WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND (AP) - Even at the age of 30, with a two-year gap since her last Grand Slam title and a long list of recent health problems, Serena Williams is hoping she’s just getting started on something big.
Williams won her fifth Wimbledon title on Saturday _ and 14th Grand Slam overall _ to mark the culmination of an improbable comeback. With her health restored and her game back at its best, she’s not planning on slowing down anytime soon.
“It’s the beginning of a great phase,” Williams said after beating Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 on Centre Court. “I feel amazing out there. This whole tournament I felt really great physically. So it’s definitely the beginning of something great. I hope it is.”
Williams certainly looked great on Saturday, bossing Radwanska around the court for large stretches of the first and last set. She had a brief lapse in the second, tightening up as the most prestigious trophy in tennis was once again within her reach.
“Maybe I wanted it so bad that I got tight,” she said. “Instead of focusing on things that I was doing I was only focusing on things that I wasn’t doing.”
At least these days she’s focusing on tennis again.
Williams was sidelined for 10 months following her last Wimbledon title in 2010. A few days after that victory, she cut both feet on broken glass while leaving a restaurant in Germany and needed two operations. Then, it was blood clots in her lungs, which led to her being hospitalized and eventually needing another procedure.
With all those problems, many doubted she’d ever get back to the top. For a while, Williams doubted whether she’d ever be back on the court.
“I didn’t think I would play tennis again at one point, I just wanted to make it out of the hospital,” she said. “And I wasn’t even thinking about tennis. I was just thinking about my family, and thinking about just making it out of that moment. That’s when you realize you have perspectives about life.”
Over the last two weeks at Wimbledon, it often looked like she’d never been gone at all.
She broke her own tournament record for aces in a match with 23 against Zheng Jie in the third round. Less than a week later, she eclipsed that mark with 24 against Azarenka in the semifinals. In between, she ousted defending champion Petra Kvitova in straight sets in the quarterfinals.
The first set of the final was completely one-sided as Williams won the first five games. After her slump in the second, she won the last five games of the match as well to set off a tear-filled celebration. She climbed into the player’s box to hug her whole family, and used her victory speech to thank her sisters and parents for helping her get through her troubles.
A few hours later, she was back on Centre Court to win a fifth doubles title with sister Venus.
“She’s such a fighter, you never say die,” Venus Williams said. “Positivity really brought her a long way in that. I don’t think either of us believe that we can be defeated by anything. Nothing has defeated us yet, so we’re going to keep that track record.”
Williams is the first woman in her 30s to win a Wimbledon title since Martina Navratilova, who won at the All England Club in 1990 when she was 33.
But age hasn’t slowed her down so far. And if she stays healthy, Williams could soon match Navratilova’s total of 18 Grand Slam titles as well. Or why not the 22 that Steffi Graf won?
Williams isn’t setting any targets, though.
“I just think, the next one. If that doesn’t work out, the next one,” Williams said. “Even when I started I never had a number in mind. I remember when I reached eight, I was like `Oh my god, I have eight Grand Slams, how did this happen?’ And now I have 14, which is unbelievable. I’m happy that I’m no longer saying 13.”
So after all this, what else does she want to win?
“Are you kidding?” she said. “The U.S. Open, the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon 2013.”
If she stays healthy, it all looks within reach.
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