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Serena's Sunny Side

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Power Player

How did you power your way back to the top?
I always say that I hate losing more than I love winning. I wrote in my journal that my goal was to be seeded at the U.S. Open by August. It's virtually impossible to do that in three weeks. But I worked really, really, really hard with my trainer. He put me in the pool to get the strength back in my lungs. I remember feeling as if I were going to drown. But it worked. I kept winning, and I was ranked 29th for the U.S. Open.

Did the health scare change the way you play?
I realized that I'm really fortunate to be alive and to be playing, and that it's not the end of the world if I don't win. I was able to relax. It was the first time I've ever had so much fun on the court. I would play matches and enjoy myself. That brought a whole new perspective to my game. Now I know I don't have to play again if I don't want to. I play because I love it.

Do you have regrets about anything that's happened on the court, like the confrontations you've had with line judges?
I don't have regrets. I don't live in the past. I live in the present and learn not to make the same mistakes in the future.

Tell us about your workouts: How do you stay motivated?
For me it's so important to mix it up. I ran, and then I biked. Then I did elliptical. That didn't work out so well, because it was boring, so I tried yoga. I started dancing because I couldn't train when I was sick. We started making up moves, and it was fun. Now I run for 10 minutes, and then I dance.

What inspired you to give your diet a healthy makeover?
It all started because I didn't want to bring bad food into the house. I live with my sister, Venus, who has Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease. Before her problems, I ate a lot of junk. I also found out three years ago that I'm allergic to wheat, so I'm trying to eat a clean diet of natural, raw foods.

Is it hard to stick to the diet when you're traveling?
I love Southern food. I don't try to eat healthy when I'm in South Carolina for the Family Circle Cup tournament. I eat shrimp and grits with butter on top, fried chicken, and, oh, do I eat the fried hush puppies! And the banana pudding -- mmm, mmm, mmm! I let myself go that whole week and then another week after that.

How do you get back on track?
I can't take cheat days too often because my cheat days are usually cheat months! But diet is a bad word. I always say it's a lifestyle change, because if you call it that, you won't want those fried hush puppies. Clearly I haven't completed my lifestyle change! But I'm trying, I'm really trying. [Laughs.]

You seem so strong and sure of yourself. Do you ever feel less than confident about your body?
Unless I'm eating really healthy, I feel that way almost every other week. I feel as if I can do better and be smaller, which I think is just a natural thing for women to feel. We're taught that we have to look a certain way.

Has your body image changed over the years?
When I was young I thought I should be built more like an athlete -- long and lean -- not with a womanly figure. But then people my age started coming up to me, saying, "I love you because of the way you look." They could relate to me. That was really motivating. So I learned to be proud of my curves and to embrace my large boobs and my butt. It's all about loving who you are and realizing that you're beautiful.

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