Serena Williams: 'I Almost Died After Giving Birth to My Daughter, Olympia'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2018

ASHEVILLE, NC - FEBRUARY 11: Serena Williams of Team USA waits on a serve from Lesley Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands during a  doubles match in the first round of the 2018 Fed Cup at US Cellular Center on February 11, 2018 in Asheville, North Carolina. (Photo by Richard Shiro/Getty Images)
Richard Shiro/Getty Images

Serena Williams revealed in an article she wrote for CNN.com that she experienced a number of complications following the birth of her daughter, Olympia, and that she "almost died" in the six days after giving birth:

"It began with a pulmonary embolism, which is a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs becomes blocked by a blood clot. Because of my medical history with this problem, I live in fear of this situation. So, when I fell short of breath, I didn't wait a second to alert the nurses. 

"This sparked a slew of health complications that I am lucky to have survived. First my C-section wound popped open due to the intense coughing I endured as a result of the embolism. I returned to surgery, where the doctors found a large hematoma, a swelling of clotted blood, in my abdomen. And then I returned to the operating room for a procedure that prevents clots from traveling to my lungs. When I finally made it home to my family, I had to spend the first six weeks of motherhood in bed."

Williams gave birth to Olympia on Sept. 1. 

"We're not spending a day apart until she’s eighteen," Williams said half-jokingly during an interview with Rob Haskell of Vogue in January. "Now that I'm 36 and I look at my baby, I remember that this was also one of my goals when I was little, before tennis took over, when I was still kind of a normal girl who played with dolls. Oh, my God, I loved my dolls."

Williams is arguably the greatest women's tennis player of all time and perhaps simply the greatest player of all time, period. She's won 39 Grand Slam titles (23 in singles, 14 in women's doubles and two in mixed doubles) and has claimed four Olympic gold medals (three in doubles, one in singles).

And Williams isn't done yet.

"Maybe this goes without saying, but it needs to be said in a powerful way: I absolutely want more Grand Slams," she told Haskell. "I'm well aware of the record books, unfortunately. It’s not a secret that I have my sights on 25."

The 25 she referenced would surpass Australian legend Margaret Court, who won 24 singles Grand Slam titles in her career. Williams' legacy is secure regardless of whether she surpasses Court, but her desire to hold that record is another reminder of the mentality that drove her to become the most dominant female player of her generation. 

Thankfully, the complications following her pregnancy won't prevent her from chasing that goal.

"I've been playing tennis since before my memories started," she told Haskell. "At my age, I see the finish line. And when you see the finish line, you don’t slow down. You speed up."