LONDON (AFP) – Serena Williams has been drawn to face French debutant Harmony Tan in the first round of Wimbledon as the American star returns to singles action after a year away.
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.
The early focus at the All England Club will be on 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Williams, who has dropped to 1,204th in the world rankings and is unseeded for the tournament, which starts on Monday.
The 40-year-old, who took part in the doubles in Eastbourne this week, has not played singles since she suffered an injury during her first-round match at Wimbledon 12 months ago.
Williams’ preparations for the Grand Slam suffered a blow after her doubles partner Ons Jabeur withdrew from the Eastbourne tournament because of a knee injury on Thursday.
The American won the last of her seven Wimbledon singles titles in 2016 but reached the final in 2018 and 2019 after returning from having a baby.
Wimbledon is widely considered Williams’s best chance of claiming a 24th Grand Slam singles crown to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record.
The last of her Grand Slam singles titles came at the Australian Open in 2017.
Speaking after Wednesday’s doubles match, Williams had said: “I feel good – as good as one can feel after having such a long time off.”
Women’s top seed Iga Swiatek, who has won her past six tournaments, including the French Open, was pitted against Croatian qualifier Jana Fett in yesterday’s draw.
Romanian 16th seed Simona Halep, who has not played at Wimbledon since winning the 2019 title, has a tough opener against Czech player Karolina Muchova.
Britain’s Emma Raducanu will take on Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck, providing the US Open champion has recovered sufficiently from a side strain.
Djokovic, 35, is bidding to win his 21st Grand Slam, which would take him just one behind Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 majors.
It would also be his seventh Wimbledon title, taking him level with Pete Sampras and just one behind Roger Federer, who is not playing the tournament as he recovers from injury.
Second seed Nadal, 36, who is set to make his first appearance at Wimbledon since 2019 after winning the Australian Open and French Open this year, faces Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo Britain’s unseeded two-time champion Andy Murray, who is battling an abdominal strain, will play Australian James Duckworth.
With grass-court pedigree no longer counting towards seeding, French Open runner-up Casper Ruud is seeded third, Stefanos Tsitsipas fourth and Carlos Alcaraz fifth despite all still trying to get to grips with 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.