Commentary

Don't worry about Serena's inactivity

Originally Published: June 13, 2011
By Kamakshi Tandon | Special to ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- Lack of preparation is an ominous sign for most players. That is unless your name is Serena Williams, who begins her latest Wimbledon journey Tuesday. Don't worry about Serena's inactivity

Assuming Isner-Mahut and the rain forecast for Tuesday don't take up all the time between them, some of the top title contenders will also be starting their campaigns at Wimbledon Tuesday. Those scheduled on Centre Court know they'll get done because of the roof, but the rest of the field has to hope good weather.

Keeping with tournament tradition, defending women's champion Serena Williams is scheduled to kick off the action on Centre Court after defending men's champion Rafael Nadal got the honor Monday. Williams begins against Aravane Rezai, a hard-hitting Frenchwoman who might pose a threat to the rusty Serena.

Serena has pulled off plenty of comeback wins -- remember the 2007 Australian Open, when she was out of shape, rusty and a game away from going down 6-1, 6-3 to Nadia Petrova, and still won the tournament? But even she has never attempted anything like this: returning after nearly a year off the tour because of a freak foot injury and some health scares during February and March.

"After I had the lung problem, it was like, 'OK, I got through that,'" Serena said. "Then having to have a surgery, removing the hematoma, was just my low point. I felt it was never gonna end."

Because of all that, she was able to get in only a month of proper training before playing Eastbourne last week. She looked terrible at the start of her opening match but played much more like her normal self in the second round. Can she get through seven matches at SW19 with so little preparation? It won't be easy, but if anyone can, it's Serena.

Sharapova Watch Begins

Fellow former champion Maria Sharapova has been on the comeback trail for a long time but is only now starting to look as formidable as she did before shoulder surgery in 2008. She made a surge during last month's clay season, thanks to a rediscovered serve, but it let down badly in the French Open quarterfinals against Li Na.

So the Sharapova serve watch is back on, first against fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze in her Tuesday opener. Chakvetadze has recently retired from a string of matches because of dizziness but finally seems to have those problems fixed.

Last year a distant memory for Federer

No one knows more about winning the Championships than Roger Federer, and he is considered a real threat to take a record-tying seventh title here after that impressive run at the French Open. He should have few problems against Mikhail Kukushkin in his opener but hasn't played any warm-up matches on grass or forgotten last year's first-round, five-set scare against Alejandro Falla.

"It's rare in a Grand Slam really, especially early on in a tournament. I mean, I can struggle sometimes and come through and not make a big deal about it, but obviously last year I got very lucky," Federer said. "Actually ended up playing well, you know. I thought my opponent played really well, too. But people unfortunately never gave him enough credit for that.

"For me, I actually played some good matches after that but realized there was just something missing in my game, was just a bit passive, just not believing enough for my shot-making."

He's in a very different state of mind this time around, and his biggest boost was a win over Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the French. The two are again in the same half.

Djoker ready to start new streak

Djokovic had been on a run of 43 straight match victories before the loss to Federer in the French Open semifinals, which prompted Caroline Wozniacki to slip into his press conference last week and teasingly ask, "You've had this losing streak of one, so what are you going to do to change that?"

"I will try to look up to some women players who have been so consistent with their wins," Djokovic replied. "Like Caroline Wozniacki."

The Serb says he's over the defeat and ready to challenge for the one title he wants to win the most. "It didn't take me much time to recover from the loss because I know that I've played well. I didn't play on the level that I could, but I played well. He just played better.

"It was unfortunate that the loss had to come at that time, you know, but look, that's sport."

Kamakshi Tandon is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.