If it’s Wimbledon — sparkling whites on green grass – it is Serena Williams and Roger Federer. She’s won seven crowns and he has done one better at eight. They’re weeks away from their 40th birthdays and are faced with questions they’ve long answered. The riposte that resounds is the test of time, they’re contenders at almost 40. The titans of tradition.
Serena, looking for her first major title since the birth of her daughter Olympia nearly four years ago, has been in four finals since, two of them at Wimbledon. In the previous edition of The Championships in 2019, she was outdone by an inspired Simona Halep.
Federer, who’ll turn 40 four weeks after the tournament draws to a close on July 11, is short of matches, returning as he is from knee surgeries. Unlike in 2017, when he made a six-month, injury-enforced break, look like he had just ducked in and out of one of those wellness retreats, the Swiss appears on edge this time around.
Longevity and legendary status might go hand-in-hand, but the 40s wasn’t a milestone either the American or the Swiss were looking at.
“I remember a conversation with Pistol (Pete Sampras) 10 years ago, when I was just hitting 30,” Federer said. “He was wondering how much I had left in the tank. He was thinking I was coming towards the end. The goal was not to play until 40. This came in the last (few) years.”
Serena, drawn in the tougher half, which is headed by the World No.1 Ashleigh Barty, pointed at technology.
“The way we view the game, the way we recover, the way our shoes are made, the way the equipment is made, technology is a huge part of why myself and Roger are playing so long,” the sixth seed said.
“Normally people retire at 29-30; 32 was the maximum. There are several players at that age now, who are just hitting their stride.”
Serena is used to being hunted. Hard draws and tough match-ups are par for the course.
“It’s definitely made me better, I’ve had a big X on my back since ’99 when I won the US Open,” she said. “Players play hard every single tournament, every single match, every single Grand Slam (against me)… It’s been difficult mentally when someone might beat you and they lose directly in the next round almost every time. At the end of the day, that’s why I’m Serena. So thanks.”
For Federer, who faces Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in his tournament opener, finding form is a task he has set himself largely because of where he is – at home, on his lawns. The grass could be hard on his newly-repaired knee, but it’s not something he’s willing to consider. At least not loudly.
“I still really love it, enjoy myself,” he said of competing. “I will see about the results, if they’re going to come back. This is why Wimbledon is important to me right now.”
No matter what happens from when the first ball is struck on a match court at the All England Club on Monday till the curtain comes down on July 11, Serena Williams and Roger Federer are going on 40. And forever GOAT.
Ashleigh Barty will spend her 82nd and 83rd weeks at the top of the WTA rankings during the Wimbledon fortnight. Barty, who claimed the No.1 spot on June 24, 2019, is only the second Australian to achieve the historic milestone after Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
Aryna Sabalenka can potentially challenge for the top spot at Wimbledon, to do so Sabalenka would need to win the title with Barty falling before the semifinals.
There are eight teenagers in this year’s women’s singles draw: Coco Gauff (17), Clara Tauson (18), Emma Raducanu (18), Leylah Fernandez (18), Marta Kostyuk (19*), Katie Volynets (19), Wang Xinyu (19) and Amanda Anisimova (19).
Novak Djokovic is bidding to win his 20th Grand Slam title and equal Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the top of the all-time list for most Grand Slam men’s singles titles.
Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev are in contention for the post-Wimbledon No. 1 ranking. Djokovic is guaranteed to remain at No. 1 unless Medvedev wins the title or Medvedev reaches the final and Djokovic loses prior to the final.