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."

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvSpoiler alert: It has been talked about for months
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?