California: Serena Williams` harrowing account of her brush with a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism has evoked a mixture of relief and fear among the world`s top female players.
Williams is now recovering at her Californian home after undergoing emergency treatment for blood clots in her lungs, an experience she described as the "scariest moment" of her life.
The former world number one said doctors told her she probably developed the life-threatening clots because of complications from surgery to repair a foot injury and the effects of constant flying, a regular hazard for all professional tennis players.
Belgium`s Kim Clijsters, the reigning U.S. and Australian Open champion, said she was relieved that Williams was now fine but said the incident had deeply alarmed her.
"(When) you are an athlete and healthy, you don`t think too much about those kind of things," Clijsters told reporters at the Indian Wells WTA tournament.
"Injuries can happen, but to be close to dying...it opened my eyes and made me even more aware of where we need to be."
"The toughest part for us is flying all over. It`s very scary. It`s very serious."
Denmark`s Caroline Wozniacki, the current world number one, paid a visit to Williams after arriving in Indian Wells and reported the American was in high spirits.
"She`s such a sweet person and strong character," Wozniacki said.
"She`s always keeping her head high and she was laughing and coming up with jokes and we talked about singing some karaoke together and having some fun."
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus said she was also relieved that Williams was recovering and already talking about a return to the game.
"All you can do is feel sad and be supportive. I hope she can come back, but it`s totally up to her," Azarenka told reporters.
"She`s a great champion and people love to see her play. Serena is Serena and when she comes back, she`ll be the same fighter on court."
Williams has not played competitively since winning last year`s Wimbledon championship in July, giving her a 13th grand slam singles title. Shortly after the victory she sliced her foot on broken glass while celebrating at a restaurant in Germany.
The American has had two operations on her foot since then and was planning to make her comeback at a tournament in Miami this month before the latest setback.
Williams, who has tumbled to 11th in the world rankings during her enforced eight-month absence, said the experience had only reinforced her determination to play again, but she did not know when.
"She doesn`t want to set a date and not be able to meet it and then disappoint people," her agent, Jill Smoller, told reporters. "Health is her number one priority."
Corina Morariu, a former world number one doubles player who made a comeback to the tour after surviving leukemia, said she had no doubts Williams would return.
Morariu, now a television analyst, said her own illness had given her time to re-assess her goals and she would not be surprised if Williams re-emerged as an even better player after reflecting on her health scare.
"Serena is a competitor at heart," Morariu told reporters.
"I can see her using her health issues as fuel for her competitive fire and I think she might return to the game with an even stronger desire. If anyone can do it, she can."