Serena: "Death bed" experience gave me a whole new perspective on life

Thirteen-time Grand Slam winner speaks candidly ahead of her return to action at Eastbourne today.

Image: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Press Association Images

A LITTLE LESS than a year ago, Serena Williams tossed her racket high into the sky over Centre Court at the All-England Tennis Club, celebrating the thirteenth Grand Slam victory of her career.

Later on this afternoon at the AEGON Championships at Eastbourne, the 29-year-old makes her first return to the court since that 6-3 6-2 victory over Vera Zvonareva. This time, however, she has a whole set of priorities.

Already sidelined by foot injury, Williams discovered in March of this year that she had a pulmonary embolism – a series of blood clots in her lungs that she is only now coming to appreciate the seriousness of.

“I was on my death bed at one point – quite literally,” Williams bluntly told reporters yesterday.

“I’ve had a serious illness but at first I didn’t appreciate that. At first people said it would be fine, it would be all right but it turned out to be a lot more serious. If it had been left two days later it could have been career-ending – or even worse.

“They told me I had several blood clots in both lungs. A lot of people die from that.”

It got to the stage where it felt like I could hardly breathe. Some days I didn’t get out of bed at all. I just laid on a couch thinking why has this happened to me? The second surgery [on her lung] was tough, more mentally tough than a lot of things I’ve been through, including my sister dying.

Gavin Cooney
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Her opponent on the grass courts of Eastbourne today, Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova, is a tricky customer, ranked 34th in the world. As comeback matches and Wimbledon warm-ups go, Serena could have asked for a slightly easier first outing.

Given all that’s happened over the past 12 months, she’s happy just to be back playing again.

This has given me a whole new perspective on life and my career – and not taking anything for granted. I’m just taking one day at a time. I’m not preparing for today or for Wimbledon. I’m preparing for the rest of my career.

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Niall Kelly

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