When Venus Williams was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome in 2011, Sjögren notoriously difficult to diagnose as it presents symptoms common with many other ailments, also incurable, her tennis career almost came to a grinding halt.
Her talents were apparent at the age of seven when a professional local tennis player spotted Williams and quickly identified the talent. 38 years old, Venus Ebony Starr Williams is an American professional tennis player who is ranked world No. 35 in the WTA singles rankings of February 2019. She is generally regarded as one of the all-time greats of women’s tennis and, along with younger sister Serena Williams, is credited with ushering in a new era of power and athleticism on the women’s professional tennis tour.
After a rough season of injuries and match withdrawals, she announced that she was suffering from the fairly common autoimmune disease that causes dry eye and dry mouth, as well as crushing joint pain and fatigue. The condition severely hindered athletic performance, ultimately causing her to withdraw from the 2011 US Open in the second round. But after taking time off, Williams was able to step back onto the court with newfound strength. Williams acknowledged that dealing with a diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome could be overwhelming, especially in the beginning “I think it’s about living life on your own terms and looking at it as a challenge, not as the end all,” Williams said.
Venus Williams won in Dubai to end a trophy drought which stretched back to 2012 after the diagnosis. Williams said she manages her symptoms, which include swollen joints and fatigue, by getting rest, focusing on what she eats and getting the best medical care she can.
Williams began her 2019 season with an exhibition match against Serena at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, which she won 10-8 in the match tiebreak. Venus Williams has gone on to play in the Auckland Open and Australian Open. With 49 singles titles, Williams trails only Serena among active players on the WTA Tour with most singles titles. She is also one of only three active WTA players to have reached the finals of all four Grand Slams, along with Serena and Maria Sharapova.
The 38-year-old is still highly competitive on tour and not interested in talking about retirement with many expecting an announcement, rather she has maintained her excellence as a superstar in the tennis world despite facing the chronic pain and fatigue that is common to the condition.
Whenever Williams does step away from tennis, she will have her hands full with an array of different projects. But she wants to be remembered for her achievements on the tennis court.