I have to say, it’s really great having Venus and Serena back on tour again, and right before Wimbledon. Not only can we enjoy their grass court tennis – Venus beat Andrea Petkovic in the first round of Eastbourne on Monday, Serena plays Pironkova tomorrow – we also are treated to their inimitable press conferences.
Serena Williams had some interesting things to say about her year of injuries, surgeries and recoveries during Monday’s press conference. Here are some choice bits:
Q. Presumably this (comeback) 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?
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. 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. 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.