London (AFP), June 24 – Serena Williams has been drawn to face French debutante Harmony Tan in the first round of Wimbledon as the American star returns to singles action after a year’s absence.
Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic begins his quest for a seventh title – and fourth in a row – against South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo, ranked 75th in the world.
At first, the All England Club will focus on Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion who has fallen to 1,204th in the world rankings and is unseeded for the tournament, which begins on Monday.
The 40-year-old, who competed in doubles at Eastbourne this week, has not played singles since suffering the injury in her opening round match at Wimbledon 12 months ago.
Williams’ Grand Slam preparations suffered a major blow after doubles partner Ons Jabeur withdrew from the Eastbourne tournament with a knee injury on Thursday.
The American won the last of her seven singles titles at Wimbledon in 2016 but reached the final in 2018 and 2019 after returning from having a baby.
Wimbledon is widely considered Williams’ best chance to win a 24th Grand Slam singles crown to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record.
The last of his Grand Slam singles titles came at the Australian Open in 2017.
Speaking after Wednesday’s doubles match, Williams said: “I feel good – as good as one could feel after such a long time away.”
– Swiatek series –
Women’s top seed Iga Swiatek, who has won her last six tournaments including the French Open, was matched against Croatian qualifier Jana Fett in Friday’s draw.
Romanian 16th seed Simona Halep, who hasn’t played at Wimbledon since winning the title in 2019, has a tough first match against Czech player Karolina Muchova.
Britain’s Emma Raducanu will face Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck, provided the US Open champion has recovered enough from side strain.
Djokovic, 35, is trying to win his 21st Grand Slam, which would put him just one shy of Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 majors.
It would also be his seventh Wimbledon title, putting him level with Pete Sampras and just one behind Roger Federer, who is out of the tournament as he recovers from injury.
Second-seeded Nadal, 36, who is set to make his first Wimbledon appearance since 2019 after winning the Australian Open and French Open this year, faces Argentinian Francisco Cerundolo
Two-time unranked British champion Andy Murray, who suffers from abdominal tension, will face Australian James Duckworth.
With the grass pedigree no longer counting for the rankings, French Open runner-up Casper Ruud is ranked third, Stefanos Tsitsipas fourth and Carlos Alcaraz fifth despite all still trying to master the surface.
Wimbledon announced in April that it would ban players from Russia and Belarus due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, meaning world number one Daniil Medvedev is among those missing.