After 17 years of anonymity, Italian late bloomer ready for Serena

Serena Williams (Getty)
Serena Williams (Getty)

London - There are late bloomers in tennis and then there is Italy's Giulia Gatto-Monticone who is making her Wimbledon debut at the age of 31.

Win or lose, it will be a Grand Slam bow to remember after the world number 162 was drawn to face Serena Williams in the first round.

In 16 years on the circuit, Gatto-Monticone has banked just over $300,000 compared to 24-time majors winner Williams' $88 million.

"I've made a lot of sacrifices, I can selfishly say that I deserve all this, then my staff has always supported me and I cannot but thank them for that," she told Spaziotennis blog.

Her patience has paid off and a Tuesday date on Centre Court beckons against the great American.

Gatto-Monticone qualified for Roland Garros this year, becoming the oldest Grand Slam debutant since 43-year-old Renee Richards at the 1977 US Open.

Then, in qualifying for Wimbledon, she recovered from being 6-3, 4-1 down to France's Oceane Dodin in the final round.

Gatto-Monticone has credited her late-career boom with "wellness and taking up martial arts".

She also points to a love affair with Japan which she visits regularly.

"It's the third year now that I've gone to Japan, usually the goal is to raise the level by playing very fast tennis," she explained.

"After the first week I was in pieces, but after recovering I picked up some excellent results.

"I'm always eager to to back to Japan. I discovered a wonderful nation and in these years I have had the opportunity to discover customs and traditions different from ours."

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