With just 12 days until the start of the Wimbledon tennis championships, defending champion and former world number one Serena Williams has finally put an end to the speculation surrounding her attendance at the 2011 tournament.

Serena Williams has won four Wimbledon singles titles, as well as a further four Wimbledon doubles titles alongside her sister, Venus. Her most recent victory came at last year’s tournament, but since then, Serena has played just a single exhibition match, where she stepped in as a late substitute for Justine Henin.

The last year has been surrounded in mystery and rumour for Serena Williams, with stories of ill health doing the rounds. She withdrew from the Australian Open, amongst other tournaments, with a persistent foot injury, but in March 2011, a spokesperson for Williams told reporters that she had suffered a potentially life threatening pulmonary embolism.

Williams has spent a lot of the past twelve months in the newspapers, but rarely were the stories to do with tennis. Rap songs, stalkers and semi-naked pictures on social networking sites yes, but tennis tournaments have been virtually non-existent.

But Serena Williams loves Wimbledon and she has announced that she will be back to defend her title, after making her comeback at the 2011 AEGON International in Eastbourne, England, which kicks off on Saturday June 11th.

The return of Serena Williams seems like good news for the world of tennis on the face of it, but at the same time, it could be potentially embarrassing. Williams has now slipped to 25th in the Women’s Tennis Association world rankings after her year long break, but bookmakers are still rating her as the second favourite (and even the favourite with some firms) behind Maria Sharapova.

If she returns at Wimbledon and blows the field away, after next to no preparation, what does that say about the state of women’s tennis?

Wimbledon 2011 betting:
(Best prices quoted. Correct at time of publication.)

Ladies Singles
Maria Sharapova – 5.90 (Betfair)
Serena Williams – 6.20 (Unibet)
Kim Clijsters – 9.00 (Unibet)
Li Na – 9.00 (Unibet)
Petra Kvitova – 13.00 (Betfair)
Caroline Wozniacki – 15.50 (Betfair)
Venus Williams – 16.00 (Betfair)
Victoria Azarenka – 19.00 (bwin)

Mens Singles
Rafael Nadal – 3.70 (Betfair)
Roger Federer – 3.70 (Betfair)
Novak Djokovic – 4.60 (Betfair)
Andy Murray – 10.00 (bwin)

Wimbledon 2011 Specials
No rain during the tournament – 9.00 (William Hill)
Streaker to appear during either of the finals- 7.00 (William Hill)