Venus Williams shocked the tennis world on Wednesday when she announced that she was dropping out of the U.S. Open, citing medical issues related to an autoimmune disorder.
The tennis champ, 31, who already holds 21 Grand Slam titles, released a statement on Aug. 31 explaining that she's dealing with an "ongoing medical condition" called Sjögren's Syndrome, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes extreme fatigue, joint pain, and even neurological problems like memory loss and concentration issues.
"I'm really disappointed to have to withdraw from this year's U.S. Open," Williams said in the statement. Despite being unseeded in the tournament for the first time since her debut there in 1997, Williams won her first-round match on Monday and was slated to face off againt 21-year-old German Sabine Lisicki in the second round. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
Williams last won the U.S. Open, which is played in Flushing Meadows, Queens, back-to-back in 2000 and 2001 -- and her health-related exit makes tennis fans wonder if she'll be able to keep competing.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Eric Matteson, chairman of the rheumatology department at the Mayo Clinic, said Sjögren's causes fatigue but can do much more.
"It can cause joint pain and joint swelling," he said. "It can cause nerve disease in the hands and legs and even affect the central nervous system and cause kidney disease and lung disease."
But Williams seems optimistic she'll get back on the court: "I enjoyed playing my first match here and I wish I could continue but right now I am unable to," she said. "I am thankful that I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon."