World No 1 Iga Swiatek said she felt “overwhelmed” after seeing Serena Williams at Wimbledon ahead of the UK Grand Slam.
Williams was a surprise wild-card entry for Wimbledon having not played a competitive singles match since her tearful, injury-enforced withdrawal in the first round last year.
The 40-year-old American reached the semi-finals at Eastbourne this week but was forced to drop out of the tournament when doubles partner Ons Jabeur picked up an injury.
Swiatek has surpassed Serena's best of 34 successive wins and equalled Venus Williams' record of 35 straight victories in 2000 for the longest winning stretch by a woman in the 21st century – winning six titles along the way, including the French Open.
But the 21-year-old Pole admitted to feeling start-struck when seeing the 23-time Slam champion. “I saw her yesterday, I was pretty overwhelmed,” said Swiatek, who was not even born when Williams made her Wimbledon debut in 1998.
“I didn't know how to react. I wanted to meet her. I saw that she had so many people around her. I don't know her team. It was pretty weird.
“But just seeing her around is great because she's such a legend, there's nobody that has done so much in tennis.”
With defending Wimbledon champion Barty retired, Swiatek has been given the honour of opening Tuesday proceedings on Centre Court against qualifier Jana Fett of Croatia. “I feel really privileged that I've been chosen,” she said.
On the same day, Williams – who has won seven Wimbledon singles titles – is set to take on Harmony Tan of France looking to banish the memory of last year's painful exit.
“It was always something since the match ended that was always on my mind,” said Williams. “So it was a tremendous amount of motivation for that.”
In the gallery above, you can see Williams, Swiatek and home hope Emma Radacanu training ahead of the start of Wimbledon. To view the next image, click on the arrows or just swipe if on a mobile device.