Serena Williams’ low point came in February

WIMBLEDON— Serena Williams hit bottom at the end of February.

Shortly after treatment for clots in her lungs, she went back into the hospital because of a hematoma, a large gathering of blood under the skin on her stomach.

She calls that “the disaster.”

“After I had the lung problem, it was, like, ‘OK, I got through that.’ Then having to have a surgery removing the hematoma was just my low point. I felt it was never going to end,” Williams said, one day before Monday’s start of Wimbledon, where she has won the past two titles and four overall.

“Mentally, I was just down. But I think that’s normal. That is expected,” Williams added.

“I was just pretty upset,” she said, “and just wondering when this string of things would stop happening.”

That “string” began last July, a few days after she beat Vera Zvonareva in the final at the All England Club for a 13th Grand Slam singles championship. Leaving a restaurant in Germany, Williams cut both feet on broken glass. She eventually needed two operations on her right foot and spent 10 weeks in a cast, then 10 weeks in a walking boot.

Then came the blood clots, for which she needed to inject herself with a blood thinner; those shots led to the hematoma.

Eventually, Williams was able to begin the process of getting back in shape, with a particular focus on improving her lung capacity.

“Just having to work out a little bit harder, because I’m starting from zero,” said Williams, who will be 25th in Monday’s WTA rankings but whose past success at the All England Club resulted in a No. 7 seeding.

As for what it would mean to win another title now, given what she’s been through over the past year, Williams said: “It would be awesome and amazing, but that’s not my thought process. My thought process is just to play the best I can and to be positive. ... Six or seven weeks of just trying to get myself together isn’t a tremendous amount of time, but the fact that I can even compete and be in a position I wasn’t sure I’d have a chance to be at again is more than enough.”

She returned to the practice courts in April.

And then she played at her first tournament in about 11 months at Eastbourne last week, winning her first match and losing the second to Zvonareva in three sets.

“I felt like the breaks were five seconds long. Every time I sat down, the umpire would call, ‘Time.’ But I felt like I was able to go through it. I was fine physically when I got off the court,” said Williams, who turns 30 in September. “My mom was so worried about me. I keep telling her, ‘I’m OK.’ She’s like, ‘If you feel anything, just stop; come off the court.’ I’m like, ‘Mom, the doctor said I would be OK.’”

Williams was asked Sunday what she learned during her series of recent health issues.

“Things build character in people. Overcoming certain obstacles, overcoming being down match point, as opposed to overcoming something else is, two totally different things,” she said.

Summing up, she added: “Life is too short, so have a drink.”

Amid peals of laughter, Williams made sure to note: “I’m just kidding.”


DRESS CODE: When it comes to players’ clothing, Wimbledon frowns upon on-court colors or flamboyance. Not surprisingly, Bethanie Mattek-Sands — she of the knee-high socks and eyeblack strips, among other accessories — has figured out a way to stand out from the crowd.

The 26-year-old American, who is seeded 30th at the All England Club, plans to wear something over her outfit — she won’t say exactly what — with white tennis balls adorning it when she walks out for her first-round match Tuesday against qualifier Misaki Doi of Japan.

Mattek-Sands’ unique top was designed by Alex Noble, who creates over-the-top costumes for singer Lady Gaga.

“I have something of his that I’m going to wear onto the court, but I can’t play in it,” Mattek-Sands said. “It’s my big surprise for Wimbledon.”

Judging by another Noble item that Mattek-Sands wore recently, it’s sure to grab attention. At the WTA’s pre-tournament party Thursday, Mattek-Sands donned a neon yellow dress festooned with tennis balls, racket strings and a section of a net.

“It was awesome, even though it was a little bit of a crazy day,” Mattek-Sands said. “I had to play my quarterfinal match at Eastbourne, so they sent a helicopter to fly me to London, and I only had 50 minutes to get dressed and do my makeup.”

For all of her whimsical fashion choices — off the court, and on — Mattek-Sands takes her tennis seriously. She’s ranked a career-high 31st and is seeded at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

“When I’m relaxed and having fun, I play my best tennis,” said Mattek-Sands, who was born in Minnesota and lives in Arizona. “Tennis is what I’ve done since I’m 5 and have been focused on. Everything has come to fruition now, but it’s always been important to me.”

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