WIMBLEDON: In Victory, Serena Williams Gives Touching, Honest Look

Serena Williams in tears after winning in 1st round at Wimbledon


It hit Serena Williams somewhere as she approached the net to shake Aravane Rezai’s hand. Her head out of the battle, it went back to her year away from tennis with injury, then illness. She won her return to Wimbledon Tuesday, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, and couldn’t even get to her chair before she started crying.

She sat down, buried her face in her towel and cried some more. She walked off the court, stopped to talk to BBC, and yes, kept crying.

“I usually don’t cry, so I don’t understand it,’’ she said. “But it’s just been so hard. . .It’s been a disaster year. I didn’t expect to play; I didn’t expect to even do anything. This is, this is, just, I’m excited. I never cry with joy for anything.’’

Through the years, we’ve seen Williams happy and mad, funny and sad, grumpy and, well, the point is, we’ve never seen her like this, so vulnerable. She is such a mix of hyper-emotions that, frankly, it was nice she let us see this side.

Maybe “let’’ is the wrong word. It just happened. So unfamiliar with it, she thought at first that there was just something in her eye.

So Williams is back, and so is her sister, Venus, who missed nearly six months and then won her first-round match on Monday. Women’s tennis desperately needs the Williams sisters.

Back from a hip injury, Venus played well in her first match and should make a deep run. For Serena, this wasn’t her best tennis. She served big and fought hard, but she can’t play like this and win the tournament. She won’t play like this, though. She’s a little rusty. And I do think she’ll win.

“It’s been an up-and-down, bumpy road for the women’s tour as of late,’’ Roger Federer said. “We’ll see now how it goes here with the sisters back.’’


Tuesday’s match wasn’t about how well Serena was playing. It was just about playing at all, being back on tennis’ biggest stage.

There seems to be a lot of crying in tennis: Federer cried after losing to Rafael Nadal one year. Nadal cried when he won the French Open last year after nearly a year of injuries and family issues.

The sport itself lends to it. You are on the court all alone, and the game is all on you, and emotional. Oftentimes on the women’s tour, top players have left the court in tears, and it’s disappointing weakness from the world’s most likely sports role models for girls.

This didn’t seem like weakness from Williams. It just seemed like her being human. We don’t always get this honest of moments from our superstar athletes.

Williams described depression and tears over the past year. And these were a different kind of tears. This was about overcoming.

“I guess I proved that I could,’’ she said. “I could.’’

After winning Wimbledon last year, she said she hurt her foot at a German restaurant and had two surgeries. After that, theoretically from Williams sitting around while her foot healed, blood clots formed and worked their way up and into her lungs.

Even without playing, she has managed to stay the focus of the women’s game. First came doubts – from me, included – about how she actually hurt her foot. Then came the news of blood clots, and a rush to the hospital because of a hematoma. She had a stalker scare, posted a picture of herself on Twitter in a wild pink body suit the first day she practiced, made a dominatrix-like commercial in thigh highs for a video game, had a stalker scare, posted a Twitter avatar of herself in bra, panties and high heels.

And she also posted over and over about nights out with friends and fun at sporting events. But occasionally, dropped into the fun, she posted tweets about things going wrong, hints about depression.

“I always preach never give up, never give up,’’ she said. “I could have sat home and said, `I’ve had a fabulous career. I don’t have to work extra, extra hard now.’ ’’

Instead, she found that she was missing tennis. Also, it is not in her nature to let something beat her.

So Williams told more about her feelings in a press conference after the match. But that was just a description. What you saw in the minutes after the match was the real thing, unfiltered.

She still faced questions about her foot injury. She has given contradictory stories about it, including whether the first surgery was really necessary. The story is that she stepped on broken glass at a German restaurant, but now Williams said she isn’t sure exactly what happened.

On Tuesday, asked for the name of the restaurant, and why she didn’t sue if she had lost millions of dollars based on the negligence of the place, she said she didn’t remember the name and that she had been sued before and “would never want to put anyone through that.’’

Well, there was no denying the honesty of the moment Tuesday as she walked off the court. At 29, it’s still to be determined whether this past year will make her think of tennis as only a game, or as something she knows now could be taken away at any time.

That’s to be worked out later. Tuesday was about one beautiful, human moment:

“It’s just been so hard,’’ she said as she left the court. “I never dreamt I would be here now. I just wanted to win one match here. I just thought it would be… you know, it was really important for me.’’


About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at FoxSports.com and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

2 responses to “WIMBLEDON: In Victory, Serena Williams Gives Touching, Honest Look

  • Tehaspe Forshur

    She can’t remember the name of the restaurant or the name of the hospital or how it happened. It just kind of happened….
    Look, she’s lying. Why she is lying is another question and there could be a somewhat innocent explanation for it, but I doubt it. You don’t get bone infections from cutting yourself on glass. You do get them from injecting a needle into through your skin if you didn’t clean up the the injected area well enough and there were some Staph Aureus still present. It is also rare to get a pulmonary embolism while in a walking cast. Something that makes it far less rare, though, is the use of EPO or other similar substances that thicken the blood and improve stamina. These drugs also make it more conducive to getting a large hematoma. Then there is the fact that she is built like a male bodybuilder. Look, enough with the fantasy. Tennis has a very big steroid problem and she is poster child for it.

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