LONDON, June 9 (Reuters) - Serena Williams will take Wimbledon by storm whether she retains her title or not, Andy Roddick predicted on Thursday as he welcomed his fellow American back from a year of injury and illness.
Former world number one Williams, the powerhouse of women's tennis for the past decade with 13 grand slam singles titles, has taken a wildcard for next week's Eastbourne championships.
A foot injury and health problems had previously sidelined her since she won last year's Wimbledon title.
Roddick said the 29-year-old's return was not only good for American tennis but vital for the women's game.
"Well, it's great that she's back," Roddick told reporters after beating Kevin Anderson 6-4 6-4 in the third round of the Queen's Club tournament on Thursday.
"I mean, I think, no disrespect to any of the women that are playing right now, but I think women's tennis needs that dominating figure.
"She hasn't played for a year but I think she still is that personality and, you know, she's certainly going to probably be the top storyline going into Wimbledon."
Serena has four Wimbledon singles titles to her name, one less than sister Venus who is also returning at the Eastbourne warm-up event after being ruled out since the Australian Open with an abdominal injury.
Roddick said despite a chronic lack of match practice Serena is capable of claiming the Wimbledon title this year. The championships begin on June 20.
"I don't think it would shock anybody if she came through and won it again," Roddick said. "It's very smart of her to play a lead-up event, especially after being gone for a year."
Since cutting her foot on broken glass in Munich last year, an injury that required surgery to a lacerated tendon, and then suffering life-threatening blood clots in February, Serena's presence has been missed on the WTA Tour.
Her return will help raise its profile, Roddick said.
"I think I speak for most people in tennis whereas you want her in the game for so many reasons; not only because she wins and she's a great champion, but she brings pop culture to tennis," he said.
"She brings crossover appeal and creates storylines even when she's not trying which, at the end of the day, is a healthy thing for our sport."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris
To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)