Serena Williams Still Worried About Blood Clots as She Competes in Australia: 'It's Very Scary'

After beating Germany's Tatjana Maria on Tuesday, the athlete revealed that her "issues" with deep vein thrombosis "are not done," according to Reuters

Five months after Serena WilliamsFrench Open catsuit was called into question, she’s opening up about the condition that prompted her to opt for pants in the first place.

After beating Germany’s Tatjana Maria on Tuesday, the athlete, 37, revealed that her “issues” with deep vein thrombosis “are not done,” according to Reuters. DVT can cause chronic, life-threatening blood clots.

“It’s just something I just have to do for pretty much probably the rest of my career. We’ll see,” the mother of one said, according to Reuters. “I’m always at the doctor. With DVTs, it’s very scary. I know a lot of people have them. They’re very common.”

2019 Australian Open - Day 2
Serena Williams at the Australian Open. Mark Kolbe/Getty

She continued: “It’s incredibly frightening. I lay on the side of precaution as opposed to not.”

In May 2018, Williams stepped out in a skin-tight black Nike catsuit to make her return to the game after the August 2017 birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia. She said the outfit made her feel like a “queen from Wakanda,” but the French Tennis Federation didn’t support it.

“I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far,” the organization’s president Bernard Giudicelli explained to the Associated Press later last year. “It will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place.”

The tennis star later responded to Giudicelli’s comments at the 2018 U.S. Open. She laughed as she told reporters, “Everything’s fine, guys.”

Australian Open 2019
Serena Williams. Action Press/MediaPunch

Besides empowering Williams, the spandex catsuit also helped minimize her risk of DVT, which was worsened by pregnancy and labor.

“I’ve had a lot of problems with my blood clots, God I don’t know how many I’ve had in the past 12 months,” Williams explained at a news conference in May 2018, according to NPR.

She said, “I’ve been wearing pants in general a lot when I play so I can keep the blood circulation going.”

In addition, six years before the tennis legend became a mom, in 2011, she suffered a pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in the lungs, her rep confirmed to PEOPLE at the time.

“Monday Serena Williams underwent emergency treatment at Cedars for a hematoma she suffered as a result of treatment for a more critical situation,” the rep said in a 2011 statement.

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Williams’ fight against her health conditions — and the strictness of tennis dress codes — has not been for naught, however.

In December, the Woman’s Tennis Association made an alteration to its clothing rule, so it no longer prohibits or penalizes women at its tournaments who wear “leggings or compression shorts without a skirt, dress or shorts over them.”

At the time, the WTA also adjusted its ranking rule after Williams dropped from No. 1 in the world to No. 451 because of her 14-month maternity leave. Designed to make it easier for women to return to competition following pregnancy, the rule now allows players to use a special ranking for up to three years following birth, adoption, surrogacy or gaining legal guardianship.

The next issue that might be on Williams’ agenda to change could be drug testing in the sport, which she’s been vocal about.

In an extensive TIME interview published in August, Williams alluded to her muscular physique as one of the reasons why she’s been frequently targeted for random drug tests by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

“Look at me,” Williams told the magazine as she looked at her reflection in a mirror. “I was born this way. They’re like, ‘Oh, she can’t be that great, she must be doing something.’ “

Williams has a point, as USADA records show she’s tested far more than other top-tier female and male tennis players. The agency tested Williams five times in 2018, three times in 2017 and six times in 2016.

“I don’t even lift weights,” Williams said while laughing. “It’s all God, you know… But whatever.”

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