Venus Williams

Top 10 Greatest Hits of 2012 – Number 4

Number 4: Returning to Tennis at the Sony-Ericsson Open in Miami  (March 21, 2012)

When I took the court at the Sony-Ericsson Open it was my first match in six months, half a year since I dropped out of the 2011 U.S. Open and told the world I was living with an incurable disease. My rank that day was 134. I don’t remember ever being ranked that high in my life. I felt like I had to play in a tournament to see how my body would respond to the pressure, the attention, and the multiple matches. I was also planning on releasing my new line of clothes during the tournament, and most importantly, it was the first step in the process of qualifying for the Olympics. There were all kinds of reason to make Sony-Ericsson my comeback, except for the fact that I wasn’t in very good shape.

Living with Sjögrens syndrome was still new to me. I was tired all the time and I didn’t know how hard I could train and how far I could push my body. I knew I hadn’t trained properly but I felt obligated to play. On top of it all, it wasn’t easy combining the launch of EleVen by Venus on top of the comeback. We were so busy before the launch, I had to finally stop the clothing stuff a couple days before my first match and focus purely on tennis. It was stressful, to say the least.

I was so nervous before that first match, I felt like I couldn’t even move my arms. I was downright afraid before it, and every match in that tournament. It was completely new territory for me, knowing how I would feel from one moment to the next. Luckily, things clicked for me in that first match and I won 6-0, 6-3 in an hour and 17 minutes. It was such a relief to get that first win. I was so happy to go to the net and shake her hand that I practically danced back.

The matches just got harder from there. In the next round I beat the third-ranked player in the world. That felt good but my third round was so tough. We played for just under three hours and my serve was nowhere to be found. I was so tired. Every time I got down or lost a step I would think “I gotta do it for the Olympics,” and that pulled me through. In fact, that phrase took me a long way through that tournament.

By the end of the tournament, I was ranked 87th and had made the first strides on the road to my Olympic dreams. It was also a milestone in the long and ongoing task of learning how to be a competitive athlete with an autoimmune disease.  I have come a long way since then. Looking back, it was a tough tournament and a stressful time, but it was all worth it.