Venus Williams withdrew from the US Open today, citing the up-until-now “mysterious” illness that’s dogged her for months. She pulled out of her highly anticipated second round match vs. Sabine Lisicki.
Venus explained in a statement via USOpen.org:
“I’m really disappointed to have to withdraw from this year’s US Open. I have been recently diagnosed with Sjögren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease which is an ongoing medical condition that affects my energy level and causes fatigue and joint pain. I enjoyed playing my first match here and wish I could continue but right now I am unable to. I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon.”
Her withdrawal was a surprise even to her agent, Carlos Fleming, who told Tennis.com that her entire team had been waiting to take to the stands to watch her play Sabine Lisicki this afternoon.
“I really don’t know what’s going on. Clearly I’m very worried,” Fleming said. “We were all excited about her playing here.”
It also surprised her opponent, Sabine Lisicki (via ESPN):
“I just found out, I don’t know, half hour ago or so,” Lisicki said. “I was getting ready for my match and was in the locker room. So, yeah, that’s when the referee told me.
“I saw her, and I heard she practiced as usual. I saw her in her match clothes, so was fully prepared and really looking forward to the match.”
Compounding the general shock of this announcement is the fine form that Venus displayed on Monday, when she dominated her first round opponent and was immediately deemed a legitimate title contender by commentators.
Unfortunately for Venus, Sjorgens syndrome is chronic, and only very rarely goes into remission. Here are some basics via the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation website:
Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease in which people’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands. Today, as many as four million Americans are living with this disease.
Although the hallmark symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, Sjögren’s may also cause dysfunction of other organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. Patients may also experience extreme fatigue and joint pain and have a higher risk of developing lymphoma.
All instances of Sjögren’s syndrome are systemic, affecting the entire body. Symptoms may remain steady, worsen, or, uncommonly, go into remission. While some people experience mild discomfort, others suffer debilitating symptoms that greatly impair their functioning. Early diagnosis and proper treatment are important — they may prevent serious complications and greatly improve a patient’s quality of life.
Yikes. This is just extremely troubling news. I feel bad forecasting her future on the pro tour – the most important thing right now is her general health and well being. Here’s wishing Venus all the best – whether that means she can return to tour or not.
In semi-related news, Robin Soderling has also pulled out of the US Open today due to a viral illness.