My kneecap was in my quad
Warning: there are a lot of f-bombs coming in this story. Everyone watching me at Wimbledon and on TV around the world has already heard them.
I like to say that everything changed in a split-step. Until that moment at the All England Club in 2017, I was riding some huge momentum.
I was No.1 in the world in doubles, had won a gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics and three doubles grand slams in a row with my partner Lucie Safarova. Iâ€™d come off a great singles win against Petra Kvitova at the French Open and was feeling amazing - physically, mentally, tennis-wise, career-wise.
I was in the Wimbledon second round of singles, starting the third set against Sorana Cirstea, whoâ€™s one of my good friends on tour, and I remember the moment pretty clearly.Â
It happened in slow-motion. I ripped a return and then split-stepped on my way into the net when my left leg slipped. I heard a pop as I was falling and remember thinking, â€?Is that me? What happened? Is there pain?â€™
I had 50 thoughts going through my mind before I even hit the ground and then there was kind of this moment - it felt like 10 seconds for me but was probably instantaneous - where I felt pressure in my knee.
I looked down and because my patellar tendon had ruptured, my kneecap had dislocated and was up in my quad. My leg just looked wrong to me. I didnâ€™t know if it was broken, I didnâ€™t know if it was dislocated, all I knew was my knee looked really, pardon my French, fucked-up.
That was the moment I yelled out â€?Fuuuuuuuuuck, somebody help meâ€™. I was lying on the grass and nobody moved for a little bit. I remember my husband, Justin, running out right away and Cirsteaâ€™s physio there too holding my leg. Justin was by my head. The pain was beyond excruciating.
Iâ€™ve had my fair share of injuries. Iâ€™ve had ankle sprains, two hip surgeries, torn my rotator cuff and done countless hours of rehab. But thisâ€¦ Even if my muscle twitched, I felt pain and didnâ€™t want anyone to touch it.
My biggest fear was that a medic or doctor would come and try to straighten it to put it back in place. I didnâ€™t know if it was broken or dislocated but I was envisioning this World War I movie, where someone dumped a bunch of whiskey in the wounded soldierâ€™s mouth, stuffed a rag in there and said, â€?Ready?â€™
I thought, â€?Hell, no, letâ€™s not do this on the ground at Wimbledon! Thereâ€™s no way! I want to be in hospital with drugs for that situationâ€™.
I said, â€?Justin, Justin, how fucking bad is it?â€™ He said, â€?Babe, just donâ€™t look at itâ€™. I snapped back at him, â€?No, fuck you, I already looked at itâ€™. He made a sound, like an inhaling noise, and said, â€?Itâ€™s not goodâ€™.
My husband is a very honest person who sugar-coats nothing. When I asked him if I could finish playing, he laughed. When I asked him if I would be able to walk off the court, he said, â€?No, youâ€™re not going to be able toâ€™â€¦ Well, I knew.
I was told it was about 25 minutes. But it felt like I was out there forever. The medics gave me morphine injectionsÂ through IV on the court and it wasnâ€™t helping the pain at all.
I donâ€™t know if my adrenaline was too high because it was the middle of a match. Iâ€™m super en pointe because we athletes are in such tune with our bodies and know when somethingâ€™s really wrong. It was panic mode a little bit.
The morphine wasnâ€™t working. They kept giving me more and I kept arguing and yelling, â€?Are you guys giving me morphine or water? I feel no different! I feel everything!â€™
I was just trying to find my happy place. I remember lying there and counting blades of grass just to change the focus from the pain. I kept re-counting.
Iâ€™d get to one, two, three, and then Iâ€™d get distracted and Iâ€™d be like, â€?Thereâ€™s another blade of grass, thatâ€™s beautifulâ€™.Â I thought, â€?Wow theyâ€™re all really even, they did a good job on this courtâ€™. Itâ€™s Wimbledon after all, so I shouldnâ€™t have expected anything different, but it was some really nice grass!
I wasnâ€™t prepared for the incredible response I got — from other players, fans, everyone. But it happened in the spotlight, basically, at one of the worldâ€™s biggest tournaments and I wanted to keep everyone included on what happened afterwards. If that was the last time I played tennis, it wasnâ€™t how I wanted to leave it.
Thatâ€™s why I was really vocal about my journey afterwards. Itâ€™s why Lucie and I did a little dance in my hotel room after I was out of hospital, just to keep the spirits up. Once I did that, I really felt the support from my fans, family and friends. It was inspiring to me. I was determined to stay positive.
A couple of days before the injury Iâ€™d posted something like, â€?No matter what your circumstances, you can choose your mentalityâ€™. After this all happened, I was like, â€?Why did I post that? Now Iâ€™ve got to own up to it!â€™
I had to walk through the fire. Not to be hard on myself, but I had to face the person in the mirror and ask, â€?If thatâ€™s really what I believed in, could I walk it?â€™ Itâ€™s helped me discover a lot about myself. Iâ€™m pretty outgoing, obviously, so Iâ€™ve been happy to share it. Itâ€™s cool for me that something Iâ€™ve gone through can be an inspiration for someone else.
People ask me, â€?Did you think you were going to play again?â€™ I actually didnâ€™t have a doubt that I would, but my goal was just to bend my knee to 80 degrees. The next day it was to 85 degrees. I had to make that my win.