Remarkable Venus falls to Radwanska on tour return after six-month recuperative break
20:28 GMT, 28 March 2012
Venus Williams, once the queen of Wimbledon but now the world’s 134th-ranked tennis player, was defeated on Wednesday and the pain of losing looked as acute as ever.
Sad loss: Venus
Yet making the quarter-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open, where she was beaten 6-4, 6-1 by Poland’s world No 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, was one of the more remarkable achievements of a career now seemingly entering its twilight.
The 31-year-old American had not played since the US Open in September, where she was diagnosed as having Sjogren’s disease, a condition that attacks the autoimmune system, and which it was feared would put a swift end to her 18 seasons on the WTA Tour.
But she has done enough this week to show that she is not spent, taking a love set off fellow Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova before overcoming her and going on to beat former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic.
Having only received an entry courtesy of a wildcard here, the strain of three consecutive three-set matches had clearly taken a toll on the five-time winner at SW19 and she was only able to offer token resistance against the neat but hardly devastating game of the Pole.
At least it was a start, however, as she tries to recover from the previous season when she played just 11 matches, and more importantly it has been a step in showing that she is able to manage the condition that afflicts her.
She looked completely exhausted, and the challenge may be simply getting fit enough to compete with the best players.
Her sister Serena also looked short of matches — not for the first time — as she fell to an outstanding performance from the recently deposed world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who reached the semi-finals with an emphatic 6-4, 6-4 victory watched by boyfriend Rory McIlroy.