Huge Serena Williams twist in Naomi Osaka's Wimbledon withdrawal

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Serena Williams' chances of claiming a record-equalling 24th grand slam title have been boosted by Naomi Osaka's withdrawal. Pic: Getty
Serena Williams' chances of claiming a record-equalling 24th grand slam title have been boosted by Naomi Osaka's withdrawal. Pic: Getty

Tennis legend Chris Evert admits the stage is perfectly set for Serena Williams to create history at Wimbledon as the American looks to finally equal Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 grand slam singles titles.

With the bombshell withdrawal of World No.2 Naomi Osaka, and fitness clouds over stars Ash Barty and reigning champion Simona Halep, the stars appear to be aligning for Williams at the All England Club.

'THIS IS A MISTAKE': Tennis world stunned by shock announcement

YIKES: Concerning detail in Ash Barty's Wimbledon preparation

'SO GOOD': Tennis fans erupt over photos of Serena Williams

A seven-time winner of the grass-court grand slam, Williams last tasted victory in 2016 but has been a losing finalist in her previous two visits.

Halep denied Williams the record-equalling slam at Wimbledon two years ago, with last year's edition cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That was one of four grand slam finals Williams has played since she drew within one title of the controversial Court's record at the 2017 Australian Open.

The 39-year-old's chances of an eighth Wimbledon crown have improved with the withdrawal of World No.2 Osaka, who is taking time out of the game after revealing she has been battling anxiety and depression.

There are also fitness doubts over World No.1 Barty and third-ranked Halep, with Evert insisting Williams is still more than capable of adding to her career grand slam singles haul of 23 trophies.

"Like Roger Federer I would give Serena a better chance at Wimbledon because the grass is perfect for her game," Evert told Eurosport prior to the French Open.

"On the grass, if Serena is fit and that serve is working then that's half of the match right there.

"She has that experience and flexibility."

Serena Williams was runner-up to Simona Halep in the last Wimbledon women's singles final in 2019. Pic: Getty
Serena Williams was runner-up to Simona Halep in the last Wimbledon women's singles final in 2019. Pic: Getty

Evert concedes that like any great champion who appears vulnerable, Serena has given opponents a renewed sense of hope that they can get the better of her.

"The players are better now than they were two years ago and they are not intimidated," said the 66-year-old, 18-time Grand Slam singles champion.

"They all feel they have a chance against Serena."

Ash Barty skipping warm-up events

Barty will go into Wimbledon without a warm-up tournament on grass after pulling out due to a hip injury in the middle of the second set of her second round match at the French Open.

The 25-year-old Australian has been practising on grass at Wimbledon labelling them "baby steps" as the 2019 French Open champion bids to be fighting fit.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Halep too will open her defence of the title - Wimbledon having been cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic - without a match on grass under her belt.

The 29-year-old Romanian's calf injury forced her to miss the French Open and although she turned up for this week's Bad Homburg tournament she felt she was not fit enough to compete.

"My calf is not ready for a competition," she said.

"I will keep practising as I really want to be able to play at Wimbledon but for now I have to take care of my body and to see how the recovery is going."

Barbora Krejcikova is the form player after her surprise triumph in the French Open.

The 25-year-old Czech paid a moving tribute to her late compatriot and former coach Jana Novotna when she won at Roland Garros.

She might have to repeat it should she win at the All England Club, the venue where Novotna won her only singles grand slam crown in 1998.

One player who will remind spectators of what fun it was to watch tennis before coronavirus will be American teenager Coco Gauff.

As a 15-year-old she lit up the 2019 tournament both on and off the court after reaching the last 16 having come through the qualifiers.

Unlike Halep and Barty she is getting match practice in at the Eastbourne tournament this week.

Gauff, ranked 23 in the world, says the limelight might shine on her again at Wimbledon.

"People might expect me to feel pressure going into it, but I don't really feel any pressure," she said.

"I'm just going to have fun and enjoy it. I don't really want to push myself to compare my result this year with last time."

with agencies

Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting