Serena Williams had to fight off some obvious rust, but the defending champion went on to defeat Aravane Rezai 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 at Wimbledon on Tuesday to advance to the second round.
Afterward, Williams became emotional as she considered the foot injury and blood clots in her lungs that not only threatened her career and but could have ended her life. Prior to last week, Williams hadn’t played tennis since winning Wimbledon last summer.
“It’s been so hard, I never dreamt I would be here right now,” said Williams. “I just wanted to win just one match here seeing as I’m not playing doubles, it was just a really big win for [me]. It’s been so hard and a disaster year for me, but I’ve been praying and I have my family here and I just love tennis.”
But for a while it looked as though the seventh-seeded Williams comeback was too soon as the threat of losing her first opening round Grand Slam seemed real. She lost her first two opening games to Rezai to give cause for concern. But then she won five straight to seize control of the opening set. She took a step back, losing the second set, before showing signs of being her powerful self in dominating the third set for the win.
Williams, seeded seventh despite missing much of the last year, came back from injury last week during Eastbourne for her first competitive match since winning Wimbledon last summer. She lost early last week but gained some valuable confidence heading into Wimbledon.
Williams has won four Wimbledon titles during her career and is one of the favorites to win it all this year despite the long time off. Williams is bidding to become the first player since Steffi Graff in 1993 to win three straight Wimbledon singles titles.
(Photos: AP Photo/Sang Tan)