Venus Williams Withdraws from U.S. Open

An autoimmune disease that causes joint pains and fatigue, among other symptoms, has forced Venus Williams to pull out from the ongoing U.S. Open 2011 at Flushing Meadows.

Williams withdrew just before her 2nd-round match against Sabine Lisicki on Wednesday. The 31-year-old former two-time U.S. Open singles champion said she was diagnosed with Sjorgen’s Syndrome, a disease where the immune cells destroy the saliva- and tears-producing exocrine glands. “I enjoyed playing my first match here and wish I could continue but right now I am unable to,” Williams said in a statement released by the tournament. “I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon.”

The disease is believed to be the same culprit that caused Williams to play only 11 matches since last year’s U.S. Open. While Williams may no longer play any competitive match the rest of the year, the biggest question is whether she will still be able to continue a tennis career that has made her a seven-time Grand Slam singles winner. Williams has also won three Olympic gold medals—two in the 2000 Sydney edition and one in the 2008 Beijing Games.