Venus Williams says that the reason she played well in singles at the Olympics and reasonably well in her three-set victory over No. 14 Maria Kirilenko at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati today is because her health is improving. Williams discovered a little more than a year ago that she is stricken with the auto immune disease Sjögren's syndrome.
After a decent spring, the former No. 1 was crushed in the second round of Roland Garros by Agnieszka Radwanska and was shocked in the first round of Wimbledon by Elena Vesnina. However, at the Olympic she played well in straight-sets wins over Sara Errani and Aleksandra Wozniak before losing to world No. 7 Angelique Kerber in two tiebreakers. She also won the doubles gold medal with her sister, Serena.
"I'm doing a lot better than this time last year," Venus said. "So much better than a couple months ago as well. I also am learning to deal with everything a lot better. If I wake up and I don't feel great, then I would panic and lose my match 2 and 1. I had a few 2 and 1's this year, too, but I had to take those losses in order learn and get better. Now I realize that I just kind of hang in there if I'm not having the best day and still try to get the win….
"I wasn't really feeling well during [Roland Garros and Wimbledon]. It was a very hard time for me. It was very difficult, so actually qualify for the Olympics during that time was definitely one of my biggest achievements for sure, a personal battle. I started feeling better. I was really nervous in the first-round match because I didn't want to go out there feeling horrible and lose again first round. At Wimbledon it was really tough, so..."
The 32-year-old Venus said she's continuing to work with her doctors to adjust to her illness.
"But I'm learning to cope better. I'm trying different things all the time," Venus said. "I keep working with my doctors. Nothing can prevent bad days, but the bad days aren't as bad as they used to be. I am learning to deal with it. It's a work in progress. My main goal is to be 100 percent, but it's not like it goes away. It's still in my body trying to fight against me, but I'm fighting it as well."