U.S. Open Tennis Preview: New York Comeback

The 2011 U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament gets underway today and is free and open to the public.  Players will compete for the final 32 spots in the men’s and women’s main draws before the official U.S. Open starts next week on August 29th.  You will definitely want to be watching the KT Tape Blog and KT Tape Facebook pages for giveaways to those who spot the tennis pros sporting KT Tape! One of the most will-be-watched players is Serena Williams, who is making a comeback after multiple injuries and health issues over the past year and yet is still a favorite to win.  See below for an excerpt from the U.S. Open press release on Serena’s comeback: In the months after Serena Williams had her second foot surgery last October, putting her in a cast and effectively ending any chance she had of defending her Australian Open title, she admittedly was depressed at various times and said it was sometimes hard to get out of bed. With her foot finally cast-free after 20 weeks, Williams was on her way out to a party in February when she was having trouble breathing. She thought she was just out of shape and was going to continue with her plans. But her physio stopped her, telling her it could be serious and that she needed to go to the hospital. It turned out to be a pulmonary embolism, a serious condition in which there is a blockage to the main artery of the lungs caused by blood clots. Williams was hospitalized, although she was fortunate it was caught in time to be treated. A few weeks later, she had emergency treatment to remove a grapefruit-sized hematoma from her stomach, which is a collection of blood underneath the skin.

They were setbacks to Williams’ return to the WTA Tour, leading to questions as to whether, at age 29, she might not ever return or, if she did, just how long it might be before that happened.

She had been off the WTA Tour since winning her 13th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last July, as she originally sliced a tendon in her foot after stepping on broken glass at a restaurant in Germany. Despite playing Kim Clijsters in an exhibition soon after, Williams’ injury was severe enough to require surgery later that month, which cost her the rest of the summer, including missing the US Open.

She was training to return to the WTA Tour in October when she re-injured the tendon, and then came the 20 weeks in the cast.

After the incidents earlier this year, Williams said she hoped to return to tennis by the summer, but this was a different comeback than any she had experienced in her career, including her previous knee injuries. The whole ordeal was one of the hardest things she had been through, and she had to occupy her time with non-tennis activities, including going to Miami Dolphins and Heat games through the winter. “The second surgery was way tough, especially mentally, because I thought, 'OK, there goes Australia,' which is obviously one of my favorite tournaments to play,” she said. “That one was more mentally tough than a lot of things that I've been through in my life outside of maybe my sister's passing. So that was incredibly hard for me. I think I may have been a little depressed at some moments. Then everything just happened from there, just the lung issues, and it really was a disaster, to be honest.” But she persevered and, after only about a month of serious practice, made her WTA Tour return in Eastbourne in June. She lost in the second round but then fought her way to the fourth round of Wimbledon before capturing back-to-back titles at the Bank of the West Classic and the Rogers Cup to erase many of the questions about the state of her game. In her nearly year-long absence from tennis – and sister Venus’ prolonged absence due to various injuries – no dominant player has emerged on the WTA Tour, with three different winners in each of the three Grand Slams this year, making Williams one of the favorites, if not the favorite, to capture the title at the 2011 US Open. “This is totally different from any other comeback because this has given me a whole new perspective on my career and not taking things for granted,” Williams said. “Not that I've ever taken things for granted before, but there were times when I'm like, 'Oh, another match,' and I'm really, like, 'This is so hard.’ “But now it's more like, ‘Yes, I'm out here, and I could have had a chance where I could never be out here again.’ And especially being at the top of your game, having to have something like that happen randomly was -- it's tough, and it really makes me appreciate things. Again, not that I didn't appreciate it before because you guys know more than anything I love winning, and so it's just a different perspective.” With the title wins this summer, her ranking shot back up to No. 31 in the world, after it had dropped as low as No. 172, causing her to have to use her special injury-protected ranking of No. 1 (where she was ranked when she was injured) to allow her direct entry into the 2011 US Open. Now at No. 31, she will definitely be seeded when the women’s draw comes out in Flushing Meadows. Just where she will be seeded is a question not yet answered, as all Grand Slam tournaments have the right to adjust their seedings. Williams received a clean bill of health from her doctors to return to tennis and said she never doubted that she would return to the game. “I always thought I would want to continue to play,” she said. “I thought I would play a lot sooner; things didn't work out. But I'm never the type to stop. I'll stop when I'm ready, and I'm just not ready. I really thoroughly enjoy being out here.” She had to work to increase her lung capacity and regain her top-level confidence and stepped up her level of training to regain and improve her level of physical fitness to compete again. Williams started doing more distance running than she had before, deciding to up her level of fitness, which has been one of the most criticized aspects of her game throughout the years. Her speed came back to her the quickest, and her serve has appeared as dominant as ever, which at its best is the top serve in women’s tennis. Williams did feel as if she had been away from the game for awhile but felt things come together with her Stanford title, which included wins over Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli, and knew she could return to top form. “I definitely think my mental was tough to get confidence,” she said of what was the last part of her game to return. “I had to pray for confidence because I felt like you can go out there, and people, no matter what I'm ranked, people still expect me to win sometimes and to do really well. “I didn't have that -- not that I didn't have that confidence in myself,” she said. “I just was like, not there. I was just trying to get there. And I think once Stanford happened, I was there, man.” After winning the Rogers Cup, Williams felt her game was pretty solid, although she cited closing out big points and returning as the areas that still need improving. But they’re still not bad for just four tournaments on the season and two titles. She defeated Samantha Stosur, the current world No. 10, to win the Rogers Cup title in straight sets, and Stosur was impressed with Williams’ performance, considering it was just her fourth tournament in the last year. “I guess she makes it look very easy, and it's not that easy just to come back on tour and win two events in your first four tournaments,” Stosur said after the Rogers Cup final. “I think she's playing very well. To win a tournament like this, you have to be playing well. I think compared to other times that we've played, I don't know. It's really hard to compare different matches with different situations, but I know going onto the court against her that I'm going to have to play well.” Looking ahead to the Open now, Williams refused to call herself a favorite. It will be her first return to Flushing Meadows since her infamous outburst against a lineswoman for calling a foot fault during her semifinal match against Clijsters that cost her a code violation – and therefore a point deduction – on match point in 2009. With the withdrawal of Clijsters due to an abdominal injury last week, Williams is more of a favorite than ever. However, if she is seeded only at No. 31, she could face a player ranked in the top 10 as early as the third round. And with two unlikely first-time Grand Slam champions this year at the French Open and Wimbledon, in Li Na and Petra Kvitova, another new winner at the US Open would not be surprising. But they will have to get past the 13-time major champion. She did withdraw from Cincinnati with a toe injury, but for the player who has always directed most of her focus to winning Grand Slams, it would be hard to imagine her not being back to form in New York… To read the entire article, visit the U.S. Open website.  To purchase U.S. Open tickets, click here.