Serena Williams has one of the best bodies in sports, but she has still been called fat.
"I went through a really tough stage that took place when I was No. 1 and I had surgery and fell to almost 200 in the ranking," she told Tyra Banks in an interview to air on her talk show on Thursday (watch video above). "Everyone called me fat, saying I was really unfit. Every [news]paper, the headline was 'fat, fat, fat.'"
Her body image issues weren't the only ones she was struggling with. Around that time in 2003, her half-sister, Yetunde Price, was shot and killed in L.A., outside the tennis courts where Williams and her sister Venus once played. The ordeal "was really, really difficult" for Williams.
Williams channeled that pain into an upcoming memoir, On the Line.
"It talks about my journey through that whole situation, playing again when everyone said I couldn't do it," she said. "They said I'd never be No. 1, they said I'd never win another grand slam."
Her introspection helped, she told Banks, adding that she wrote herself "little notes" about "the importance of staying positive."
Williams admitted that she does not read her own press and has instead stored all those clippings away until she is retired from the game -- and ready to deal with them.
"You have to enjoy what you look like," she said. "Sometimes I read things [that say] I'm too fit or my arms are too muscular, but that's how I am. This is me, I love me. I think every person out there -- man, woman, regardless of age or gender -- needs to love themselves."
That love, she said, even extends to her competitors. Williams, who recently made headlines when she verbally assaulted a line judge during her U.S. Open match, asserts that she is most sorry about letting down those who have supported her.
"I play with a lot of fire, and I play with a lot of passion for everything I do," Williams said. "I think the worst part was the fans missed out on seeing the end of an amazing match. We played over two hours of amazing tennis."
To see Banks' entire interview with Williams -- including a segment in which they play a game of tennis on the streets of NYC -- tune in to The Tyra Show on Thursday on the CW.