serena-williams1crop*Serena Williams, the world’s number one female tennis player still, made a temporary career change recently and became the guest editor of ESSENCE’s July 2013 “Body Issue.”

Williams also graces the cover wearing an ultra-sexy, aqua blue swimsuit and hoop earrings (to add just a pinch of flavor).

“I feel lighter, I feel healthier, and even though I’m 31—which really isn’t old, but for an athlete, particularly a tennis player, it’s old—I promise you, my body has never felt better. Considering how much I’ve played and how much I’ve done, I feel fine. I’m strong,” she told the magazine.

Williams also reveals how she returned to the top of her game after a debilitating fight against a pulmonary embolism two years ago. Her health struggle, captured in the recent documentary “Venus and Serena,” might have discouraged others from moving forward. But not Williams, who describes turning to her spirituality and her sisters for support.

The superstar athlete also talks to ESSENCE about all the attention her body receives, especially her famous rump-shaker.

“It can be a bit weird,” she admits. “Before it was, ‘Serena has a big butt,’ and that was all. Now there are way more people who feel comfortable with themselves and they’re saying, ‘I’m a woman, and this is what I look like.’ I always say, ‘We’re popular now! We’re finally in style!'”

For the full interview with Serena Williams — in which she opens up about how her late sister Tunde taught her to embrace her curves, and how at 31 years old she is in better shape than ever — pick up the July issue of ESSENCE (on newsstands now.)