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June 13, 2011

Serena Williams


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. How excited are you feeling to be back?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I am really excited to be back. You know, I really miss playing tennis, obviously. I don't know if you guys know "obviously," but I definitely miss it, and I'm thoroughly enjoying the short time that I've been back on the practice courts.

Q. What did you miss the most?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, it sucked because I missed a lot of being -- you know, I left ranked No. 1. That's what I miss most is just being on top of the game and just playing some really good tennis and the challenges of all the players.

Q. How would you describe your condition at the moment?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I haven't played a match yet, so I'm not quite sure how I feel condition-wise. I feel good on the practice court. But I always think that when you get in a match it is totally different, so I kind of have to see.

Q. How long have you been practicing? How long have you been just practicing?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I have been hitting for a while. I have been seriously hitting for like a month, you know. But I kind of started hitting a little before that; not every day, but every day I have been going at it for a little bit.

Q. What made you want to come back and play here?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I wanted to play Roland Garros, but it didn't quite work out, and I figured maybe I can try to play another event. And I don't usually play warmup tournaments before Wimbledon. I also figured I haven't played in about a year, so maybe I can -- it's probably smart for me to play a warmup tournament, and where better to play than Eastbourne? I have played here before, and I have had some halfway decent results here.

Q. Venus says she's here to win it and to win Wimbledon. Do you share those feelings?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Wow. You know, I'm just here to do the best I can and I'm here not to lose. So that's about it.

Q. Could you take us back to Wimbledon last year and just your feelings, how delighted you were, and then just talk us through sort of the next couple of weeks after that.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, Wimbledon was great. I was playing great, I was serving amazing, and, you know, overall my confidence was right up there. It was almost even a shock, because I didn't expect to play so well, and everyone was like, Oh, she's playing so well.
I honestly thought I could do better. I remember after the tournament was over, I was talking to my dad about things that I wanted to work on and things I wanted to improve on.
That's about it. So hopefully I've been able to improve on those things that I wanted to.

Q. Would it be expecting too much for you to hit those spots again so soon after your injury?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I definitely expect to get there. I don't know when. I'm hoping tomorrow. I'm also hoping, you know, I can peak at Wimbledon. I can peak hopefully in the second week, and hopefully I'll get there.
So, you know, I'm just taking everything one day at a time, and I'm not putting too much expectations on myself or on my game. Most of all I'm just happy to be in competition.

Q. Does it help you that Venus is making the same sort of comeback as well?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Definitely. I feel like we've been on a similar road together. Her road hasn't been as arduous or as long as mine, but I know what she's been through coming back from Australia. She never retires, and she had to retire.
So, you know, we kind of -- I actually felt like, you know, when you're down and someone's down with you, it kind of makes you feel a little bit better. (Smiling.)
That's kind of how I felt. I was like, Yeah. Ha ha.
But we've been really enjoying our time just getting back together and practicing next to her and looking over and seeing her play so well. I'm like, Okay, I've got to do better.

Q. Were you hitting against her in practice?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't hit with her too much in practice; maybe just a few times literally. Two, three times maximum, not much at all.

Q. Is that because you get too competitive when you play each other?
SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I don't know why we don't hit with each other. We both have our own hitting partners and we hit with our own people. We don't really hit each other.
She's so good. When she hits with me, I just get really frustrated. It's like she's always killing me on the practice courts.

Q. Presumably this is nothing like when you came back after a long absence and won in Australia?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It's nothing like it?

Q. Is it nothing like it, or is it a much tougher road you've come back on?
SERENA WILLIAMS: This is totally different, because I've had some serious health problems and I was literally on my deathbed at one point in my career or my life.
This is like a totally different road where I'm more or less thinking, okay, I have nothing to lose at this point. And I'm just excited, more than anything, to be playing. And injury-bearing, you know, that's great, but now it's just all about me being here and being just happy.

Q. What did the doctors say to you in terms of how serious it was? What were their words when they sort of explained things to you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, you're obviously talking about my lung, the pulmonary embolism?

Q. Yeah.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, they just said that I had several clots bilaterally, so in both lungs, and it wasn't -- a lot of people die from that because you don't recognize it. Me being an athlete, I couldn't breathe. I honestly just thought I was out of shape. So I thought I needed to get on the treadmill or something or hit the Elliptical.
You know, they just said it could have gotten a lot serious a day later or two days later. It could have been really not good. It could have possibly been career-ending, but for the grace of God I got there in time and I was able to recover from it.

Q. So they told you you were in fact quite lucky then in some respects?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I always use the word "blessed ." I had great people around me. My physio forced me to go to the hospital, whereas I was actually on the way to a party, to be quite honest. She's like, No, you need to go to the hospital.
Glad I didn't go to that party.

Q. Has what happened to you given you a new perspective at all on your career?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Absolutely. This is totally different from, you know, any other comeback, because this has given me a whole new perspective on my career and not taking things for granted. Not that I've ever taken things for granted before, but there were times when I'm like, Oh, another match, and I'm really, you know, like, This is so hard.
But now it's more like, Yes, I'm out here and I could have had a chance where I could never be out here again. And especially being at the top of your game, having to have something like that happen randomly was -- it's tough, and it really makes me appreciate things.
Again, not that I didn't appreciate it before, because you guys know more than anything I love winning, and so it's just a different perspective.

