Venus Williams back and feeling better at US Open
The illness did not creep up on Venus Williams all of a sudden.
As far back as 2007, she remembers being overcome by fatigue and
wondering what the heck was going on.
One doctor told her it might be asthma. Another said it was all
in her mind – that she should go see a psychiatrist.
It took four years to figure out the real diagnosis, Sjogren’s
syndrome, and it all came to a head last year at the U.S. Open,
when she pulled out hours before her second-round match.
”Everything was hard. I didn’t understand why,” she said
Saturday, as she prepared for her return to Flushing Meadows, a
year after that upsetting departure. ”And then just being at the
tournament, every day, I just wanted to quit at practice. I would
tell myself, `Maybe tomorrow I’ll feel better. Just keep
But she couldn’t.
The exhaustion and joint pain that are trademarks of her
hard-to-diagnose autoimmune disease overtook her. She went public
with her illness, left New York and finally, she found a doctor who
identified the ailment and started working on solutions.
It took about six months to get the medicine right. As much as
medication, Williams had to change her lifestyle, get more rest and
stop being ”such a busybody or control freak,” as she puts it,
when it came to her outside business pursuits.
The weekend of the 15th anniversary of her first appearance at
the U.S. Open – when she took the tennis world by storm on her
electric run to the final – the 32-year-old Williams was all
smiles, long braids of hair flowing over her shoulders, looking
anything like the sick, weakened player she was when she left last
”I focus a lot on my tennis and I try to get a lot of rest,”
Williams said. ”My life is changed, so I just try to focus a lot
more on saving energy for tennis. I’m not trying to conquer
anything else. I’m tired.”
While she cannot be ignored in any tournament she enters,
Williams does not have the results of late to match her star power.
She has won a total of one Grand Slam match this season. She hasn’t
made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam since the 2010 U.S.
Open. And despite overcoming some back problems to make a run to
the semifinals in Cincinnati earlier this month, she comes in
unseeded and ranked 47th.
Yet she is on the short list of active women – Sam Stosur, Kim
Clijsters, Maria Sharapova and, of course, her sister, Serena – who
know how to close the deal at the loudest, most distraction-filled,
biggest grind of a major there is. Venus Williams won back-to-back
at Flushing Meadows in 2000 and 2001. Asking her about it now
almost feels like a trip through a time machine.
”I think those were definitely years where the game was growing
and changing,” she said.
It did change, in large part thanks to the Williams sisters. As
much as their power games, they brought their powerful
personalities to the sport, as well, and the world took notice.
Venus Williams, 15 months older than Serena, got a bit of a head
start when she burst her way into that final in 1997 at 17 years
old. Since then, Serena has won 14 Grand Slam tournaments – double
Venus’ haul – and while Serena was asked Saturday if she might be
the greatest player ever, Venus was asked if she’d wait to retire
until her sister does.
”Maybe we’ll retire together,” Venus Williams said.
”Hopefully she feels the same way.”
But even at 32, she’s sounding as if that’s still at least a few
”I really love tennis,” she said. ”And I feel like I have so
much to give, especially since I have had my health problems. I
feel like I can’t let anything take me down. I have to beat