On Thursday at Indian Wells, Serena Williams will play her first tour event in more than a year. Is she ready? Yesterday in an interview with the BBC, Williams heaved a sigh and answered:
“If I’m not ready now, I’m just never going to be ready. I feel in two months I’ll be way better than I am now, but you have to start somewhere. I don’t want to keep sitting on the sidelines and thinking about it and doing it when I know I’m ready to start.”
If she sounds a little impatient, it’s probably because she is. Her comeback has been months in the making and by now, her story is already legend: After winning the 2017 Australian Open while two months pregnant, Williams gave birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia, in early August, and almost died from complications, including blood clots in her lungs. Ever since, she’s been working her way back into form, playing warmup matches along the way. She played an exhibition match in December in Dubai (she lost); a doubles match with her sister Venus at the Fed Cup last month (they lost); and two 10-point tiebreakers at an event in New York City last night (she won one against fellow comeback player Marion Bartoli and lost the second to Zhang Shuai).
She said in the interview that the comeback has been “hard, but insisted she was “OK” with slow progress.
“There have been so many days, even still, when I’m like, ‘how am I going to keep going?’ It’s been really, really difficult but I keep going and I know that I might not be at my best yet, but I’m getting there and every day is a new day and every day I should be getting better.
“As long as I’m moving forward, even if it’s at a turtle’s pace, then I’m OK with that.”
And then she answered the same questions she’s been asked over and over since her daughter was born about her motivation:
“I don’t need any more motivation ... I have the best thing I could ever want right now. I’ve always been an extremely motivated person, but my main thing is that I would love for my daughter to be around with me doing great, and playing amazing, so that definitely gives me some motivation.”
And her expectations:
“My expectations, I don’t know what they are. I can’t go and say I expect to lose because that is something I will never say. It’s just a little different. I’m just expecting to see where I am more than anything.”
Williams will play Zarina Diyas in the first round Thursday afternoon.
Correction (1:50 p.m. ET): This post originally said Williams won her exhibition match in December. She lost.