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Serena Williams

Winning matters

With the US Open starting next week, the winner of four singles titles in New York tells Sport how the drama of the past two years has left her wanting more

says Serena Williams, fixing us with her intense gaze. Williams is no stranger to tragedy, but

even for her the statement is dripping with soap-opera-style sensation. Except that it’s not sensationalist at all, because when the world number one was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital in February 2011 with a pulmonary embolism (in this case, blood clots on her lungs) and a haematoma, it turned out that the trip had been made in the nick of time. “If it had been left a few days later, it could have ended my career, or even worse,” she reflects now. “They said I had several blood clots in both lungs – a lot of people die from that.” One of the most dramatic chapters in Williams’ life began in July 2010 when, just four days after

winning her fourth Wimbledon singles title, she stepped on broken glass when leaving a Munich restaurant with only a pair of sandals protecting her feet. Williams looked down to see a pool of blood emerging from a multitude of cuts and, most worryingly, from a lacerated tendon in her right foot. She needed two bouts of surgery, followed by 10 weeks in a cast and a further 10 in a protective boot, to recover. Before she could, however, the pulmonary embolism forced her back into the operating room. The winner of 16 Grand Slams was facing one of the toughest fights of her 18-year career. “It was a really big nightmare for me,” she tells Sport when we meet ahead of the year’s final

Grand Slam – the US Open, where she’ll be looking to win her fifth singles title. “But I feel like what happened to me – everything that I went through – released a lot of pressure. I feel a lot lighter now, like I don’t have anything to prove. I don’t feel any pressure to do anything.”

Love game Something Williams has felt since her return, though, is the pull of the sport to which the 31-year-old has devoted her life. In the documentary Venus and Serena, a film that follows the sisters throughout the 2011 season and was released just before this year’s Wimbledon, there are two particularly telling scenes. In one, Serena is holding on to a walking frame for balance while throwing punches and kicks in the direction of a TV – one presumably screening the latest Davina McCall fitness DVD, or similar. In the other, she can be seen hitting volleys on a tennis court from the confines of a wheelchair, her lower right leg encased in a > | August 23 2013 | 19

Leo Cackett for WTA

“Two years ago I was in the hospital, almost dead,”

Sport magazine 319  
Sport magazine 319  

In this week's Sport: Serena Williams speaks exclusively about recovering from life-threatening illness, (not) playing until she’s 40 and he...