Venus Williams withdrew from the U.S. Open Wednesday just before her second-round match against Germany’s Sabine Lisicki. The cause: Sjogren’s Syndrome — a chronic autoimmune disease with potentially debilitating effects.
The news comes as a surprise since the two-time U.S. Open champion appeared to be healthy and in top form during her first-round 6-4, 6-3 win Monday night against Vesna Dolonts of Russia.
The syndrome is apparently the viral illness Williams had cited during her two-month absence from tennis following her fourth-round Wimbledon loss in June.
According to the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation, the disease causes white blood cells to attack moisture-producing glands. Symptoms can range from dry eyes and mouth, to extreme fatigue and joint pain.
In a statement issued regarding her withdrawal, Williams wrote, “I’m really disappointed to have to withdraw from this year’s U.S. Open.” She went on to say, “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.”