• Wimbledon, Day 13

Serena's comeback slam

Jo Carter July 7, 2012
Serena Williams secured an emotional fifth Wimbledon title © PA Photos

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When Serena Williams was rushed into hospital for emergency surgery after blood clots were discovered on her lungs last year, we wondered whether we would ever see her back on a tennis court.

We see comebacks in sport on a daily basis, whether that is from injury, illness or temporary retirements. But in a year that we've seen Mardy Fish undergo heart surgery, Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba suffer a cardiac arrest during a match, and Aston Villa's Stiliyan Petrov diagnosed with cancer, it is a sobering reminder that athletes are only human.

Williams later revealed she had been on her "deathbed" when she was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism last March.

Coming back from injury is one thing, but finding the motivation to return to training after a life-threatening illness is another. But two years after her last major title, Williams claimed her 14th grand slam as she saw off Agnieszka Radwanska, and as she sank to the floor in elation, any doubts over her enthusiasm for the sport instantly evaporated.

Just 16 months after she was on her death bed, Williams secured an emotional fifth title at Wimbledon in triumph that is perhaps on a par with Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France after overcoming testicular cancer, having been given a 40 per cent chance of survival after the cancer spread to his lungs and brain.

Or golfer Ben Hogan, who after being told he may never walk again after surviving a horrific car accident in 1949, went on to win another six majors.

"I can't even describe it. I almost didn't make it," an emotional Williams said. "A few years ago, you know, I was in the hospital, and now I'm here again. It's so worth it, and I'm so happy.

"I never dreamt of being here again, being so down. Never give up. You can continue."

Having thrown away a substantial lead against Virginie Razzano to crash out of the French Open at the first-round stage in May, the first time she had ever lost at the first round of a major, many suggested Williams would never win another slam.

But she dispelled all doubts over her desire to win as she returned to the winners' circle in style, looking every ounce the champion as she lifted the Venus Rosewater Dish over her head for a fifth time.

Should Andy Murray end Britain's 76-year wait for a men's grand slam champion on Sunday, Williams' triumph will be yesterday's news. But her victory should be an inspiration to all and deserves to go down as one of the great sporting comebacks.

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Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk