Monday, June 20, 2011

Serena Williams Eager to Put Injuries Behind Her at Wimbledon,0,135797.story

Serena Williams eager to put injuries behind her at Wimbledon

Williams, who has not played for most of the last year, says she is ready to defend her title at Wimbledon. Sister Venus says she is doing well but is otherwise keeping her thoughts to herself.

By Diane Pucin
4:56 PM PDT, June 19, 2011
Reporting from Wimbledon, England

Serena Williams is glad to be asked.

She will show off the scar on her right foot, which has been operated on twice since last July, and a smaller one on her left foot. The scars are a result, Williams says, of stepping on broken glass at a restaurant in Germany last summer.

Williams speaks proudly of how she injected herself in the thigh with a drug called Lovenox before she got on her flight to London two weeks ago.

Lovenox helps combat deep vein thrombosis. Williams had blood clots in her lungs in February, an episode she described as "life-threatening."

And still Williams is at Wimbledon to defend her title.

When Williams begins the tournament in the traditional spot for the reigning women's champion, first on Centre Court on Tuesday, it will be only the second event she has played since she won Wimbledon last year, when she did not lose a set and dominated in the women's final with a 63-minute, 6-3, 6-2 demolishment of Vera Zvonareva.

Williams, seeded seventh even though she is 25th in the world rankings, is aiming to tie her sister, Venus, with five Wimbledon titles. The sisters' father and coach, Richard, thinks it will happen.

"I think Serena will win," Richard said after overseeing practice for Venus, 31, and Serena, 29, Sunday morning.

Caroline Wozniacki, the world's top-ranked player, is seeded No. 1 even though she has not won a major. Zvonareva is seeded No. 2, and she has the same number of Grand Slam titles as Wozniacki.

So despite the series of physical problems for Serena in the 12 months since she walked off Centre Court last July, it is not surprising that she is considered a favorite by many more than her father and that Venus, who is three years past her last major win and seeded 23rd, is given a chance.

Venus has politely declined to give interviews at Wimbledon. When she finished practice Sunday, she said, "I'm doing well, but I'm not doing interviews."

Serena was more talkative. She spoke of her resolve to return to tennis throughout her recovery.

"I'll stop when I'm ready," she said. "And I'm just not ready."

She enthusiastically described the shot she most missed hitting: the serve. Even if it didn't meet Williams' expectations in her first tournament of the year, a Wimbledon warmup last week.

"Definitely my serve," she said, "but I didn't travel with my serve to Eastbourne, so I hope it came with me. I hope he was in my luggage coming to Wimbledon, because I've missed him."

Serena hit 89 aces at Wimbledon last year, 59 more than any other woman hit during the two-week tournament.

She described how her body has changed during her nearly one-year break from tennis.

"My butt's way softer than it normally is," she said.

She spoke of never being afraid, not even when she had trouble breathing before being diagnosed with the blood clots in February. What bothered her more, she said, was the fear she saw from her father and her mother, Oracene.

What she still can't describe is how the accident in Germany happened. Serena said she was leaving the darkened restaurant and that there was broken glass on the floor. As for how the glass ended up causing the gashes on the top of her right foot and the side of her left foot?

"That's the biggest mystery next to the Loch Ness monster," she said.

Williams said she practiced "full force" for only 21 days before playing two matches last week at Eastbourne. Her loss to Zvonareva in three sets gives Williams hope for Wimbledon. She stayed on the court for more than three hours.

"I was fine physically when I got off the court," she said. "I felt fine and I ran a lot and I felt good. I still feel pretty good."

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