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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks
tv

Regular cast member Ste Hay, played by Kieron Richardson, is about to test TV boundaries

Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
techPerils of 'text neck' revealed
News
i100
News
Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt
peopleStonewall boss says many fear it could ruin their careers
Caption competition
Caption competition
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.

Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager
Isis in Iraq: Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants

Isis takes a big step back

Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants
Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits: How to shop politically

How to shop politically

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits
The science of sex: What happens when science meets erotica

Sex on the brain

Fetishes, dominatrixes, kinks and erotica. They are subjects that should get the crowds flocking to a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection