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Tennis champ Serena Williams is known for her amazing game on the court, and her banging body off of it. But according to the 32-year-old star, it hasn’t always been that way. 

“When I was young I thought I should be built more like an athlete—long and lean—not with a womanly figure,” she explained in the May issue of Fitness magazine. “But then people my age started coming up to me and saying, ‘I love you because of the way you look.’ That was really motivating. So I learned to be proud of my curves and embrace my large boobs. It’s all about loving who you are and realizing that you’re beautiful.”

These days Serena’s confidence and dedication has helped her climb back to the top of the tennis world, winning 11 titles and racking up more than $12 million in winnings in 2013 alone. Even though others counted her out, and a health scare threatened to end her career, Serena reclaimed her rightful spot.

“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.”

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After being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism in 2011, Serena says she got a new appreciation for life.

“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.”

According to the superstar, who spontaneously broke out in Little Mermaid songs during the Fitness photo shoot, her on-the-court intensity is just one aspect of her personality.

“I think of myself as two different people. There’s the Serena Williams that everyone knows: She’s crazy. She can’t make a mistake. And she’s angry and just not nice, to be honest. I’m only that person for three hours a day, when I’m on the court. The rest of the time I’m just Serena. I’m the class clown.”

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Read the rest of Serena Williams’ interview in the May issue of Fitness magazine.

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  • Anthony

    Whenever I look at Serena Williams’ body, I think of so many great athletes who did not look like the stereotypical athlete in his or her sport. Babe Ruth, who despite playing in the segregation era may be the greatest baseball player of all time looked too fat in the eyes of most people. Hank Aaron was only 5′ 11″” 180 lbs. and it took a mountain of steroids for anyone to break his record. Charles Barkley is under 6’5″
    in his stocking feet and is a top five all time power forward. People who dwell on Serena’s look instead of her record, can’t get past stereotypes.

    The great thing about Serena’s body is that although it does not match the tennis stereotype, it looks fine in any other context!

  • lil ray

    WOW
    now let me go and do some crunches.

  • Chauntelle

    I’m jealous! Her arms are fantastic!

  • Mary Burrell

    I think she looks amazing.