Q. When you go through something so serious -- welcome back, by the way -- do you think you'll ever again find it easier to get worked up about a line call or a serve that doesn't go where you want it to go? Are there aspects of your game that you won't be able to take so seriously again?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I'm definitely going to still get really serious about line calls. (Laughter.)
I probably won't make the same threats. (Laughter.)
But I pretty much learned that lesson. My attitude hasn't changed. I still cracked a couple of racquets in practice. But that's good. That just still makes me feel like I have that desire, and, you know, I have that, you know, insatiable, you know, just innate thing inside me that I just want everything and I just want to win and I want to do well.

Q. How sure are you that these most recent health problems were linked to what happened in Germany?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It was definitely linked. I had to have two surgeries and so close to each other, and, you know, just -- I was in a cast for 20 weeks, which I was debating whether I'd rather be in jail for 20 weeks or a cast, and I was leaning towards jail because I really hated that cast. That was really tough. Mentally that was one of the toughest things for me.
But, you know, having your foot in one position for so long and not moving it and not being able to walk and not being able to do a lot of things, you know, didn't give my particular -- my history of my blood moving and stuff, so it caused a lot of problems.

Q. What actually happened, then, if you could tell us about that evening? Do you remember what actually happened?
SERENA WILLIAMS: With my foot?

Q. With the bottle.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Honestly I don't know. To this day I don't know. I was at this restaurant/barry kind of restaurant thing, and I was with my nephew at the time and my hitting partner.
We were literally leaving and I was walking, and then I felt something. I was like, Uh, guys, be careful. I think there's glass on the floor.
I just stepped back and I was like, Oh, that really hurts. So then, you know, I'm just thinking, okay, I'm tough. I'm just gonna keep walking. I took another step. And I was like, Oh, my God. There's definitely glass on the floor. Please be careful.
And so then my coach, he took his phone, he looked down and there's like this massive puddle of blood. I was like, Oh, my gosh.
So, you know, they rushed me back -- I ended up fainting because I lost so much blood because I was standing up. I ended up having to get stitches in both feet. One was on top and one was on the bottom of my other foot.
I guess it sliced right through my ligament. Now, I didn't know at the time that my ligament was torn. I just know that my toe was hanging low, and I didn't -- you know, I just thought, okay, they said it was because of swelling. They said, Oh, it's swelling, blah, blah, blah. So I thought, okay, I'll be fine, you know, whatever.
Eventually obviously it wasn't fine. But to this day I don't know. I was just walking and leaving and I just felt like, you know, something like -- it felt weird.

Q. Were you barefoot or have sandals on?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, and I started to wear boots. You ever see that movie Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow? I was this close to wearing boots, and I got a pedicure and I thought, man, I don't want to mess up my toes. Go figure.

Q. What did you do with yourself when you couldn't play? I mean, how did you occupy your time?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, it was tough. My first surgery was different, because my first surgery I was in LA, and I kind of stayed there and I kind of was hanging out or whatever. You know, I can't do too much with one leg.
And the second surgery was way tough, especially mentally, because I thought, okay, there goes Australia, which is really, you know, one of my favorite -- obviously one of my favorite tournaments to play.
That one was more mentally tough than a lot of things that I've been through in my life outside of maybe my sister's passing.
So that was incredibly hard for me. I think I may have been a little depressed at some moments. Then everything just happened from there, just the lung issues and it really was a disaster, to be honest.
What did I do? You know, I hung out a lot. I went to a lot of Dolphins games, and then I went to a bunch of Miami Heat games. Then that's about it.

Q. Are you much of a spectator of tennis? Could you bring yourself to watch the US Open, the Australian, and the French?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I definitely watched the US. I was on my way to recovery back then. I was out of my cast.
Venus got to the semis there, so I was there a lot. I watched a little of the Aussie Open but not too much because I was busy, I guess, doing my own thing.

Q. If, after all you have been through, in three weeks' time you were to retain your Wimbledon title, where would that rank in terms of achievement in your career?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I'm not thinking that far ahead. I'm just taking it one day at a time and just one day at a time. I mean, I'm not preparing for today or Wimbledon. I'm preparing for, you know, the rest of my career.

Q. Has the emotion of everything you've been through, obviously the illness and the emergency surgery, has the emotion of that caught up where you thought, whoa? Has it come out in tears or any other ways?
SERENA WILLIAMS: There were a few days I didn't get out of bed. I was just -- I was actually on the couch. I laid on the couch for a couple of days, because after everything, I ended up having to have -- just so much stuff happened to me and I just couldn't understand why.
It was like, okay. I kept trying to figure out what I could do different or what I -- not necessarily what I did wrong; just what didn't I do or what did I do to deserve this?
I don't think that had anything to do with it. I just think it was a series of unfortunate events. As the Bible says, there are unforeseen occurrences and unforeseen things that can just take place.

Q. Do you think tennis has missed you and your sister as much as you've missed tennis?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I hope so, because we've missed tennis so much. If tennis has missed us half as much as we have missed tennis, we're in a good place.

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