Doha: Serena Williams' downbeat attitude to her recovery from injuries has raised doubts about her ability to regain the world No.1 one ranking after a two-and-a-half year interval during the Qatar Open this week.
Williams needs only three wins to regain the top spot - possibly all against players who have never beaten her - and yet she downplayed her hopes with a mixture of glumness and brevity.
"I don't know, I had a great chance to be number one and I wanted it lot, but I didn't get there," she said, referring to her shock quarter-final loss to Sloane Stephens at the Australian Open last month.
"It would be great. I obviously want it, but it's not the only thing I want, you know, so if it happens, great. If not, I won't miss anything, I don't think," she added surprisingly.
Her words gave the impression that concerns about health were more important than the top spot.
A bad back, often one of the most persistent ailments a tennis player can have, may still be troublesome, and it may be that there has not been enough time fully to recover from a badly twisted ankle.
Images of this, swollen grotesquely almost to the size of a beach ball, were posted on the internet after the Australian Open. "That picture was a nightmare. Imagine that - ugh!" she commented.
Neither injury is hurting now, Williams said, still without painting a hopeful picture of her recovery.
"I'm feeling a little better. You know, just taking it one day at a time, basically. So I will see how I feel after my first match.
"It's been just two weeks or just a few days (since losing to Sloane Stephens in the Australian Open) so there's not been too much time to recover. But I'm here and I will just play and see how it goes."
Williams' pessimism may be because she is spooked by the possibility of a repetition of her misfortunes of 2012 and 2011 when a sequence of injuries dumped her out of the top 100 and threatened her career.
At the same time her form in the second half of 2012 was so exceptional, with the capture of two Grand Slams and two other major titles, that the prospects of her continuing the momentum into this year still seem vivid.
But Williams did not sound any more optimistic about the longer term than her prospects this week.
"I just see how it plays out - I'll just really do the best that I can," she said, referring to the outlook for 2013.
"If that's winning a tournament or five, that's great. If that's winning zero, you know, at least I tried. So I'll just give it a hundred percent."
Williams starts Tuesday with a match against the winner of the match between Anabel Medina Garrigues, the world No.58 from Spain, and Dara Gavrilova, the Russian who is based at the Paris academy of Patrick Mouratoglou, rumoured to be Williams' boy-friend.
If injuries permit, she might then play Roberta Vinci, the 15th seeded Italian.
Another success would pitch her into a quarter-final with either Petra Kvitova, the former Wimbledon champion to whom she has never lost, or Nadia Petrova, the 11th seeded Russian by whom she has only been beaten three times in 11 encounters.
She is seeded for a final with Victoria Azarenka, the top-seeded titleholder from Belarus, who will lose the world number one ranking if Williams were to reach Saturday's semi-finals.