London: Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams and former world No 3 Elina Svitolina were handed wildcard entries into Wimbledon, the organisers announced on Wednesday.
Williams, 43, has won the third major of the year five times and returned to action this month after a five-month injury layoff.
Williams is currently ranked 697th and is competing in the Birmingham Classic, having secured a victory against a top-50 opponent in nearly four years when she beat Italian Camile Giorgi in the round of 32 on Monday.
The 43-year-old battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 7-6 (8/6) first round win over world No 48 Giorgi in three hours and 16 minutes.
Williams had played a grass-court event in the Netherlands last week for her first tournament appearance since January and she was understandably rusty at times against Giorgi.
But the five-time Wimbledon champion also hit her stride in spells during an enthralling encounter.
She converted her second match point in the final set tie-break, holding her arms aloft and repeatedly pumped her fist as the crowd roared in delight.
Williams might be well into the twilight of her glittering career, but the seven-time Grand Slam champion still relishes the feeling of winning a hard-fought match.
“This one is especially sweet because I have been away from the tour for so long,” she said.
“The last couple of years I’ve had little to no matches and that’s very challenging.
“I almost feel like when I’m on the court I’m reminded of things I used to do that worked really well, so there’s a lot of memories and deja vu.”
Williams faces a last-16 tie against the Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova or Latvian second seed Jelena Ostapenko.
“Tennis is awesome. There’s so many people that would love to do what I’m doing right now so I don’t take it for granted,” Williams said.
“I faced some huge challenges in the match. I think that brought the emotion out.”
Williams will now meet Jelena Ostapenko in the second-round. The No 2 seed overcame grass-court rookie Linda Noskova 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 on Tuesday.
Svitolina suffers defeat
Ukrainian Svitolina reached the French Open quarter-finals following a maternity break before suffering a defeat against Czech teenager Linda Fruhvirtova on her return to grass at Birmingham earlier this week.
British No 1 Katie Boulter is among the other wildcard entries after winning her first Women’s Tennis Association title at the Nottingham Open over the weekend.
Boulter will be joined by compatriots Jodie Burrage, Harriet Dart, Katie Swan and Heather Watson as wildcard entries.
In the men’s tournament, Liam Broady, Jan Choinski, Arthur Fery, David Goffin, George Loffhagen and Ryan Peniston were handed wildcard entries.
The four outstanding wildcards two men and two women are yet to be announced.