Venus Williams is back to playing tennis, but she does not resemble the Venus Williams who won five Wimbledon championships. An energy-sapping disorder shelved her for a while and has reduced her to less than who she has been in her illustrious 15-year career.
Never was that more evident than in the first round of play at the All England Club today. Williams was eliminated in the first round for the first time of this major, 6-1, 6-3 by Elena Vesnina of Russia at Wimbledon.
A seven-time Grand Slam champion, Williams has fallen to 58th in the world rankings since being diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, which does not allow her to practice or train consistently.
She lost the first five games on Court 2 to the 79th-ranked Russian and, although she picked up her game and fought hard, was never able to turn the match around.
“I have to give credit to her,” Williams said. “She made hardly any errors and served well.”
She added: “I feel like I’m a great player. I am a great player. Unfortunately I have to deal with circumstances people don’t have to. . . There’s no way I’m going just sit down nd give up just because I have a hard time the first five or six friggin’ tournaments back.”
She does not like to use her disorder as an excuse. To a question about her energy, Williams said: “I did my best. My opponent played well.”
It was the fourth time Williams has lost in the opening round of a Grand Slam and the first at Wimbledon since her debut appearance in 1997.
“I’ve lost before,” Williams said, “so I know how to deal with it.”
Williams said in her press conference saying she always enters tournaments with a positive attitude and doesn’t want to talk about her health.
Williams is still expected to play doubles here with sister Serena, and she is expected to be back in about a month to compete here in the London Olympics.
To repeated questions, direct and indirect, about what is ahead, retirement perhaps, Williams responded: “I absolutely love this sport, and I feel like I can play well. I’m not going to give up on it.”