Serena Williams, Andy Murray to play mixed doubles at Wimbledon
The Serena Williams-Andy Murray mixed-doubles partnership at Wimbledon is a match made in tennis heaven.
Williams is the most successful player in the open era of professional tennis, with 23 grand slams in singles, and Murray is Britain’s most successful player in the same period, with three.
Oh, and Williams has won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles with big sister Venus.
Tuesday’s announcement ended a week of speculation as to whom Murray would line up alongside at Wimbledon or whether he would play mixed doubles at all.
The Scot underwent a hip resurfacing operation after the Australian Open in an effort to extend his career — initially, he planned on retiring at Wimbledon — and duly returned in doubles at Queens in London last month.
Not only did he come back, but he won the title with Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.
It wasn’t long before he opened the door to playing mixed at Wimbledon and was turned down by the likes of current world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and doubles Grand Slam winner Kristina Mladenovic.
Other female players volunteered their services, including Maria Sharapova.
Williams gave it away?
Williams hinted over the weekend that she would consider featuring in the mixed doubles and suggested that something was brewing after her 6-2 7-5 singles win Tuesday in the first round against Italian qualifier Giulia Gatto-Monticone.
“I’m still kind of in the singles mode, trying to figure that part out. We’ll see. I could use extra matches, though, so … could be something,” said the 37-year-old, whose season has been hindered by a knee injury.
“If you guys really want it, then maybe I’ll do it,” she added to reporters.
When the reply came, “we do really want it,” Williams countered, “All right, done, just for you guys.”
Williams and Murray have always had a healthy respect for one another, not only because of Grand Slam victories.
Murray has been vocal in his quest for equality and went against the norm in men’s tennis by hiring a female coach, Amelie Mauresmo, in 2014.
His mom, Judy, has been a huge influence in his life, and after retaining his Olympic title in Rio in 2016, he corrected a reporter who said he had just become the first player to win two gold medals in tennis.
“I think Venus and Serena have won four each,” he said.
He was right.
‘We’re a lot alike’
“We’re a lot alike on the court,” Williams said, a line that drew a laugh. “I’ve always liked that about him.
“His work ethic is just honestly off the charts. That’s something I’ve always respected about him. His fitness, everything. To do what he’s done in an era where there’s so many other great male tennis players, so much competition, to rise above it, not many people have done it. He’s actually one of the few.
“There’s so many things to be admired. Above all, he really stands out. He really speaks up about women’s issues no matter what. You can tell he has a really strong woman in his life. I think above all that is just fantastic.”
Williams last played mixed doubles in an official competition at the 2012 French Open, losing in the first round alongside men’s doubles legend Bob Bryan — who underwent the same hip procedure as Murray last year.
She won the mixed event at Wimbledon partnering Max Mirnyi in 1998.
Murray, meanwhile, last played mixed doubles at an official event in Rio with Heather Watson, and at Wimbledon, it was in 2006 with Kirsten Flipkens.
The pair will take on Germany’s Andreas Mies and Alexa Guarachi of Chile when the competition starts Thursday.
Murray also plays men’s doubles Thursday with Frenchman Pierre Hugues Herbert.
He hopes to return to singles in August or after the US Open in September.