How a pedicure left Serena on her 'death bed' wondering, 'Why me?'

An introspective Williams – who returns to action today – talks about the sliced foot that nearly ended her career

No wonder Serena Williams was all smiles down by the seaside here yesterday. When you have come as close as she did to losing her life, never mind her career, you tend to be grateful just to be back. The old cliché about taking one match at a time was never more apt in her case. As she said, "I'm not preparing for today or Wimbledon, I'm preparing for the rest of my career."

The bookies may have installed her as favourite for the All England Club showpiece event in a week's time, but for once in her life Serena is playing it low key. This is nothing like even her outrageous comeback of 2007 when overweight and out of touch she came back from four months' inactivity to win the Australian Open. Given she was on her "death bed" just three months ago, winning Wimbledon for a fifth time would surely be the comeback to end all comebacks.

It was almost a year ago that she stepped on broken glass in a German restaurant, causing an injury which led to a blood clot that travelled from her foot to her lung. And she blames it all on a pedicure.

"I was at this restaurant-bar kind of thing and I was with my nephew and hitting partner," she said. "We were leaving, and I was walking, and then I felt something. I was like, 'Guys, be careful. I think there's glass on the floor.' I'm just thinking, 'OK, I'm tough, I'm just gonna keep walking.' I took another step and then my coach, he looked down, and there's this massive puddle of blood. I ended up fainting because I lost so much blood and because I was standing up. I ended up having to get stitches in both feet. One was on top and one was on the bottom of my other foot. I guess it sliced right through my ligament. I didn't know at the time that my ligament was torn... I was this close to wearing boots, and I [had] got a pedicure and I thought, 'Man, I don't want to mess up my toes.' Go figure."

It led to two successive surgeries, the second of which caused her to miss the Australian Open, before a pulmonary embolism was diagnosed, although only after her physiotherapist bullied her into missing the Oscars party in Los Angeles in March. "She's like, 'No, you need to go to the hospital.' Glad I didn't go to that party.

"They said I had several blood clots bilaterally, so in both lungs. A lot of people die from that because you don't recognise it. Me being an athlete, I couldn't breathe. I just thought I was out of shape. So I thought I needed to get on the treadmill or something, hit the elliptical. They said it could have gotten a lot more serious a day or two later. It could have possibly been career-ending, but for the grace of God I got there in time and I was able to recover from it."

It almost goes without saying that she has returned to the game a touch more introspective, a little more humble. "I laid on the couch for a couple of days," she said. "Just so much stuff happened to me and I just couldn't understand why. I kept trying to figure out what I could do different or what – not necessarily what I did wrong, just what didn't I do or what did I do to deserve this."

Now she is ready to move on with her life and career, starting with today's first-round match at the Aegon International against Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova. As ever, she has big sister Venus alongside to offer encouragement. She will have been particularly encouraged by Venus's performance yesterday on her own return after five months out with a hip injury. After scraping away the rust, which included a pair of successive double faults, she managed to beat the world No 11 Andrea Petkovic, of Germany, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3. No doubt Serena would have heartily concurred with her sister's view when asked if she was nervous. "No, not really," Venus replied. "I just didn't want to get hurt."

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn