LONDON: Serena Williams has warned her rivals that her emotional fifth Wimbledon title will act as a springboard for even greater glory as she aims to make up for the worst period of her life.
Just two years ago Serena should have been on top of the world after winning Wimbledon for the fourth time, but instead the American was at her lowest ebb after a series of freak health problems left her battling for her life.
The trouble started when she needed 18 stitches and then surgery after stepping on broken glass in a Munich restaurant.
Worse was to come as she suffered life-threatening blood clots on her lungs and, as she lay on a couch with tubes poking from her body to aid her recovery, Serena was convinced her career at the top was over.
But, showing the ferocious will-power that marked her rise to prominence, Williams gradually battled back to full health and capped a remarkable revival on Saturday with a 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska in the Wimbledon final.
“Every title is special, but this one is definitely super-special because it’s a huge comeback for me,” she said after her first Grand Slam triumph since the illness.
“There was a moment I just remember I was on the couch and I didn’t leave it for two days. I was praying, like I can’t take any more. I’ve endured enough.
“I was just so tired at that point. I had a tube in my stomach and it was draining constantly.
“Gosh, I mean, right before that I had the blood clot. I had lung problems, then I had two foot surgeries. I felt like I didn’t do anything to bring on that. It was the lowest of lows.
“But I didn’t give up. I came back and winning is amazing because last year I was ranked almost 200. It’s been an unbelievable journey for me.”
Serena’s 14th Grand Slam crown underlined her credentials as the sport’s pre-eminent force and, at an age when many players are entering the twilight of their career, the 30-year-old has no intention of resting on her laurels.
“It’s Wimbledon, I’ve wanted to win here so bad,” she said. “Oh, my gosh, I still can’t believe I was able to come through and win my seven matches.
“It hasn’t sunk in. That’s the difference to the wins I had in the past. Usually it sinks in fast.
“It’s the beginning of a great phase. I feel amazing out there. This whole tournament I felt really great physically. So I think it’s definitely the beginning of something great.
“There’s the US Open, the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon 2013...”
Serena has now equalled sister Venus’s tally of five Wimbledon titles and the next All England Club legend in her sights is Bille Jean King, who won the tournament six times, with the chance to catch German great Steffi Graf on seven titles another motivation.
“I don’t see why not. I have never felt better. This whole tournament I have pretty much been injury free,” Williams added.
If Serena continues serving with the kind of sustained accuracy and power she showed at Wimbledon - the world number four eventually finished with 102 aces after hitting 17 against Radwanska - her dream of dominating women’s tennis again could well come true.
“My serve really helped me throughout this tournament. I can’t describe why it was so good or how it was so good. It’s not like I practice it that much. I just had the rhythm,” she said.
And if she ever has cause to doubt herself during a match, there is no question what memory will spur her on to greater heights.
“I didn’t just stay there when I was down. I got up,” she said. “That’s what you got to do sometimes. I got up and I started.”