Nick Kyrgios has heaped praise on Serena Williams in a classy response to the 23-time grand slam champion’s exciting Wimbledon announcement this week.
Serena Williams allayed fears that she could have been on the verge of retiring after ending a 12-month hiatus from tennis to confirm her participation at the All England Club, starting later this month.
The 23-time grand slam singles champion made a tearful exit in the first round 12 months ago after withdrawing during the first set due to a leg injury.
She had not applied to play using her protected ranking but left the tennis world in a frenzy after writing on Instagram: “SW and SW19. It’s a date. 2022 See you there.”
Speaking ahead of his Halle Open quarter-final against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta on Friday night (AEST), Kyrgios couldn’t hide his admiration for Williams.
In a classy nod to several of his legendary tennis rivals, as well as NBA star LeBron James, the outspoken Aussie said the sporting world should appreciate an exceptional generation of stars that are reaching the twilight of their careers.
“I mean, it is great. As long as these legends… I think humans always take athletes for granted,” Kyrgios said at the Halle Open.
“Roger [Federer], Rafa [Nadal], Novak [Djokovic], LeBron [James], Serena [Williams], like, these athletes are so rare. Like, they are just amazing.
“I think we should just – as long as they want to keep playing – we have just got to keep taking it in and enjoying that because the time is nearly up for all of these players.
“So it is amazing to see her [Serena Williams] playing again and playing the biggest tournament in the world – it is amazing.
“I think it is also, I will add, I think it is a great example that every player should try and play Wimbledon, rather than not play for the [lack of ranking] points.
“I think as a kid, you want to win Wimbledon, you want to play Wimbledon, everyone that follows tennis knows what Wimbledon is, and people that even do not follow tennis know what Wimbledon is.
“So I think that is a great example. Obviously, she is not worried about her ranking, I understand, but everyone should be playing Wimbledon I think if they can.”
Tennis pundit tempers Serena Williams expectations
Tennis pundit Barbara Schett has put a dampener on the excitement surrounding Serena’s return at Wimbledon, predicting the 23-time grand slam champion will struggle after 12 months out.
Williams will make her return at Eastbourne next week in the lead-up to Wimbledon, teaming up with Ons Jabeur to play doubles.
However, former World No.7 and Eurosport pundit Schett suggested fans should temper their expectations for Serena’s return.
“She hasn’t played for one year, and now she’s decided to take that wild card,” the Austrian said.
“It’s very exciting, I think for women’s tennis, it’s very exciting for all of us to be able to watch her.
“And I think it’s exciting times for her. The question is, just how much has she practised?
“I think if you’re out for a whole year, it’s very difficult because you’re not playing any matches. Even if you practise a lot. It’s not the same.
“I think with her game style, she has a big serve. If she has been practising, that will help her a lot. But the matter is, how is her movement going to be on the grass court?
“We all know that’s the hardest area, the hardest surface to actually move [on]. And I think we [will] get a better idea when she plays that first match.
“But I’m sure she’s going to be very rusty. Plus, she’s 40 years old, which for a tennis player is quite old, unfortunately.”
Nevertheless, Schett said Serena’s inclusion would be a frightening prospect for the rest of the WTA field.
As a wildcard she will likely play a top-20 opponent in the first round at Wimbledon.
“One thing is for sure, nobody wants to play against Serena Williams,” she said.
“So the other 127 players are going to be scared to draw Serena Williams.”