Serena Williams aims to hit stride at Toronto

American superstar Serena Williams has endured a year of injuries and illness and slipped mightily in the WTA Tour rankings, but she hopes to regain past form in time for the Rogers Cup in Toronto.

Having spent the past year recovering from illness and injury, Serena Williams of the United States has spiralled so far down the rankings that the former world's No. 1 will need to exercise her injury-protected top rankings to enter the U.S. Open on Aug. 29. Williams' exemption permits her to enter eight tournaments, including one Grand Slam. First, she suffered a serious foot injury stepping on some glass. Then, she was treated for a potentially fatal blood clot in a lung and internal bleeding. Williams spoke on a wide range of topics in a recent conference call to promote the Rogers Cup in Toronto:

What is the latest on your health?

Everything feels a lot better. I got a good report from the doctor and he says I can play with confidence. And that's the key word, is going out and being able to play with confidence without thinking that it could happen again. That's a great feeling.

What are your expectations for the Rogers Cup?

I plan on being there doing the best that I can do. I just want to be there and do well.

Your ranking has dropped because of your absence. How much of a climb back is it? And is that your ambition, to be No. 1 again?

My goal is to do well right now at the Rogers Cup and Grand Slams and pretty much every tournament I play in. 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.

How confident are you that you will be in top shape by the U.S. Open?

I think with me playing Toronto and playing Cincinnati and other tournaments, that's more than I usually play. So I think it will definitely prepare me to be really fit going into the Open.

How has spirituality helped you heal and prepare for your upcoming matches?

It's really important for me to rely on prayer. Mentally, when you're going through things and also when you're not going through things' I think that's important, too. It's kind of like, if you have a friend, you only ask them when you're down if you need something. It's even more important for me to realize that I gotta continue that, regardless to how I'm feeling. That's what I've learned most.

Based on how you performed at Eastbourne and Wimbledon, what is the state of your game heading into Toronto?

I did a solid job and now I've just been working on things. After Wimbledon, I worked on a few things I knew I needed to work on and, hopefully, when I get to play in the Rogers Cup that the results will show. I hate losing. But also, when you lose, it gives you more motivation and makes you better.

With Li Na is performing so well, Petra Kvitova winning Wimbledon, the re-emergence of Maria Sharapova and, of course, you and Venus returning, how does that set things up at the top of the table in women's tennis?

It's rough when you're with a lot of new players out there and a lot of experienced players like Li Na, who's finally doing really well. And that's good. Venus and I are definitely going to try to cause a stir and just play our game [and] do the best we can and win, win, win, no matter what.

How does an event like Toronto help you in that regard, considering it has so many top palyer in the field?

We just like playing in the Rogers Cup … I think it'll be a special time because you guys are getting a sneak preview of what the Open's going to be like.

How do you like competing in Canada?

I like competing in Canada, especially in Toronto. I've done well there.

Are playing in the 2012 London Olympics?

I'm hoping I can get there. The way I'm ranked now, I'll have to put in a lot of good work. So we'll see. I think I deserve it, though [laughs].

Will you play doubes to improve match play before or at the U.S. Open?

I'll have to talk to my doubles partner and see how she is doing. I wanted to play doubles at Wimbledon. But I would have never survived, so I'm glad we decided not to. And we did have thoughts of playing doubles in the summer. We're kind of playing it by ear. I would love to play doubles. I love playing in Team Tennis. I feel like I'm back to my old doubles game, which is an excellent one. We'll see.

CBC Sports will broadcast the semifinals and championship final of the Rogers Cup on Aug. 13 and 14, respectively.