Serena Williams might be a diva, but she's no quitter

Maybe she wore one too many flashy outfits. Or maybe it was that angry outburst toward a U.S. Open referee two years ago or maybe it's simply the Hollywood company she keeps (reality television star Kim Kardashian, in particular) that turned some people off.

No one can put an exact time stamp on the moment Serena Williams' reign as a tennis sweetheart turned into tennis diva.

But the reaction to Williams' tears after winning her first round match at Wimbledon earlier this week affirmed a quiet truth.

She had become somewhat unlikeable.

Some media analysts said the tears showed her "humanity." I didn't realize she was a robot before.

One AOL Fanhouse columnist admitted that he had his doubts about how Williams injured her foot last year. So apparently, to some, Williams is a liar, too.

Another tennis analyst said that Williams was starting to appreciate tennis again.

I don't think Williams ever lost her love for tennis. I think we lost our love for Williams.

Somewhere along the line, and I don't know where, Serena was cast as another partying South Beach celebrity with more focus on Hollywood than tennis.

It's true she likes hanging out and having a good time. She's outspoken, flashy and isn't afraid to indulge in interests beyond tennis — like giving pedicures.

But none of that ever made me doubt Williams' love for tennis. And this week should not only be a reminder of that, but also that she is truly among the list of great all-time athletes.

Should she pull off the incredibly difficult task of winning Wimbledon this year, it should be considered the best comeback in sports during the past decade.

Even bigger than Brett Favre's near Super Bowl run with the Minnesota Vikings and bigger than Tiger Woods' attempted return to dominance of golf.

Williams, who is past her prime tennis years at 29-years-old, is aiming to become the first woman to win Wimbledon for three consecutive years since tennis legend Steffi Graf did it in 1993. But that history nugget takes a backseat to the dramatic storyline of multiple surgeries, hospital stays and a life-threatening blood clot in her lung — all in a 12-month period — that could have ended one of the most storied women's tennis careers. Oh, and her big sister Venus Williams appears to be on the tennis comeback train as well.

Unlike Favre, Serena doesn't have a team to bail her out of bad game.

Unlike Woods, Serena didn't leave the game for shameful reasons.

She stepped on a piece of glass a few days after winning her second straight Wimbledon title last summer. Somewhere in between July and February, that led to a near death experience when a blood clot traveled to her lung causing a pulmonary embolism. An estimated one third of all patients who suffer a pulmonary embolism die if not treated within hours of the event.

Whether she wins or loses, Serena Williams 'comeback should be a bigger story in women's tennis considering the fact there was a good chance she wasn't going to have a career a few months ago, much less competing — and winning — in Wimbledon.

Winning consistently in tennis as Williams has done is a momentous feat. The matches are long and the tournaments are grueling.

"I always preach never give up, never give up," Williams told reporters after her first round win. "I could have sat home and said, 'I've had a fabulous career. I don't have to work extra, extra hard now.' "

She might be a diva to some, but she's definitely no quitter.

CHICAGO