Wimbledon 2016: Serena, Venus Move Towards All-Williams Final

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 7/6/2016, 9:12 a.m.
Venus Williams could certainly lament "Why me?" and wonder "What if" after Sjogren's syndrome robbed her of some of the ...
Venus and Serena Williams

By Ravi Ubha

CNN

WIMBLEDON (CNN) -- Venus Williams could certainly lament "Why me?" and wonder "What if" after Sjogren's syndrome robbed her of some of the best years of her tennis life.

But instead she takes a matter-of-fact approach, perhaps the result of being one of the mature, elder stateswomen on the tour.

"I don't think about that because you can't change what happens," she told reporters. "It could have happened differently, but it didn't."

"This has been my life, what can I say?" she also said. "I wouldn't wish it any other way. It's been a beautiful life, a great experience. It's been everything."

What's transpiring now for Venus at Wimbledon is historic. When the 36-year-old beat the explosive, but inconsistent, Yaroslava Shvedova 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 on Tuesday, she became the oldest semifinalist at a grand slam since a 37-year-old Martina Navratilova at the All England Club in 1994.

The possibility of an all-Williams final persists, given that younger sibling Serena defeated former sparring partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in workmanlike fashion, 6-4 6-4.

Venus, though, needs to upset Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber -- a 7-5 7-6 (7-2) winner over 2014 French Open finalist Simona Halep -- on Thursday to fulfill her part of the deal. Serena, meanwhile, meets the unseeded Elena Vesnina, who downed soon-to-be bride Dominika Cibulkova 6-2 6-2 to land in her maiden grand slam singles semifinal.

Venus Williams may have never doubted she would feature in the latter stages of a grand slam again but, on the eve of this fortnight in southwest London, tennis onlookers -- with justification -- had different views. The last time Venus found herself in the last four at a major was at the 2010 U.S. Open.

A year later Williams was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that can cause extreme fatigue and joint pain. There is no cure.

Williams altered her diet, becoming a vegan and staying away from sugar. The American has learned how to manage the illness but never quite knows when she'll wake up feeling unwell, significantly less than 100%.

"I haven't gone through what she's been through but just being around her, she doesn't talk about it and she does hide it if she's having a bad day," David Witt, a former men's pro who coaches her, told CNN.

"I can tell sometimes throughout the year when she wakes up and comes to practice, maybe she feels a little lethargic and tired and it's just one of those days that she fights through," Witt, in Venus' corner for 10 years, first mainly as a hitting partner, added.

"Maybe some of those days are some of the days through the year she didn't have her best performance and she lost and couldn't do what she wanted to do on the court, which is probably very frustrating for her because every time she steps on the court she expects herself to perform and win -- and if she doesn't win she's disappointed."

According to Witt, Venus' preparation for Wimbledon was ideal. They trained in particularly steamy, for this time of year, Florida, where he said the seven-time grand slam champion "was putting in the work, grinding on and off the court."