x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 September 2017

Olympic dream remains alive for Venus Williams after illness

Tennis star's recovery from Sjorgren Syndrome continues as she battles into second round at Roland Garros.

Venus Williams serves at Roland Garros
Venus Williams serves at Roland Garros

PARIS// Venus Williams insists that just playing in this year's French Open is an achievement - after illness almost wrecked her Olympic dreams.

The 31-year-old American was sidelined until March this year after being diagnosed with energy-sapping Sjogren's Syndrome.

As she fought to recover, her ranking slipped to 134 in the world, before she rekindled her hopes of making the London Olympics with impressive quarter-final runs in Miami, Charleston and Rome.

"It's a huge accomplishment just to be here. The biggest challenge was to learn how to live with it and that the key is to be here and to try my best right now," said Williams.

"Sometimes I think is this all my fault. Did I do something wrong to cause it?"

Yesterday she battled back from a set down to defeat Argentine teenager Paula Ormaechea 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 and reach the second round at Roland Garros.

Williams, seven-times a Grand Slam title winner and runner-up here to Serena in 2002, faces either Polish third seed Agnieszka Radwanska or Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia for a place in the third round.

The American has tasted Olympic success before, winning the singles in Sydney in 2000 where she also teamed up with sister Serena to take the women's doubles.

The sisters won a second doubles in Beijing in 2008.

Coming into Paris, Williams was well-placed to claim a spot at the London Olympics where the tennis tournament will be staged at Wimbledon, scene of five of her seven Grand Slam wins in 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2008.

Each nation can have a maximum of four players in their team at the Games but with a ranking cut-off of 56.

Venus is currently 53, with only Serena, at five in the world, and Christine McHale, at 36, above her.

Ranking places at the end of Roland Garros, where Williams didn't play last year and therefore has no points to defend, will decide the Olympics line-up.

"My main goal is the Olympics. If I reach that then I will be home free — you might not see me again," she smiled.

"I would love to play doubles here with Serena but my goal was to peak in singles for the Olympics. All of my energies are towards that."

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE