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Serena on bizarre Wimbledon doubles retirement: 'Is that me?'

STANFORD, Calif. -- Serena Williams knew she was unwell for her second-round doubles match at Wimbledon but said she didn't understand the severity of her condition until after she retired under bizarre circumstances.

"It kind of reminded me of when I had my other illness a while ago," Williams said, referring to her hospitalization in 2011 for a pulmonary embolism. "When you're in the moment, you don't realize how sick you are until you step back and you look at everything."

Williams on Monday addressed the July 1 incident at the All England Club for the first time. The WTA's top-ranked singles player spoke at a news conference as she prepares to play the Bank of the West Classic this week.

At Wimbledon, a listless and disoriented Williams, paired with her sister Venus, pulled out only three games into the first set against Kristina Barrois and Stefanie Voegele. Serena, who had lost her third-round singles match to No. 24 Alize Cornet three days earlier, whiffed on shots and struggled to collect balls tossed to her during the warm-up. The start of the match was delayed as doctors examined her and took her blood pressure. Serena then double-faulted four consecutive times while serving in the third game, with a few meager attempts landing well in front of the net.

The official reason given for the withdrawal was a viral illness. Some commentators, including Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, speculated that there was more to the story. Serena said she didn't learn of the speculation until days later.

"When I read about it or heard about from other people, I was just like, 'Oh, really?'" Williams said. "I had already moved on. I was already working out and starting to try to play again."

Williams said she wanted to attempt to play the doubles match even though she arrived late and took the court without hitting first. When it became clear that she wasn't well enough to play, Serena said Venus urged her to stop.

"She was totally like, 'Serena, walk off the court.' I think she almost punched me," Serena said, laughing. "And I'm like, 'No, it's just half the court. I can do it, I can do it.'"

Serena -- who did not provide a specific diagnosis but plans to have more medical tests after the season -- was taken aback by replays of her doubles performance. "It's weird," she said. "It's like, 'Is that me?'"

Under doctor's orders, Williams remained in London until the end of the tournament the following weekend. She came close to honoring her commitment to a clay-court tournament in Sweden from July 14-20 before her mother, Oracene Price, intervened.

"My mom looked at me sideways and I was like, 'OK I'm not going to make the same mistake again,'" Williams said.

Instead, Williams went to Croatia for a working vacation and has been practicing hard ever since. Last week she was in Toronto filming a movie but still hit the practice courts.

Williams, 32, plays her opening match at the Bank of the West Classic against No. 45 Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday.