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Serena Williams Gets Back in the Game

Tennis ace Serena Williams returns to the winner's circle after battling injuries, grief, and a dramatic slip in her pro ranking.

Finding Balance continued...

"I wish I could be like Martina Navratilova," says Williams, referring to her 50-year-old colleague as someone whose passion for the sport never wanes, despite a nearly nonstop playing schedule. "But I'm not like that. I need other things in my life. I need balance."

When asked if these other "things" -- from business meetings with apparel executives to red-carpet movie premieres -- help prevent feelings of burnout, she replies, "Yes. For me, they do. Absolutely."

For naysayers who questioned her commitment to tennis before her spectacular return in Australia a few months ago, for those who wrote that she wasn't training enough, wasn't conditioned enough, and had lost her desire to win, Williams offers this: "I never stopped training. I trained all year - you have to. It was never an option to settle [for a lower ranking]."

Back on Top

So, WebMD asks, which is more difficult emotionally: maintaining a No. 1 position with your competitors gunning to take you down, or climbing back as the underdog? "I don't know which one is harder," Williams says. "There are ups and downs. When you're down -- feeling truly low -- fighting your way back can be fun. But when you're No. 1, it's the best. Nothing's better. ...

"But I never feel pressure," she continues, challenging Macci's earlier assessment. "I just stay focused on my own game. That's what works for me."

Does she believe her presence -- all 5 feet, 10 inches of cut biceps, iron-strong legs, fierce gaze, and determined focus -- intimidates her adversaries? "I really don't know," she says. "I try not to think about anyone else out there. I think about me."

When Williams took on Sharapova in Melbourne, she was thinking about someone else -- but it wasn't her opponent on the other side of the net. After winning the match with a forceful backhand -- and securing her eighth Grand Slam title -- Williams told the crowd in an emotional voice, "Most of all, I would like to dedicate this win to my sister, who's not here. Her name is Yetunde. I just love her so much. I'll try not to get teary-eyed, but I said a couple of days ago, if I win this, it's going to be for her. So thanks, Tunde."

Sharapova later remarked: "You can never underestimate [Williams] as a performer. ... I know what she's capable of, and she showed that today. She has shown it many, many times."

Built to Win

Compared with some of her will-o'-the-wisp rivals, including her 125-pound archnemesis, Belgian player Justine Henin, Williams is physically, well, impressive. But does she get tired of having her fitness level questioned simply because she has curves, strength, and mass? Does she suffer from weight issues and insecurities like so many other American women? Or does Williams view her body as a machine, something to be nourished and trained for maximum performance?

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