple of days.
Positioning Serena at 25 seems a strange decision, though. Does anybody really feel that there are 24 players more likely to claim the Wimbledon crown than her? Surely she should at least be inside the top 16, arguably the top eight.
If she is able to compete physically – and there must be a degree of doubt about her ability to last the two weeks – it’s hard to believe that Serena won’t be in contention. At the French Open she beat Ashleigh Barty and Julia Goerges, who will line up as 17th and 13th seeds next week. Fine players both, but are they more likely winners of the Venus Rosewater Dish? It’s hard to think so.
There have been very few dissenting voices raised against the promotion of Serena. Dominika Cibulkova, who has lost her 32nd seeding as a result, was understandably a little miffed, but Australian Open champion Wozniacki, a long-time friend, said: “Serena deserves to be seeded and it’s great that she is.” Britain’s Heather Watson, who three years ago was within two points of defeating Serena, declared that the American was “an exception”.
Serena Williams has always been exceptional, and 25th seed or not, don’t bet against her lifting the Wimbledon trophy at the end of the fortnight.