Venus Williams Exits with Illness

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When Venus Williams left the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this past Wednesday, spectators noted her downcast eyes.

She had recently been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, a disease of the autoimmune system that causes joint pain and fatigue.

Williams had missed the hardcourt season for a viral illness. She was coming off of a spectacular victory for the first round of her match with Sabine Lisicki. Just minutes before the second round at Arthur Ashe Stadium, she pulled out from the U.S. Open.

Apparently, this was the sickness that had kept her from the games throughout the summer.

She issued a statement, saying that she was very disappointed at having to pull out from the U.S. Open this year. She described the disease as a medical condition that affected her energy level, in addition to causing joint pain and fatigue.

She expressed how she enjoyed playing her first match, and wished she could continue. But being unable to, she said she was thankful at finally having a diagnosis so she could now focus on getting better.

The 21-year-old Lisicki, at No.22, had been a semifinalist at Wimbledon and had been pegged to offer an interesting level of play for Williams.

Much to everyone’s chagrin, Williams will wind up losing her ranking down to below the top 100. This pull-out brings to an end her Grand Slam season that had started with a hip injury and an exit during the third round at the Australian Open. It also put a damper on her dream of becoming the first Open women’s champion for singles over 30 ever since Martina Navratilova back in 1987.

Prior to the U.S. Open and since her Wimbledon fourth-round loss due to what they thought was a viral illness, Williams had not played a match. In fact, in the last year, she had only played in four tournaments due to a variety of medical conditions.

On Monday night, also in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Williams won her 60th U.S. Open match over Vesna Dolonts of Russia, at 6-4, 6-3, though obviously a bit rusty. Up until this year, Williams had been known for reaching the fourth round at the bare minimum each time she played, and was a semifinalist for six times.

Sjogren Syndrome is defined as a chronic disease of the autoimmune system wherein the patient’s white blood cells attack the glands that produce moisture. Records show that a minimum of 4 million Americans are diagnosed with this disease. The Mayo Clinic describes it as often coming with other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Fortunately, Sjogren’s may be treated and managed well.

Apparently, the illness had been the culprit for Williams’s illness throughout the summer. She had actually described it as an “energy-sucking” condition prior to receiving the diagnosis. It had prevented her from many tasks, including making sponsor appearances or even designing her dress for her appearance in the first-round.

Although she had constantly refused to discuss her injuries or whatever was ailing her, her mother confirmed on Wednesday that they had been worried about Williams’s health for quite some time already.

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