Serena was at her calmest despite death worry

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The father of tennis great Serena Williams said he thought his daughter was going to die when she was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital in March with a blood clot in her lung.

Richard Williams told reporters he feared the worst and is still amazed she survived.

"I thought she was going to die," he said. "I don't even know how she lived through it."

But Serena said she was strangely relaxed during her health crisis.

"I actually was really calm. I didn't want to alert my parents or my family or anything," she told a news conference after beating Victoria Azarenka 6-1 7-6 at the U.S. Open on Saturday.

"I got really, really, really calm and just like relaxed and really easy.

"I think that's the calmest I've ever been in my life, just trying to be strong for everyone else."

Doctors discovered the blood clot after she had travelled to New York for treatment on a foot injury that had sidelined her for months.

The Williams family had to deal with another health scare at the U.S. Open when Serena's older sister Venus withdrew from the championship, weakened by the effects of an autoimmune disorder.

"She's doing better," Serena said. "You know, it's a day at a time kind of thing. Her spirits are better."

Through all her months of inactivity, Serena plummeted from number one in the world rankings to 175 before recovering to win back-to-back tournaments this summer on hardcourt in preparation for the U.S. Open.

Serena was asked if coming through that harrowing health experience had made her hungrier to win, or put her tennis career into perspective.

"I think it's a little bit of the latter," the 13-time grand slam champion said. "Tennis is great. (But) I'll take anything. It puts everything in perspective.

"I love playing tennis, I love the battle, you know, but I realize that life is so precious and things could be a lot worse. It isn't all about tennis. It's about life."

(Editing by Julian Linden)