There have been times in Serena Williams' career when the tennis world wondered whether it had seen the last of her. The 13-times Grand Slam champion, however, said on her return here yesterday that she had never contemplated leaving a sport that she has dominated for most of the last decade.
"I always thought I would want to continue to play," the 29-year-old American said of her latest comeback. "I thought I would play a lot sooner. Things didn't work out. But I'm never the type to stop. I'll stop when I'm ready and I'm just not ready. I really thoroughly enjoy being out here."
Only a month ago you would have found few people inside the game who expected Williams to defend her title here. Within days of last year's final she cut her foot on a piece of glass in a restaurant, severing a tendon. Her recovery after two operations was set back when she was rushed to hospital to have a haematoma removed after a blood clot travelled from a leg to her lungs.
Last week, however, the former world No 1 made her comeback after 11 months out. Although she is making no predictions about how she will fare over the next fortnight she is clearly in a happy frame of mind. "My game's doing pretty good. There are some things that I want to work on and improve, but I can't be upset at all about my game. I think it's doing well. It's fun. I feel like I'm young again."
She added: "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 in again is more than enough."
Williams revealed that in having the haematoma removed she had lost a small piece of a lung. She had to work subsequently on improving her lung capacity. "I'm probably actually in better shape running-wise now than I was before," she said.
What did Williams think the women's game had missed during her absence? "I think the tour missed just having me around. But I really just missed not being around the tour. I missed the ladies in the locker room. I missed laughing. I missed having matches. I missed the tour. I hope it missed me, but I know I missed the tour."