Emotional Wimbledon Return For Serena
Published June 21, 2011 12:00
LONDON, England - One year ago, Serena Williams was the clear-cut No.1 player in the world and shone at Wimbledon, winning her 13th Grand Slam title without even losing a set. But that would be her last tournament for almost a year, returning to the WTA after almost a year of injury and health problems just last week at Eastbourne. How would she fare in her Grand Slam return?
She dropped a set but shone in the third to beat Aravane Rezai, 63 36 61.
"It has been so hard. I never dreamt I'd be here right now," a teary eyed Williams told the BBC after coming off of Centre Court. "I just wanted to win at least one match here, seeing as I'm not playing doubles. It's been a disaster year but I just kept praying. I love tennis and wanted to be able to play Wimbledon."
Williams rebounded from losing the first two games to take the first set fairly handily; her game went somewhat awry in the second set as her 10 errors outbalanced five winners, but she was strong again in the third set, hitting eight winners to just four errors and closing Rezai out on her 13th ace of the match.
Although Rezai has also fallen down the rankings recently - she began the year No.19 and is now No.61 - she was considered a threat, having pushed Williams very close in their only prior meeting (leading 63 52 before falling in three sets) and has two wins over another member of the Williams family, Venus Williams.
"Aravane's a really good player," Williams commented. "She has won huge tournaments before and has beaten Venus. I knew it wouldn't be easy."
Williams improved to an amazing 44-0 in her career in Grand Slam first round matches and also collected her 200th Grand Slam match win, just the sixth woman in the Open Era to cross that milestone (Navratilova has 306, Evert has 299, Graf has 278, Sánchez-Vicario has 210 and Venus Williams has 207).
In her press conference afterwards, Williams talked about the emotions she showed after the match. "It definitely hit me at the end of the match. I'm not a cryer, so I don't know. I think it was something in my eyes at one point. It was so emotional for me because throughout the last 12 months I've been through a lot of things that aren't normal, things you guys don't even know about. It has just been a long, arduous road. To stand up still is pretty awesome.
"It was something I had to overcome. And I'm still overcoming every day. This isn't the end of the road; it's just the beginning."
Williams also showed some of her funnier side later in the presser when asked, in light of everything she has overcome off the court, whether there is ever anything on the court that would faze her. "I wouldn't necessarily want to face Nadal at the French Open," she replied. "That would drive me insane."
Awaiting Williams in the second round will be 19-year-old former junior No.1 Simona Halep of Romania. Halep won her first round match earlier in the day against another teenager, Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski, 61 62.