Beware the wounded Williams sisters

The queens of the grass courts are finally fit after months on the sidelines and they have just one aim for Eastbourne and Wimbledon – winning

Serena and Venus Williams may have slipped to 25 and 32 respectively in the world rankings after long layoffs due to injury, but they both say they are fit and raring to go – the younger sister even declaring in her trademark third-person style: "Serena's back!"

"I'm here to win," said Venus, as she prepared to play at the Aegon International at Eastbourne, which starts tomorrow. "I'm very excited to be back. I can't believe I finally made it. It's been a long road."

Her sister, meanwhile, gave a playful warning before she plays the last warm-up tournament before she defends her Wimbledon title: "I am so excited to be healthy enough to compete again. These past 12 months have been extremely tough and character-building. Serena's back!"

The defending Wimbledon champion Serena, 29, and Venus, who turns 31 on Friday, are making their first appearance at the South Coast tournament since 1998.

The Williamses usually return to Florida after the French Open, but their plans to nab another title in SW19 meant a change. "Normally we take this period before Wimbledon to go home and rest and train but this year the best preparation is to be at Eastbourne and play some matches," Venus said.

Serena cut her right foot on broken glass in a Munich restaurant only days after winning her fourth Wimbledon singles title and has not played since; Venus has not played since pulling out of this year's Australian. Serena underwent two bouts of surgery as the injury – which affected her tendons – was discovered to be more serious than at first thought. Then in February doctors discovered she had a potentially fatal blood clot in her lung and she underwent surgery to remove it.

Venus, the No 4 seed at this year's Australian Open, retired with a pelvic muscle injury just six minutes into her third-round match against Andrea Petkovic. By coincidence her first opponent at Eastbourne tomorrow is Petkovic, while Serena begins her campaign on Tuesday against Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria.

It's a strong field at Eastbourne as the field contains 13 of the world's top 20, including the French Open champion, Li Na, but Venus remains unfazed. "Whoever is across the net is my focus. I don't think about what has happened before because you can't predict what anyone is going to do, so my whole concern is to make sure I'm in the next round and that's all I ever think about."

It has been a tough time, Venus said. "I had no idea when I or Serena was going to make it back. Every time I had a hope for returning, it passed by." When asked if the game had missed them, she replied with a laugh: "I hope so."

Both Serena and Venus have had repeated absences from the WTA tour during their careers with a range of injuries, which some in the game suggest have sometimes been tactical, though the breaks have not been detrimental to their astonishing CVs – they have 80 singles titles, 20 of them slams and between them have won nine of the last 11 Wimbledons. When Serena came back after a two-month absence due to back injury and then a dose of flu to win the US Open in 1999, it set a trend. When she twisted her knee in 2003 dancing in heels at a Los Angeles nightclub and suffered an eight-month layoff, she returned the following year to win Wimbledon.

So do layoffs sometimes work in their favour? "I'll take any advantage I can get," said Venus, wryly. "I feel pretty fit. I've never given myself 10 out of 10 for anything, but I'd say eight and a half. I was aiming to come back in Miami [in April] but that didn't happen. I wasn't ready.

"I listened to the doctors and did what they told me to do. I went to the gym every day. I started light practices every other day in April. It was a slow process and very stressful. But I would say Serena and I always believe in ourselves so that's a huge plus.

"It's not only about winning, but staying healthy too. We try to be smart in our preparation and we're here to win and we're going to do our best to take two titles home."

She was equally punchy when asked if it would reflect badly on the women's game if either Williams were to win Wimbledon. "Ten years from now nobody's going to remember, 'poor Venus, she was injured, poor X player something else'. It will just say, Wimbledon title with hopefully my name on it, and that's all that matters."

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace