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Tennis fans have been left saddened and confused after Serena Williams wasn't included on the official entry list for Wimbledon this year.
The 23-time grand slam champion hasn't played since Wimbledon last year when she suffered a leg injury and was forced to retire hurt in the opening round.
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The 40-year-old's continued absence from the WTA tour has sparked speculation that she's planning to retire, however she recently hinted that she would be returning at Wimbledon later this month.
But when Wimbledon officials released the official entry lists on Friday, Williams was a notable absentee along with sister Venus and Roger Federer.
While Federer has always maintained that he would not be ready for Wimbledon after a third knee surgery last year, Williams had hinted that she might play.
In an Instagram video with NFL star Aaron Rodgers in April, Williams indicated that she was planning a comeback at the grass-court major.
"We've been talking about my comeback and he's been hyping me up and getting me ready for Wimbledon. Can't wait!" said Williams.
As a number of tennis writers have pointed out, Williams could have used her protected ranking at Wimbledon in order to gain automatic entry despite slipping down the world rankings this year.
And while she isn't on the official entry lists, Wimbledon organisers did leave the door open for the seven-time champion to be given a wildcard entry.
“Wildcards for the Qualifying Competition and Main Draw events will be announced shortly before The Championships 2022," a statement read.
“Seedings for The Championships 2022 will be announced shortly before the fortnight and follow world ranking.”
Very sad if that fall at Wimbledon ended her career. I still think she'll return at some point.
— Jon Kennaugh (@jonkennaugh) June 3, 2022
I am depressed reading this and grass was one of her top surfaces! Thanks for update Ben.
— Cindy Barnes (@BarnesCindylou) June 3, 2022
I think they will return for the USO.
— Sporetrailer (@sporetrailer) June 3, 2022
Assuming that Serena Williams does not play anywhere else before or during Wimbledon, Williams will fall off the WTA rankings completely in July, having not competed in a full year.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 3, 2022
Strange why Serena doesn’t just come out and confirm she’s retired, unless she’s planning on making one final appearance at the US. Difficult to see given the game has moved on so much and she’ll be so far off the very top level.
— Chris Gollop (@ChrisRGollop) June 3, 2022
Thanks Russell. Had assumed that Serena Williams & Federer would be playing Wimbledon even if it was a way to bow out. Strange that we haven’t heard from either of them for some time. Any ideas what their plans are?
— Peaked 🦖 (@NoMorePronouns) June 3, 2022
Wimbledon's Women's list is out:
OUT: Sabalenka, Kasatkina, Azarenka, Kudermetova, Samsonova, Alexandrova, Sasnovich, Gracheva, Potapova, Pavlyuchenkova, Kalinskaya, Rakhimova.
Using PR: Bouchard (!), Kenin, Cocciareto, Flipkens
Serena and Venus didn't use protected ranking.
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) June 3, 2022
I’m manifesting that she’s going. Plus she said she was going. Let’s keep faith
— tennislover (@whatisthebein) June 3, 2022
— Joseph Winter (@A_Slapintheface) June 3, 2022
How could Serena and Venus use protected ranking? They probably didn't ask for it within the time frame required and it'll be a year from Serena last played.
— what's the craic? (@whatsthecraic1) June 3, 2022
— Tshiamo (@TshiamoItuks) June 3, 2022
When will Serena Williams be back?
Williams recently split with long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou, with the Frenchman opting to join forces with Romanian star Simona Halep.
Mouratoglou said he told Williams that he couldn't wait for her to return and wanted to be coaching again.
"I missed it big time. Coaching is the passion of my life. It’s the job of my life," he told Tennis Majors.
"And when I went to see Serena to discuss before starting with Simona, that’s what I told her.
"I said, ‘coaching is the passion of my life and it’s difficult for me not to work.’ So yes, I missed coaching big, big time.
"Honestly, since I’m back to coaching with Simona, I cannot be happier. It’s an incredible satisfaction for me to do that job. It’s incredible."
Federer hasn't played since re-injuring his knee at Wimbledon last year, but recently said his rehab is going well.
He is scheduled to play at the Laver Cup in September alongside long-time friend and rival Rafa Nadal.
Venus Williams also hasn't played since withdrawing from Wimbledon last year before the tournament because of injury.
Meanwhile, Naomi Osaka has been included on the entry list despite flagging the possibility that she might skip the grass-court grand slam.
Speaking after a first-round loss at the French Open, Osaka said she was considering skipping Wimbledon because of the ATP and WTA's decision to strip the event of rankings points.
“I’m leaning more towards not playing given the current circumstances. I’m the type of player that gets motivated by seeing my ranking go up,” she said.
“The intention of this measure was good, but the execution is all over the place.
"I’m sure there will be a bit of back and forth with the whole point situation. Then I guess I’ll make my decision.
“I feel like if I play Wimbledon without points, it’s more like an exhibition."
The staggering move from the ATP and WTA came after Wimbledon banned Russian and Belausian players due to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
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