Serena Williams' return to tennis at Wimbledon later this month could potentially spell good news for Auckland's ASB Classic.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion lost in the first round at Wimbledon a year ago while struggling with a leg injury and hasn't played on tour since.
But organisers have granted her a wildcard to this year's championships after she revealed in an Instagram post: "SW and SW19. It's a date. 2022 See you there." (SW19 is a reference to the All England Club's postal code.)
Williams is the defending ASB Classic champion having won the last edition of the tournament to be held in Auckland in January 2020. New tournament director Nicolas Lamperin says he met with Williams' agent Jill Smoller at the French Open a couple of weeks ago and got the heads up she was planning to return at Wimbledon.
"To be perfectly transparent, I did speak to Jill in Paris already and she did tell me that Serena was planning on being back at Wimbledon," Lamperin told the Herald.
"So I was kind of expecting that news. However, it's very good news for the tennis world. But we still don't really know what her plans are going to be going forward, whether she is only going to play for the next six months or going to play next year. That obviously remains to be seen and I'm sure it will also depend on form and level of fitness."
The Frenchman spent just over a week this month in Auckland, where he was formally announced as Karl Budge's replacement.
He is now back in Dubai with his family making arrangements to move to the Super City, before he heads to Wimbledon to continue his ASB Classic recruitment drive next week.
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But any formal negotiations with Smoller to sign Williams won't take place until the US Open at the earliest, in late August/early September, when it should be clearer whether the American will look to play in 2023.
Clearly she still harbours a desire to win a 24th Grand Slam title and draw level on the all-time list with Australian Margaret Court and Lamperin says her results at Wimbledon and the US could ultimately affect their chances of getting her back to Auckland.
"If she wins Wimbledon this year, or the US Open, then she might not be on the tour next year. So it's still early to say, but it's still very good news for the women's tour and hopefully for the ASB Classic going forward."
The reality is Williams hasn't played competitively for a year, has turned 40 and expectations must be tempered. But Wimbledon is where she has achieved her greatest success. She has won the title seven times, the last in 2016, and finished runner up in 2018 and 2019.
Williams will tune up for Wimbledon by playing doubles at next week's WTA tournament in Eastbourne.
Meanwhile, Lamperin expects to announce his first player signings when he returns to Auckland after Wimbledon next month. He's aware with tickets going on sale in August the tournament needs a marketable signing. But the Frenchman has certainly hit the ground running and has had some positive feedback globally since his appointment was announced by Tennis Auckland and Tennis New Zealand 10 days ago.
"While there was already a lot of ongoing conversation, which I started in Paris, I did get a few more messages from agents following the announcement which is great because with Wimbledon being next week, that will give me the perfect opportunity to follow up on the discussions and hopefully trying to close some of these deals."