Winning the only thing for Serena

U.S. tennis player Serena Williams arrives at the 2011 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, California, July...

U.S. tennis player Serena Williams arrives at the 2011 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, California, July 13, 2011. (REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:37 PM ET

The numbers don't lie.

Serena Williams is 29 years old and ranked No. 172 in the world. The No. 1 ranking, which she lost to Caroline Wozniacki last October, is a fading memory and it would appear she is on the downside of her tennis career.

But Williams, her legacy assured thanks to 13 Grand Slam titles, doesn't seem interested in talking about retirement.

She flashed a little of the defiant attitude that helped her ascend to the top of the tennis world when she was asked Wednesday if she was nearing the end of the road.

Either that or, well, she really is getting old and is having trouble remembering things like her age.

"I'm actually 26," Williams said during a Rogers Cup media conference call Wednesday. "Don't get it confused."

All rightee then. Twenty-six it is.

Regardless of the age on her birth certificate, the reality of the situation is Williams hasn't played much since recovering from foot injuries that forced her to miss almost a year of action and, frankly, almost killed her.

Leading into the Rogers Cup next month at the Rexall Centre in Toronto, a tournament she last won in 2001, Williams has played in just two events -- Eastbourne and Wimbledon, both on grass courts -- and she failed to advance past the round of 16 in both.

"I wasn't fully confident those tournaments," Williams said. "I feel like I did a solid job. After Wimbledon I've worked on a few things that I knew I needed to work on. Hopefully when I get to play in the Rogers Cup, the results will show. I hate losing, as everyone probably knows. But I also think sometimes when you lose it gives you more motivation and makes you better.

"Everything feels a lot better (now). I got a good report from the doctor and he says I can play with confidence. That's what I think is the key word. Going out and being able to play with confidence without thinking it could happen again ... that's a great feeling."

It has been a long trip back for Williams, who missed 49 weeks because of a foot injury that developed into something more sinister. After twice having surgery on her right foot, the first procedure to correct a lacerated tendon, she was hospitalized in Los Angeles because of a blood clot in her lungs.

In the meantime, her world ranking plunged to new lows. She dropped to 12th in early 2011, her lowest ranking since 2007, then slipped another 14 spots before Wimbledon. Now she's at 172, nestled between Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands and Sally Peers of Australia.

Even Williams seems unsure if she can ever get back to No. 1, preferring instead to focus on what's happening here and now and not worrying about the rankings.

"My goals are to do well right now, in the Rogers Cup and Grand Slams and pretty much every tournament I play in," she said. "If that means I'll get back to No. 1, that would be a bonus. My goal is to do the right thing on the court and just do the best that I can to win.

"I like competing in Canada, especially in Toronto. I've done well there. I think I won there before but that felt like a lifetime ago. It's time for me to get back in it and do it again."

Despite her ranking at the time (26th), Williams was seeded seventh at Wimbledon. And she is considered by some as the favourite to win the U.S. Open in five weeks.

Playing in Toronto, which has a draw that includes the top 25 players in the world, and then an event in Cincinnati, should help Williams get her game in order in time for the big tournament at Flushing Meadows.

"With me playing Toronto and Cincinnati and another tournament, that's more than I usually play," she said. "That will be more than I played all last year. I think that will definitely propel me to be fit going into the Open, really match fit, match tough. That's going to really help me."


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