Injuries and illnesses. They are every athlete's fear. Unassuming and unforgiving they can attack at any time and in any stage of a career. And they've certainly gone after Venus Williams.
2011 has indeed been a nightmare year for the American. Plagued with injury she missed five months off the tour having retired in the third round at the Australian Open with a hip injury. She then returned (along with sister Serena who had had nearly a year off with an injury and extremely serious illness of her own) in Eastbourne, making a decent run to the quarterfinals.
Wimbledon was a big test for both, and both fared very well considering the circumstances - Venus made it to the third round; Serena went out in the round of 16. But while Serena picked up the trophies of the next two tournaments she played, Venus was struck yet again. This time in form of a virus that prevented her from competing in Toronto and Cincinnati. We now learn the virus in question is Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease which affects energy levels and causes fatigue and joint pain. And it has now caused Venus to pull out of this year's US Open in the 2nd round.
This recent onslaught of injuires and illnesses - which actually date back to a knee problem in 2010 - have shown no tact and ruined what could have been a decent year for Williams in light of the inconsistency of the WTA. With the US Open lacking any of the three previous Slam winners, the draw was wide open enough for Venus to make a run. And at 31 years and closer to the end than the beginning, a run at the US Open would have been a very welcome prospect. But Venus has been set back yet again and many fear time is running out. With an energy sapping disease, who knows when she'll next be able to compete.
If retirement is on the horizon, it will be a huge blow to tennis. And a shocking reminder to enjoy our players while we can. Because sometimes injury and illness get their way.