Serena Williams Weeps After First-Round Wimbledon Victory

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Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts after defeating Aravane Rezai of France at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London

There was a weepy Williams at Wimbledon today.

Serena, the 29-year-old younger Williams sister and defending Wimbledon champion, broke into tears today after beating the 61-seeded French player Aravane Rezai in round one.

Williams won the first set 6-3, lost the second 3-6, and bounced back to ace the third 6-1 to win the match.

While she has never lost in the first round of any of her 44 Grand Slam tournaments, today’s win was particularly emotional because she’s been sidelined by a serious foot injury for most of the past year–missing the U.S. Open, the Australian Open, and the French Open. Shortly after Wimbledon 2010, she reportedly cut her foot on a piece of glass at a Hamburg restaurant and had to undergo two surgeries.  In February, she suffered a pulmonary embolism.

(MORE: Tennis Great Serena Williams Hospitalized For Pulmonary Embolism)

In a post-match interview captured by ESPN, she described the importance of this moment after being on her “death bed” for the last few months:

“I usually don’t cry. I don’t understand it. I never dreamt I’d be here right now…I just wanted to win at least one match here and seeing as how I’m not playing doubles here…it was a really big win for me.

It’s been so hard…It’s been a disaster year, but you know, I’ve been praying. I love tennis and to be able to come back at Wimbledon has been pretty awesome. I didn’t expect to play, I didn’t expect to do anything. I’ve never cried with joy for anything.”

She goes on to play the unseeded Simona Halep of Romania in round two this Thursday.

LIST: Top 10 Unforgettable Wimbledon Moments

PHOTOS: Wimbledon 2010