Serena Williams: 'I didn't retire, I just didn't know how I would come back'

American, 40, returns to singles action at Wimbledon next week for the first time since her tearful exit from the All England Club in the first round in 2021

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Serena Williams said thoughts of retirement had not been on her agenda during her year-long absence.

The American, 40, returns to singles action at Wimbledon next week for the first time since her tearful exit from the All England Club in the first round in 2021.

The seven-time Wimbledon champion is chasing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.

"I didn't retire. I just needed to heal physically, mentally. I had no plans. I just didn't know when I would come back. I didn't know how I would come back," Williams said.

Williams, who spent a joint-record 186 weeks as world No 1, has seen her world ranking plummet to 1,204th and she needed a wildcard to play Wimbledon this year.

Her last appearance at the All England Club ended after just six games when she was forced to quit her Centre Court opener against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Having made her debut in 1998, Williams said that she didn't want that heartbreaking exit to be her last memory of Wimbledon.

"It was a lot of motivation, to be honest. It was always something since the match ended that was always on my mind.

"Wimbledon was tough last year. I felt like I was injured for most of the year. Then I ripped my hamstring."

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In a change to tradition, and with a nod to the gravity of Williams' injury last year which was caused by her slipping and falling, organisers have allowed practice sessions on Centre Court.

The aim is to bed in the grass so that players can enjoy immediate grip on the world's most famous patch of grass.

"On the one hand it's amazing, but on the other hand it's like, we have to preserve Centre Court," said Williams.

"Obviously I was super happy to be out there and have that opportunity, and it was also good for me to get that out of my system because the last moment I had on Centre Court was probably not my best moment."

Williams was coy on her long-term future in the sport and whether or not this is her last Wimbledon.

"I can only tell you that I'm here. Who knows where I'll pop up next," said the American who turns 41 in September.

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Updated: June 26, 2022, 6:00 AM
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