The 30-year-old American defied those who had said she was too old and too injured to return to the main stage by winning her 14th grand slam title against Agnieszka Radwanska on Centre Court on Saturday. It was one of her more emotional victories too, with the sixth seed collapsing in a heap at the end before climbing into the stand for a tearful embrace with her family.
The outpouring was owing to the journey she had taken to the major title, having not won one since her 2010 success on the Wimbledon grass. Just days after that, she stepped on some glass and injured her foot, with the subsequent complications – including a blood clot on her lungs – forcing her, in her own words, to her “deathbed”. She recovered in Florida and contemplated whether she would play tennis again.
Eventually she garnered the strength to return to the tour, but after losing in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year her ranking slipped to 175th in the world.
Williams completed her comeback in the grandest style yesterday, then declared there is much more to come.
“I want to keep doing more and I want to play well,” she said. “I don’t want to think about a legacy because I am definitely going to keep playing for many years to come. I have never felt better. I feel awesome and amazing. I just feel like all this is going great.”
During the two years that passed between Williams’ Wimbledon wins, the seven grand slam titles available were shared among six players, with no-one able to take a stranglehold on the women’s game in the way Serena and sister Venus previously had. Between them they have now racked up 21 singles titles in the slams, while last night they secured a 13th doubles crown together – their fifth at Wimbledon – leading many to wonder how many more Serena could have won were it not for her injury. Including two mixed doubles wins, she has 29 slams to her name.
“I just think I would probably have won several more grand slams had I not run into anything that happened to me, for no reason,” she said. “But you never know why things happen. There is a reason for everything. I am living in this moment and every time I win any match, I am happy.”
Williams’ Centre Court tears showed there is more to a player often characterised by her bruising, all-action on-court style. It was not the first time she had opened up during the tournament, admitting to the media how she cries at television shows as well as revealing that her love life is a “shambles” and that she never receives flowers from admirers. As a result, she throws herself into her tennis, and has pledged to continue to do the same as she heads towards the Olympics later this month.
“Tennis and God are my priorities in life,” she said. “Tennis is what I have and what I know I am good at. It’s one thing I can rely on, it never lets me down and I can do so much with it. I appreciate it so much.”
With Williams now sitting on 14 major titles from 18 finals, she has an identical record to that of American great Pete Sampras, who dominated the men’s game for a decade.But with more years ahead of her, there is a chance she could eclipse the achievements of the man she grew up idolising so much that she named her dog after him.