WIMBLEDON, England - Serena Williams is back. But the road wasn't easy.
Williams held on to beat Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 in the Wimbledon final on Saturday to claim her 14th Grand Slam singles title, her fifth at the All England Club, matching sister Venus' total.
"I've always wanted what Venus has," Williams said in the on-court interview after the match. And now Venus and Serena have combined for 10 of the last 13 Wimbledon singles titles.
At the end, Williams burst into a huge smile and laid on the grass in relief and celebration.
She climbed into the players box to hug father Richard, Venus, mother Oracene and her whole team.
Then came the tears while thanking her family and support team.
"I think when you go through a lot of tough things you just kind of let down your guard a little bit and just be yourself," Williams said. "I love being me. I'm a normal person. I like it when people get to see that side of me."
With the victory, Williams becomes the first woman past her 30th birthday to win a major in 22 years. Martina Navratilova was the last to do so, capturing a ninth Wimbledon crown in 1990 at age 33.
When asked on court if 30 was the new 20, Williams said, "Oh my god, of course."
Throughout the fortnight, Williams relied on the biggest weapon in women's tennis: Her serve. And it delivered: She set a Wimbledon record with 102 in the tournament.
Into the final, she was converting 92% of the time when she got her first serve in. And she set and broke records for aces, smacking 23 against Zheng Jie and upping that record with 24 against Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals.
The numbers dipped in the final - she won only 82% of her first-serve points, despite 17 aces. Near the end of the second set, Williams wobbled. Radwanksa finally broke through in the eighth game of the second set to get back on serve at 4-4. She broke again when Williams was serving to stay in the second set.
"I lost my composure," Williams said.
But she regained it quickly. Serving at 1-2 in the third set, Williams smashed four consecutive aces to even it up. Then she took control with a break in the fifth game, held to 4-2 and then broke again to take a 5-2 lead. Then she held her serve, and her nerves, to close it out.
In the third set, Williams was 10-for-10 on points when she got her first serve in.
Williams finished with 58 winners to 13 for Radwanska, including an edge of 20-3 in the final set. Williams lost only eight points on her first serve.
Radwanksa, a deft counterpuncher who plays great defense and chases down ball after ball, had dropped only one set on her way to the final. She struggled to stay with Williams in the opening set.
A brief burst of rain caused a delay after the first set, but they waited it out - about 20 minutes - and the roof remained open.
"Aggie played so well. That's why she has had such a great career, and so young," Williams told the crowd. "You guys should give her another round of applause because she's amazing and she did an amazing job today."
Radwanksa, who had been battling a respiratory illness, found her game midway through the second set, after getting broken early.
"I'm still shaking so much - I think I had the best two weeks of my life," said an emotional Radwanksa, in a scratchy voice, after the match.
There were question marks about Williams early in the tournament, and was forced to tough out close three-set contests against Zheng in the third round and Shvedova in the fourth round before taking down 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals. Next came a tense semifinal victory against No. 2 Azarenka.
It has been a long road back since Williams' last major crown.
A few days after winning the 2010 Wimbledon title, Williams cut her foot on glass at a Munich restaurant. The foot required two surgeries in the fall, one to repair a severed tendon.
Six months later, she suffered a pulmonary embolism, or blood clot, that traveled from her leg to her lungs. She then was hospitalized to remove a hematoma from her stomach that grew to the size of a grapefruit.
And just last month, she lost in the first round at the French Open, her first career loss in the opening round of a major.
"I can't even describe it. I almost didn't make it," 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.
"It's been an unbelievable journey for me. ... So I think it's definitely the beginning of something great. I hope it is."
Serena Williams in Grand Slam finals
Won 14, Lost 4
1999 U.S. Open- def. Martina Hingis, 6-3, 7-6 (4).
2001 U.S. Open - lost to Venus Williams, 6-2, 6-4.
2002 French Open - def. V.Williams, 7-5, 6-3.
2002 Wimbledon - def. V.Williams, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
2002 U.S. Open - def. V.Williams, 6-4, 6-3.
2003 Australian Open- def. V.Williams, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4.
2003 Wimbledon - def. V.Williams, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
2004 Wimbledon - lost to Maria Sharapova, 6-1, 6-4.
2005 Australian Open - def. Lindsay Davenport, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0.
2007 Australian Open - def. Sharapova, 6-1, 6-2.
2008 Wimbledon - lost to V.Williams, 7-5, 6-4.
2008 U.S. Open - def. Jelena Jankovic, 6-4, 7-5.
2009 Australian Open - def. Dinara Safina, 6-0, 6-3.
2009 Wimbledon - def. V.Williams, 7-6 (3), 6-2.
2010 Australian Open - def. Justine Henin, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
2010 Wimbledon - def. Vera Zvonareva, 6-3, 6-2.
2011 U.S. Open - lost to Sam Stosur, 6-2, 6-3.
2012 Wimbledon - def. Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.