The question that made Serena’s eyes roll

Serena Williams joked – or was it a joke? — that she has activated the “out of office” message on her email account so that anyone trying to reach her about her many non-tennis activities while in the office Wimbledon would know why there was no immediate response.

As great as Williams is with a racket in her hand, successful as she has been, her sport has never been the only activity that interested her or took up her time.

All of this could very well be a factor as to why, just before 41, she’s still in the game, return to singles action for the first time in a year, and occasionally smiled and chuckled as he answered questions in the All England Club’s main interview room during a pre-tournament press conference.

“A bit surreal,” said the 23-time Grand Slam champion, “to sit here again.”

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She hasn’t competed in singles since she was injured – “torn” was the verb the American used – her right hamstring during the opening set of her first round match on center court in 2021. That disappointing exit provided “an enormous amount of motivation,” she said.

“I have not retired. I just needed to heal physically and mentally. And I had no plans, to be honest. I just didn’t know when I would be back. I didn’t know how I was going to come back,” Williams said.

“Wimbledon is such a great place to be, and it just worked out.”

No one else knew until recently when, or if, Williams would play again, a matter of no importance given what a transcendent figure she is.

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She won’t say if this will be her last appearance at the All England Club, but simply offers: ‘All I can tell you is that I’m here. Who knows where I’ll turn up next?”.

The seven-time Wimbledon singles champion made a short appearance this week in doubles at a grass court event in Eastbourne, but her first round outing against Harmony Tan will be a much bigger deal.

Williams said she had decided “some time ago” to play Wimbledon, saying she made a decision before Roland-Garros.

Williams practiced on center court on Saturday, a former No. 1 who is now outside the WTA’s top 1200 and allowed to enter the Wimbledon field via wildcard invitation. She arrived for her session just like the current number 1 Iga Swiatekwho has a 35-game winning streak wrapped up hers.

“I was quite overwhelmed…I didn’t know how to react perfectly. I wanted to meet her. I saw that she had so many people around her. I don’t know her team. It was kind of weird,” Swiatek said, comparing the feeling to when she was younger and “too shy to say hello to anyone.”

“It’s great to just see her around because she’s such a legend,” Swiatek continued.

“There is no one who has done so much in tennis.”

Williams has also done a lot outside of tennis.

That includes business with investment firm Serena Ventures and entertainment through past acting roles and by joining her older sister, Venus — a seven-time major singles champion not registered at Wimbledon this year — as executive producers for “King Richard,” the film about their father that was nominated for five Academy Awards.

“Part of me feels like that’s a little bit more of my life than tournaments. I absolutely love what I do. I like investing in companies,” Williams says.

“And then the Oscars were really fun. At best, you’re thinking about winning grand slams, not getting nominated for an Oscar for a movie you’re producing.”

This is hardly her first comeback after a while away due to surgeries, other health issues and having a baby.

Williams was also never one to compete in every possible tournament, even if she was physically okay.

“I’ve never played as much as the next player in my entire career. I think it was all unconscious, I took care of myself and knew how to take care of myself,” she said.

“A lot of people have to learn that. I think that was something my parents built into me.”

Williams did not answer every question from reporters.

She avoided topics like the U.S. Supreme Court decision that took away women’s constitutional protections for abortion

“I don’t have any thoughts I want to share right now,” she said.

Also the All England Clubs ban on players from Russia and Belarus because of the war in Ukraine

“I’m going to renounce that,” she added.

But ever the competitor, always the perfectionist, Williams was prepared if anyone wanted to know what she would consider a good result for her at Wimbledon.

“You know the answer to that,” she said, underlining her answer with a smile and a roll of her eyes. “Come on.”

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