London: Serena Williams revealed a silver lining to her recent life-threatening lung condition on Sunday when she revealed in being able to run better than ever as she prepared to defend her Wimbledon title.
The 13-times grand slam winner suffered potentially fatal blood clots in a lung earlier this year, only returning to action last week after nearly a year on the sidelines due to a combination of health issues and injuries.
"I have to do things differently because I had to expand my lung capacity, because I lost a little bit of my lung," the 29-year-old American told a news conference on the eve of the start of the grasscourt grand slam at the All England Club.
"I just had to get my lungs into better shape. I`m probably actually in better shape running-wise than I was before."
Williams opens her bid on Centre Court against France`s Aravane Rezai on Tuesday with a possible fifth Wimbledon crown far from her thoughts after a year where the lung problems followed two operations on a sliced tendon in her foot.
"My thought process is just to play the best I can and to be positive," she said. "I`m happy to have been here ... the fact that I can even compete and be in a position I wasn`t sure I`d have a chance to be at again is more than enough."
During the bad times over the past year, Williams took some comfort from the fact her sister and five-times Wimbledon champion Venus was also enduring a prolonged injury layoff.
"It`s been good because - sometimes, I hate to say it - but when you`re down, it`s always good to see someone down with you," said Serena with a laugh.
"And she was down with me. I was like, `Ha…ha`. Maybe we`ll come back together."
Venus is indeed back after both sisters returned to the circuit last week at Eastbourne, where Serena was closely watched by her peers, fans and -- above all -- her mother.
"My mom was so worried about me," she said. "I keep telling her I`m OK. She`s like, If you feel anything, just stop. Come off the court. I`m like, Mom, the doctor said I would be OK."
Serena was knocked out in the second round of Eastbourne by Vera Zvonareva, the Russian whom she beat in last year`s Wimbledon final, but was happy with where her game was at after such a long absence even if there was room for improvement.
"I didn`t travel with my serve to Eastbourne, so I hope it came with me," she said.
"I hope he was in my luggage coming to Wimbledon, because I`ve missed him."
"Hopefully I`ll have a good serve this week," added Serena, before amending that to "fortnight" as if anyone had any doubt of the champion`s intentions.