Serena Williams happy to return after 'death-bed' low
- Venue: Eastbourne
- Date: 11-18 June
Coverage: Live scores & comprehensive reports on BBC Sport website; live coverage on British Eurosport from Tuesday
Serena Williams has spoken of her joy at returning to tennis after a traumatic year in which she feared she was on her "death bed" at one point.
Williams has not played since being hospitalised with blood clots on her lung after cutting a foot following her fourth Wimbledon victory last year.
And her return in Eastbourne's Aegon International this week is a relief.
"I'm so excited to be back," she said. "I was on my death bed at one point - quite literally."
Ahead of her match against Tsvetana Pironkova, the world number 26 added: "At first I didn't appreciate that [the severity of the illness].
GASHED FOOT MYSTERY
Williams, the 29-year-old former world number one, says her troubles started when she gashed her foot in Germany: "To this day I don't really know the full details of what happened," she admits. "I was with my nephew and my hitting partner and we were just leaving a restaurant. I was walking and just felt something. I kept walking and it was definitely glass there. There was a massive puddle of blood. I ended up fainting and needed stitches in both feet."
"At first people said it would be fine, it would be all right but it turned out to be a lot more serious.
"If it had been left two days later it could have been career-ending - or even worse. They told me I had several blood clots in both lungs. A lot of people die from that.
"It got to the stage where it felt like I could hardly breathe. Some days I didn't get out of bed at all. I just laid on a couch thinking 'why has this happened to me?'
"The second surgery was tough, more mentally tough than a lot of things I've been through - including my sister dying. It's why this is a comeback that's totally different from any other comeback.
"This has given me a whole new perspective on life and my career - and not taking anything for granted. I'm just taking one day at a time. I'm not preparing for today or for Wimbledon. I'm preparing for the rest of my career."
Williams, whose sister Venus started with a win at Eastbourne on Monday , returned to the practice court last month - but concedes she has no idea how she will fare when she gets back into WTA Tour action.
"I'm not quite sure how I'll feel until I play a match," said Serena. "I've been hitting seriously for about a month now, but before that I was not hitting every day.
"I wanted to play at Roland Garros [in the French Open] but that didn't work out. I don't usually play warm-ups for Wimbledon but I figured it would be smart to do so this time. And what better place to come to for that? I'm just here to do the best I can, but I'm also here not to lose."