MIAMI - Serena Williams expects to play her first match since winning Wimbledon at the Nasdaq-100 Open next week.
Williams, who underwent surgery on her left knee Aug. 1, said Tuesday she had been advised by four doctors to delay her return until now for fear of more serious injury.
“That’s been my battle, fighting with the doctors,” she said.
Williams said that while she’s kept busy during her eight-month layoff, she has been eager to return to tennis.
“When I first got off and took a break, it was really like a relief,” she said. “I could wake up when I wanted to, and not have to go to the court. But after a while that gets old.”
Williams had a 38-3 record in 2003, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and reaching the French Open semifinals. She said she spent her time off focusing on other pursuits, but was back to practicing by November.
“I enjoy doing a lot of stuff like acting and fashion, but my true love has always been tennis,” she said. “So I’ve just been desperate to get back to the court.”
Williams said she has been having trouble staying patient with her return to the Key Biscayne tournament just around the corner. She won the event the past two years.
“The only thing I can say is I’m so excited,” she said. “I wish I could play today. All day long I think about it, so I have to calm myself down to make sure I’m really ready to play.”
But her time off the court, coupled with the family tragedy when her half-sister Yetunde Price was fatally shot Sept. 14 while riding in a sport utility vehicle in Compton, Calif., led her to re-evaluate her priorities.
“Tennis was just so much of my life, and then you begin to realize there are just so many things in life that are more important than hitting the ball over the net,” Williams said.
Williams appears to be taking on a full schedule, saying she expects to play at Amelia Island and Hilton Head after Key Biscayne. She also wants to play for the U.S. Federation Cup team in Slovenia in April, and at the Olympics in August.
“I would love to have the opportunity to win a gold medal in singles,” she said.
In the meantime, she will be focusing her attention on a return to No. 1 in the rankings. During her layoff she slipped to No. 6.
“I’ll work harder so I can be back to No. 1,” she said. “I do like being there, and I don’t like seeing a different number next to my name. So I think that’s really going to make me work a little harder.”
Despite her lack of playing time, Williams said she remained confident in her abilities on the court.
“If I didn’t feel confident I’d have no business coming back, no business trying to compete,” she said. “I’m a competitor. I may not win every match, but I’m sure going to try to win every match.”
But despite her confidence, she said it will be an odd feeling to return to competition.
“I never said I’m not nervous,” she said. “I’m not quite sure how I feel right now. It’s kind of like playing your first match all over again.”
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic wasted a chance to serve out the match and was beaten 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 by sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych in the Italian Open quarterfinals Friday.
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