LONDON • Serena Williams has thanked Wimbledon chiefs for giving her the controversial seeding that divided the tennis world ahead of the grass-court Grand Slam.
The seven-time Wimbledon champion's seeding has been a hot topic after her return to action following the birth of daughter Alexis Olympia in September.
The 36-year-old played her first Grand Slam for over a year at the French Open last month, reaching the fourth round before a shoulder injury forced her to quit ahead of her clash with Maria Sharapova.
French Open chiefs decided against seeding Williams after her ranking dropped to No. 453. But Wimbledon officials felt the former world No. 1's record on grass was so superior to her rivals that they seeded her 25th to ensure a balanced draw. Slovakian world No. 32 Dominika Cibulkova was bumped from the seeding group as a result and complained bitterly in advance of the decision. Other female stars are reported to be unhappy with Williams' seeding but, some, including two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, insisted they have no problem with the move.
No. 181 Williams, unbeaten on the London lawns since she was upset by France's Alize Cornet in 2014, was not sure she would be seeded for Wimbledon. And the 23-time major singles winner admitted that she could have no complaints.
"I think I would be very ungrateful if I sat here and said it was too low, to be honest. So not at all," Williams said yesterday on the eve of the tournament. "I was pleasantly surprised... I thought it was very, very noble and honest and cool."
Women to watch
Simona Halep, 26
•World ranking: 1
•Best Wimbledon result: Semi-finals (2014)
Her speed, shot placement and remarkable anticipation earned her a first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros last month and the same qualities can help the Romanian thrive at the All England Club.
Despite her French Open triumph, Halep has a reputation for succumbing to pressure during big matches.
Caroline Wozniacki, 27
•World ranking: 2
•Best Wimbledon result: Fourth round (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017)
The fierce Dane is not one to back down from a fight and is ruthless in attack as she grinds her opponents down with her persistence.
She has a tendency to get drawn into long rallies at the baseline rather than finding a killer shot or moving closer to the net and finishing off her opponent.
Maria Sharapova, 31
•World ranking: 24
•Best Wimbledon result: Champion (2004)
Her relentless fighting spirit along with her imposing presence, powerful shots and match control make her hard to beat.
She struggles to find a way past more complex opponents and is lacking consistency ahead of her return to the All England Club for the first time since her doping ban. REUTERS
Her return to the All England club carries extra significance as it is 20 years since she made her debut, reaching the third round as a raw teenager. She admitted it was emotional to be at a Grand Slam with her husband, Alexis Ohanian, and daughter for the first time.
She will open her latest campaign against the Netherlands' Arantxa Rus on the No. 1 Court today.
Spain's Garbine Muguruza begins her title defence against local favourite Naomi Broady tomorrow.
This is the second time that the 24-year-old is entering a major as the defending champion. The first was at last year's French Open, which ended up in tears at her post-match press conference after losing to France's Kristina Mladenovic in the last 16. Muguruza insisted that there will be no repeat of her show of emotion as she prepares to face a partisan crowd.
"That won't happen again," she vowed. "I learnt a lot and I'm much more experienced and completely different now.
"Before I was thinking so much and I just got myself so very nervous. This year I've tried not to think or expect too much. I know it will naturally come, and there's no reason to get too anxious."
Broady's compatriot Andy Murray yesterday withdrew from the competition as he continues to regain full fitness following hip surgery in January.
The two-time Wimbledon champion had been scheduled to play France's Benoit Paire tomorrow in the first round.
He said: "We've decided that playing best-of-five-set matches might be a bit too soon in the recovery process."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON
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