High five for Serena after all the lows
Tennis:Serena Williams celebrated a fifth Wimbledon title having once feared she would never get off the couch again due to a life-threatening injury. The 30-year-old was a three-set winner over Agnieszka Radwanska on Centre Court to claim her 14th Grand Slam success and first since she won at the All England Club in 2010.
Her world was turned upside immediately after that triumph, though, with a year-long battle with injury and illness triggered when she stepped on a glass outside a Munich restaurant.
She required surgery on both feet in the aftermath, while an undetected blood clot, sparked by the accident, moved up to her lungs and left her, in her own words, on her “deathbed”.
While all this was unfolding, a new wave of players such as Radwanska, Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova were taking over at the head of the sport, leaving many to wonder if the era of dominance enjoyed by Serena and sister Venus was over.
She contemplated that too as she recuperated at the Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, with her struggles deepening when she returned home and slumped on the sofa with little interest in returning to the court.
All the while her ranking was dropping, hitting a low of 175th, but, inspired by her support team, she hit a comeback trail that had a glorious end this afternoon.
“I have definitely had some lows,” she said of her experiences. “There was a moment I remember when I was on the couch, I didn’t leave it for two days. I was just over it. I was praying like, ‘I can’t take any more, I’ve endured enough, let me be able to get through this’.
“I was just so tired at that point. I had a tube in my stomach and it was draining constantly.
“Right before that I had a blood clot, I had lung problems, then I had two foot surgeries. I was down a lot. I didn’t do anything to bring that on and it was the lowest of the lows. But coming here today and winning is amazing because last year I was ranked almost 200. This has been an unbelievable journey for me.”
At the end of her 6-1 5-7 6-2 success against Radwanska, which she dominated barring a second-set fightback from the Pole, she collapsed to the floor before breaking down in tears.
She clambered through the stands to be embraced by dad Richard, mum Oracene, sister Venus and physiotherapist Esther Lee, as well as her agent Val Vogt and half-sister Isha Price.
Williams credits all of them with helping her return from the brink, but reserves special thanks for Vogt, Lee and Price.
“Those three in particular, from the day I got to the hospital to the day I left, they never left the room,” she said.
“They didn’t have to do that, they didn’t owe me that. That meant a lot to me. It’s hard to find people in your life that will sleep there every night, sleeping on a chair, huddled up.
“Those are memories that I would rather not endure but, if you do, it’s unbelievable to have them by your side.”
Williams made no excuses for her tears either, admitting that behind her bulldozing on-court persona lies a soft centre.
“I think when you go through a lot of things you let your guard down a little bit and just be yourself,” she said.
“I love being me. I’m a normal person. I like it when people get to see that side of me. I’m always crying in movies and I was actually crying at Desperate Housewives the other day!”
She quickly returned to work mode, though, heading to play a doubles final with Venus, leaving Radwanska to sum up her loss.
The third seed was a slight doubt to even start the match having revealed an ongoing respiratory problem and, apart from her second-set renaissance, she neither seemed fit enough nor strong enough to live with Williams.
The gulf was highlighted at a key point in the third set when Williams served out to love with four aces inside 49 seconds and then broke in the next game.
Radwanska was phlegmatic after her maiden final appearance, though, saying: “These have been the best two weeks of my life. It’s a dream to be in the final.
“I’m very happy. It’s always disappointing to lose, especially after a tough match, but I’m very happy about my final.
“She served very well today, so many aces and I couldn’t do much about it. I think she was just too good at the important moments in the third set.”