Venus Williams (above) on Ashe Monday night.

Twenty-one time major champion Venus Williams withdrew from the 2011 US Open a little while ago, just prior to her 2nd round matchup with the 22nd seeded German, Sabine Lisicki, on Arthur Ashe.  Williams made a statement in which she cited that she has just been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s Syndrome which causes joint pain and extreme fatigue, among other things.

Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease in which people’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands. Today, as many as four million Americans are living with this disease.

Although the hallmark symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, Sjögren’s may also cause dysfunction of other organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. Patients may also experience extreme fatigue and joint pain and have a higher risk of developing lymphoma.

With upwards of 4,000,000 Americans suffering from Sjögren’s syndrome, it is one of the most prevalent autoimmune disorders. Nine out of 10 patients are women.

What a shame for Venus, who looked to be in decent form Monday when she opened this year’s first US Open evening session with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Russian Vesna Dolonts in 78 minutes.  Though Venus is yet to speak directly to the media since her withdrawal, the speculation within the tennis community is that Williams will shut it down for the rest of the year.  We have seen a gutty Venus play through pain at majors many a time.  If she isn’t going to play at Flushing then we would agree with that speculation.  Venus has gutted out many an injury at the majors, even as recently as the 2011 Australian Open.  She had seemed upbeat about her chances here and reportedly had an excellent week of practice in Harlem in preparation for The Open.

Williams had a lot of pressure on her to defend her points from last year’s US Open, when she reached the semi-finals, giving eventual champion Kim Clijsters a good run.  By not defending those points, Venus will find herself outside the top 100 when the new rankings are published.  We would expect Williams to return to the game with a vengeance when she is able to, and we look forward to it.

For Lisicki, the walkover she received today was the first one in her career to come at a major.  To her credit, Lisicki was very disappointed by the walkover and she was sincerely concerned for Venus.  Lisicki looks like she will be facing Dominika Cibulkova in the 3rd round, who is on her way to victory right now against young American Irina Falconi.

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