WIMBLEDON, June 24 (AP): Serena Williams will begin her Wimbledon comeback by facing Harmony Tan, a 24-year-old from France who is ranked 113th and owns a 2-6 career record in Grand Slam matches.
The placement of Williams in the women’s bracket was the most anticipated aspect of Friday’s draw at the All England Club. She is making her first appearance in singles at any tournament since she hurt her right leg and stopped playing during the first set of her first-round match at Centre Court a year ago.
Because of her lack of activity over the past 12 months, Williams — who has been No. 1 in the rankings — is outside the WTA’s top 1,200 this week and so could have ended up anywhere in the field and against any opponent in the first round. She only returned to the tour this week by playing two doubles matches at a tuneup event in England.
While the 40-year-old American’s track record would merit a seeding, the All England Club now adheres strictly to the rankings in determining how it seeds players.
Williams has won seven Wimbledon championships, part of her total of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, a record for the professional era. Tan, meanwhile, will be making her debut at the grass-court tournament.
If Williams gets past Tan, next up could be a match against Sara Sorribes Tormo, who is seeded 32nd but has never been past the second round at the All England Club or the third round at any major in 19 past appearances.
The third round potentially would put Williams against a tougher test: No. 6-seeded Karolina Pliskova, who was the runner-up to Ash Barty last year at Wimbledon and also reached the final of the 2016 U.S. Open — beating Williams in the semifinals there.
Barty retired at age 25 in March and so is not defending her title when play begins on Monday. That also leaves open the question of which woman will have the honor of playing the first match at Centre Court on Tuesday, a slot traditionally reserved for the prior year’s champion.
The two most likely choices would seem to be No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who enters on a 35-match winning streak and is coming off a title at the French Open, or Simona Halep, who won the 2019 trophy at Wimbledon, beating Williams in the final, but did not get the chance to begin things at Centre Court in 2020, when the tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, or in 2021, because she was injured and unable to play.