Eighteen-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert and ESPN tennis analyst Brad Gilbert said that despite their rankings and their long absence from the tour, the Williams sisters deserve to be seeded in the top 10 at Wimbledon.
Because of that, Gilbert said the sisters should be seeded higher than their current rankings of No. 33 and 26, respectively.
“I would think that it would be great at least if they bumped them up significantly, or they're not in the same third round or something like that,” Gilbert said. “I would think you could put them at like seven and eight or six and seven. I guess it would be historical for the club to do it, but it adds intrigue.”
Evert agreed, adding that the sisters deserve a seeding because of how their records compare to their peers.
“These other women have done nothing at Wimbledon, really, except for (Maria) Sharapova,” she said. “My heavens, these two women have dominated Wimbledon the last 10 years. So it would be the right thing to do for the All England Club to do that.”
The sisters returned this week at the AEGON International in Eastbourne, Great Britain, after extensive injury-related absences. Up until recently, their participation in Wimbledon was in doubt.
“Whenever they enter a grand slam tournament, it's double the excitement and double the intrigue, I think, that they bring to the sport. They just bring a different level of tennis also, as far as the power and the emotional content,” Evert said.
Venus’ last tournament was the Australian Open, where the 30-year-old retired at 1-0 against Andrea Petkovic in the third round because of a hip injury.
The elder Williams sister made her comeback on Monday, beating Petkovic in three sets.
Meanwhile, 29-year-old Serena hadn’t played a match since her victory at Wimbledon in 2010. Shortly after the tournament, she injured her foot after stepping on some glass in a restaurant, and she had to get surgery to fully heal.
Then in February, she was diagnosed with blood clots in her lungs, or a pulmonary embolism, which is a potentially fatal condition, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Although Serena won her first match back, beating Tsvetana Pironkova in three sets, Evert said expecting her to win the tournament may be asking too much.
“It would be monumental in my mind if Serena pulled off a win,” Evert said. “I don't know how it's humanly possible for someone to take a year off like that and have gone through what she's been through physically with her ailments and really hasn't had a tremendous amount of practice, really a one tournament warm-up."
"It would just—it would almost shock me if she did, but knowing Serena and the way she's come back before, you can never count her out," she said.
Evert said she anticipated Venus to quietly go about her business because Serena will attract the majority of the attention, but in order to succeed, her body will need to hold up.
“Venus will sort of come into the tournament, I think, very quietly. She does the job and she still has the best—I think of the two, she has the better Wimbledon record. And she loves grass and she plays great on it,” she said.
Looking at the other contenders on the women’s side, Evert said she believes Sharapova has the game to win another title at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
“She's done really well this year, and she's been consistently a semifinalist or finalist. I think if she can get her serve together, she's won Wimbledon before. She's mentally really a tough player. I think she can do some damage and maybe even win Wimbledon,” she said, adding that Kim Clijsters and Li Na were other top contenders.
Evert said she didn’t have much confidence in current World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki’s chances at Wimbledon, in part because her game isn’t suited to the grass-court surface.
“I don't think it's going to be Wimbledon. I just don't think—you need a little power in your game at Wimbledon, and I think that's what's been lacking in her.”
She said she expected Wozniacki to play better at, and possibly win, the French Open, but the Dane has played too many tournaments, and that may have caught up to her. Last week, the World No. 1 won a WTA event in Copenhagen, a tournament played on hard courts.
“I think piling up those tournaments and being ranked No. 1 is good to a certain point, but then you've got to pace yourself if you want to win the Grand Slams.”
Evert and Gilbert will be covering Wimbledon for ESPN next week.
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